What Poetry Can Teach You About Business Writing

Today’s guest post is by Chloe Yelena Miller, Writing Coach

When I ask my college writing students about their best and worst writing experience, poetry is described like a villain.

That is not what a teaching poet wants to hear, although a simile is always nice.

Poetry gets a bad rap. Often, instructors who don’t personally love poetry but are required to teach it will present poems as hard to understand and, perhaps worst of all, completely open to your own personal interpretation. Why would a poet write something if it could be misunderstood according to any reader’s whimsy?

But, wait! So many poems, especially those written in contemporary English, are intended to be accessible and offer precise ideas quickly. After all, except for epic poems, most poems are short and, quite literally, fit in your pocket.

Writers of every genre: drama, creative non-fiction, fiction, and even business letters and emails, have something to learn from poetry. When a writer sits down to write something, she wants to communicate her ideas as quickly, clearly and precisely as possible. And that’s just what a good, short poem does.

The same skills can be used in a job application cover letter, business proposal or email. Writing goals are always the same: Make a clear point.  

Of course there are differences between poetry and business writing. While a poem might make a point with an image or emotion, your boss would be surprised if you did that in a memo about the new sales plan. Instead, in business writing, the author gives examples that help to prove a point. Wait a minute. That’s not so removed from poetry, is it?

Here are some examples of poems that can be understood – and enjoyed – quickly:

William Carlos Williams famously ate some plums, apologized, but then described how tasty they were. Billy Collins teases readers who look for meaning in a poem while Jane Kenyon more seriously describes her grief.

A tip for business writing: Read widely, including poetry and creative genres that might seem distant from the 9-5 (5-9?) world. Good writing is good writing and every genre has something to learn from another.


Writing Coach Chloe Yelena Miller helps individuals and corporations develop, write and edit a range of written materials. She specializes in poetry, personal essays, memoir, college application essays, commercial articles, AP English Literature essay questions and fiction. Chloe also offers online creative writing classes and creativity workshops.

 Learn more about Chloe’s work and get writing tips at her blog: www.chloeyelenamiller.blogspot.com.