In contemporary social work writing has been given limited attention. Documents tend to be regarded as a medium for the transmission of information about something else. In the social sciences there has been greater recognition of the pervasiveness of texts and the functions they perform. Texts are active in influencing and structuring the world and this applies as much to social work as to everyday activities in modern society. Insights from ethnomethodology and literary criticism can help us to explore writing practices in social work, and these are used here in relation to reports, case records and reflective practice. They show how these work to persuade of their claims to truth and, in doing so, how they categorize practitioners and service users. By focusing on texts we further our understanding of social work's communicative practices and professional culture.