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Therapeutic Writing

When we write for therapeutic reasons (often called journaling), we use a very different style of writing to almost any other form of writing. In this blog I am going to compare journaling with business writing, such as a blog, article, newsletter, or even social media post. 

Writing is a chameleon. How we write changes dramatically depending on the purpose of the writing and the intended audience.

This weekend I learned this lesson the hard way. I have been on holiday with my family for a week and wasn’t officially back at work, but I needed to send an email to the co-working group, that I run with Asha Clearwater, reminding them that we were having a session this afternoon (I am actually writing this during the session). I would normally have scheduled the email well in advance, but we hadn’t decided on a date before I went away. 


When we make mistakes we grow

On Saturday, between trying to get on top of the washing, bake and decorate a birthday cake for my Mum’s 70th birthday, and before going to a BBQ at my inlaws house, I attempted to send the email. 

I sat down while the cake was in the oven and quickly tapped out a few lines, using a previous email as a template. I checked the important details and hit send. 

It wasn’t until someone replied to the email that I noticed that I had forgotten to change the email subject line. The first thing everyone saw was a title reading: “Are you joining us to write this morning?”. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but I sent the email in the afternoon. 

I quickly sent out an apology, but, because I was already flustered and dashing about trying to get everything done, I somehow managed to type: Tuesday afternoon instead of Monday afternoon! 

This was brought to my attention by a client who contacted me to check which day it was because she was confused. By now I was stepping out of the door to the BBQ. I quickly replied and explained that it was in fact a Monday session this week before heading over to my in laws for a lovely evening. I had decided now that I should wait until I had more time before contacting everyone again to correct my error.

Writing lessons…

I finally sent an email out this morning with all the right information; dates, times, links etc. I checked and double checked it when I wrote it last night. I knew I was tired after a long drive to Leeds and back and an afternoon of helping my Mum host her birthday party. Despite that, I wasn’t rushing anywhere. I was able to sit, read and re-read, check and double check to make sure everything was as it should be. Which of course, is what I should have done in the first place.


It frustrated me most because, generally speaking, I am very careful with my business related copy. As an ex-teacher, I am acutely aware that spelling or typing mistakes, poor grammar, and rooky errors of any kind in your copy, can make all the difference when you are building a relationship using the written word.

However, I also know the importance of being human and being authentic. So I explained exactly what had happened and why, and turned it into a teaching point, just as I am now! You see for a quick note to a friend to arrange to meet up, what I did would have been fine, because that is a very different style of writing, and for a very different purpose. If I had been writing in my journal, for therapeutic reasons, it would have been perfect, but not for a business email. 


What is the difference between therapeutic writing and writing for business?

There are several differences between the way we write for business and therapeutic writing. I will go through a few that I believe are the most important. 

 1. Tone/Voice

When you write for business you use a more formal version of your authentic voice. It is important to show personality, but not be too familiar, and to still remain professional, whatever that means for you. When you write therapeutically you just write. You don’t worry about what voice you are using, it is usually your true self who takes control of the pen or pencil. You write without worrying about which words you choose or even whether you are making sense, some of the time. The tone of your writing changes dramatically between the two styles of writing.


2. Spelling

When you write for business checking spelling is so important. I can’t tell you how many people I know who click away from a website or unsubscribe from newsletters if there are spelling mistakes. 

When you write therapeutically you don’t worry about spelling or handwriting. It doesn’t even matter if you can’t read back what you have written, because the benefit and purpose of the writing is the process, not the finished product.

3. Punctuation

Use of punctuation is very similar to spelling in this context. When you are writing for business purposes it is so important to check that your punctuation allows the reader to understand your message, as this well known example demonstrates:

Let’s eat Grandpa.

Let’s eat, Grandpa.

One rogue, or missing, comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence and the offer you are making or product you are selling. Just as spelling doesn’t matter when you write therapeutically, neither does grammar. You understand the meaning intended as it spills onto the page and that is the objective and all that matters.

4. Grammar

Grammar completes the magic “Spag” which is such a strong focus in schools. Grammar is of course important when we write for others to read. That said there are many things which seem to go undetected by most people these days, and I do sometimes wonder if I am just a bit of a grammar pendant (the word “myself” seems to have almost completely replace “me” no matter where it appears in the sentence, and don’t get me started on Idris Elba using the word “accommodations” in a recent advert for a holiday provider!). I believe it is still important to use good grammar when writing for business though. Now I’m not going to pretend that my grammar is perfect, it isn’t, but I do try hard and I often check things when I am unsure.

Of course when you are journaling for your own benefit, whether you use good grammar matters as little as whether you spell everything correctly or whether you use punctuation.

5. Finally, Proof reading

Of course this brings us right back to the reason for this post. When you are journaling you can write for hours and never, ever read anything you have written. You are not writing in order to record anything (although you may choose to look back), you are using the writing process as a means of accessing information in your unconscious mind, or working through issues you may be having, or even unraveling a particular situation you are struggling with. When you write for business it is so important to re-read everything to check for meaning, perhaps you need to re-arrange a sentence or even a paragraph. Maybe when you re-read it you realise that you need to add a little more information or re-phrase a section so it reads more easily. And of course it is very important to check that any key information is correct; dates, times, links etc.


Do you write for a range of audiences and with different purposes? How does your writing style change? Do you remember to re-read what you have written before you send it or make it live, or are you mostly writing for yourself and it doesn’t matter? Let me know.

Find out more about journaling for exam anxiety:

The power of handwriting

The writing process


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