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The Science of Business Writing: The Role of Psychology

Many believe that good writing is an art that can only be honed through years of practice, a keen eye, and a voracious reading habit, especially in the business sector. But the art and science of writing continue to advance rapidly. Recent developments in neurobiology and psychology provide hard evidence in the form of data and images of how the brain processes language and narrative. Better writing decisions can be made based on factors that are less subjective than you might assume WWE.

The reward circuit in the brain is activated by well-written pieces, making the reader feel a rush of dopa­mine. Excellent writing triggers pleasure centers by releasing opioids. Well-executed prose evokes positive emotions, making the reader want to keep reading just as satisfying experiences like delicious meals, relaxing baths, and comforting hugs do.

Your own writing has the power to light up the neuronal circuitry of your readers’ brains, whether it’s a brief declarative statement in an email or a sophisticated argument in a report. It’s the same if you’re searching for psychology essays and papers reading these words aloud. When prose possesses one or more of the following qualities clarity, detail, surprise, emotion, seduction, wit, community, or narrative it becomes magical. As a writer and writing coach for executives, I’ve discovered that the aforementioned points are present in the most effective business writing. The strength of these ideas is supported by science.


Maintain a minimum of complexity. This time-honored piece of guidance for writers is grounded in first-order neuroscientific studies. Scientists’ term for this is “processing fluency,” and it increases as tasks are simplified. Use simple language (short sentences, standard terms, and clean syntax) so that the reader doesn’t have to work too hard to get what you intend.


Details stimulate a wide variety of neural networks. Compare the terms “pelican” and “bird.” As opposed to “clean,” “wipe” suggests “removing.” According to one study, the brain’s visual and motor strips were more heavily stimulated when processing the more particular term in those pairs.

In the past, researchers assumed that humans used a symbol-based system to interpret spoken language. We now know that specific words evoke distinct “taste,” “feel,” and “see” sensations in our brains because neurons “embody” the meanings of those words.


Our minds are hardwired to make guesses at all times, and that includes trying to figure out what comes next in every line of text. In general, it’s fine, though somewhat boring, if your writing merely confirms the readers’ suspicions. The element of surprise can help your message stand out, making it easier for your audience to remember what they’ve read.

Provocative Words

You might believe that using reason can help you win someone over, but that isn’t the case. Within 200 ms of reading, our brains assimilate the emotional connotations of a word, far more quickly than we understand its content. Since our brains have been programmed to respond emotionally since our hunter-gatherer ancestors, we experience sentiments such as fear, joy, awe, disgust, and so on automatically while reading emotionally laden material. It stands to reason. Feeling and subsequent thought are then merged to form an interpretation.

Therefore, when writing your next memo, think about incorporating words that bundle emotion and thought together. Outwit your rivals is a better alternative than “battle the competition.” Try “reward inventiveness” instead of “encourage innovation.” The use of a metaphor is often superior. Andrea Bowes and Albert Katz of Canada compared more emotive terms like “What a gem of an idea!” and “Watch your back!” with more generic ones like “What a very nice concept!” and “Be careful what you say.” The latter garnered more enthusiastic responses from the reading public.


The human brain is hardwired to reward anticipation. A well-known study demonstrated that holiday preparations can bring just as much, if not more, happiness as the actual trip itself. In scientific terms, this benefit is known as “anticipatory utility.” In the same way, you may structure your writing to generate the same level of enthusiasm. After reading poems in an experimental setting, participants’ reward circuits peaked several seconds before the peaks at which the lines and stanzas were most emphatically spoken. Images of the brain reveal anticipatory spikes of pleasure in readers even if they have never shown any interest in poetry.

Final Words

You can use these points as a secret weapon to become a better writer. They are powerful tools for capturing readers’ attention because they produce the same pleasurable brain responses as other arousing stimuli. In addition, you likely recognize their worth on an instinctive level because of the millions of years of evolution that have programmed our brains to know what is morally correct. Develop your natural intuition. They will point you in the direction of the writer’s equivalent of the Golden Rule: treat your readers as you would like to be treated.


Karl Bowman was an early researcher into the ways in which psychiatric substances like alcohol and narcotics could affect a person’s mental health. Furthermore, he investigated the effectiveness of insulin shock treatment for schizophrenia.

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By Susan Barlow

Dr. Susan Barlow is retired from academia after teaching business administration, project management, and business writing courses for over 20 years.

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