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Writing Samples

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Guide to Submitting a Writing Sample

Source: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/interviewing/guide-to-submitting-a-writing-sample  November 23, 2020

Writing samples are used by employers to evaluate your writing skills, tone and style. If you are applying for positions that require strong writing skills, you might be asked to submit a writing sample.

While some employers might ask you to email or upload your writing sample as part of your application, others might ask you to bring it to your interview or possibly email it after your interviews to help employers make a decision. In this guide, we discuss what employers look for in a writing sample, how to choose a writing sample, how to write one and how to submit it.

What is a writing sample?

A writing sample is a supplemental document for a job application often requested for jobs that include a significant amount of writing, like those in journalism, marketing, public relations and research. Employers might also ask for a writing sample if you will be responsible for writing and communicating important information or correspondences. For example, if you are applying for a job in HR at a small company, you might be responsible for sending company-wide information. In this case, the employer will look for candidates with strong writing skills who can clearly communicate important information across the company.

What do employers look for in a writing sample?

Different employers look for different details in your writing sample depending on the job, company and industry. Every employer, however, will look for tone, style and writing skills including content, grammar, spelling and punctuation. While the specific writing style of the company can often be learned on the job, employers might be looking to hire someone with a certain level of writing skills at their first day on the job.

How long should a writing sample be?

In most cases, your writing sample should be around 750 words or between one and two pages. Like your resume, employers have a limited amount of time to review your writing sample. A brief, impactful writing sample is better than a long, less impressive one. Often times, employers will provide a specific page or word count they require from your sample. If you decide to submit a research paper or other lengthy document, you can make it shorter for the employer by selecting a certain passage or section.

How do I choose a writing sample?

While some employers might give you a writing assignment with a specific prompt, others might simply ask you to provide a sample from your past work. Choose a writing sample that is relevant for the job you’re applying for. Here are some examples you may want to consider:

  • Research papers from a job or class
  • Narrative papers from a job or class
  • Other writing assignments
  • Press releases
  • Articles or other contributions

When deciding which piece of writing you should submit, consider the following ideas:

Follow the employer’s instruction

The employer might ask for a specific type of writing like a research paper or a piece covering a certain topic. Read the employer’s instructions carefully before making a writing sample selection.

Consider relevant writing samples

When deciding on a writing sample, you should consider only those writing pieces that are relevant to the position. For example, if you are applying for a scientific research position, you should select a research paper from your most recent position or highest level of schooling. If you are applying for a position in PR, you should submit a press release or other relevant documents.

Find relatable topics

Along with selecting a relevant writing style, you should try to find a sample that also relates to the subject matter of the position. Submitting a sample with content similar to what you’ll be writing about on the job will help employers relate your writing skills directly to the job.

Align your writing with the company’s tone

You should select a piece of writing that is relatable for the company. For example, you should not submit a sarcastic, irreverent writing sample for a company with a professional, helpful brand image. Alternatively, you might not submit a modest, simple writing sample to a company that’s sole focus is risk and creativity. You can find clues about a company’s tone by researching their website,  Company Page  and recent news articles or press releases.

You should also read several pieces of writing that the company has already published. This could include reading their company blog, website or research papers.

Make sure it is up to date

Selecting a writing sample that is older than one year might contain out of date or irrelevant content. If you are selecting an old writing sample, be sure to carefully review and update it to reflect the most recent ideas. You also want to demonstrate that you have recently had to use your writing skills—if you send an employer a writing sample from several years ago, they may assume that you have not done any writing since then.

Avoid sensitive subject matter

Unless specifically requested by the employer, you should avoid sensitive content like politics, religion or personal information. You should also review your writing sample to exclude any confidential information like third-party contact information or private company information like financial or other data.

What if I don’t have a writing sample?

You might not have a writing sample if you have no professional experience or have not previously held a job where you produced applicable pieces of writing. If this is the case, it is acceptable to write a new sample for the employer. This way, you’ll be able to write a fresh, relevant passage that is specific to the position you’re applying for.

Pay close attention to the employer’s direction regarding the writing sample, research the company for clues on tone and style and review your document carefully for grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes.

How to submit a writing sample

Before submitting a writing sample, you should proofread it several times to ensure it is free of errors. It is critical to achieve as close to perfection as possible in a writing sample, as your writing skills are the key focus of this document. It might be helpful to read your document backward—doing so presents the words in a new order and makes it easier to catch mistakes. You might also consider asking trusted friends or family to review your writing sample.

Whether you submit an entire piece or part of a writing sample, it can be helpful to write a short introductory paragraph for context. You might include it directly on your sample, on a cover page or in your email. For example:

“Please find my writing sample for the Sr. Product Research position attached to this email. This sample is a passage from a larger study about how product simplicity impacts consumers. I believe it showcases my ability to clearly communicate results from an important project that lead to key achievements for the company.”

After you’ve polished your writing sample, you should follow the employer’s instructions when submitting it. You might be asked to upload your sample on an online application, email it or bring it to your interview. If you are bringing your sample to an interview, you should bring at least five hard copies in case you have multiple interviewers. If you are applying to several writing jobs, you might consider creating an online writing portfolio that you can easily send to employers.

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7 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills

Writing, like any other skill, is something you can get better at with time and practice. Learn how.

[Featured Image]: A woman with curly hair and wearing a white long sleeve shirt, writing in her notebook, while sitting in front of her computer.

From sending emails to preparing presentations, writing is often a day-to-day task in many professions spanning diverse industries. Writing skills go beyond grammar and spelling. Accuracy, clarity, persuasiveness, and several other elements play a part in ensuring your writing is conveying the right message.

What are writing skills?

Writing is a technical skill that you use to communicate effectively through the written word. Though these may vary depending on what you’re writing, there are several that transcend categories. Writing skills can more specifically include:

Sentence construction

Research and accuracy


Each of these components can influence the quality of writing.

Why are writing skills important?

Being able to write well is a form of effective communication , which many employers see as a crucial job skill . In fact, strong communication—spanning written, verbal, non-verbal, and visual—is among the nine common employability skills that employers seek in job candidates.

Regardless of your role, with good writing skills, you can clearly transcribe your thoughts into meaningful messages, enabling you to share your ideas, build relationships, and strengthen your professional image.

Learn more: Important Communication Skills and How to Improve Them

How to improve your writing skills

Writing, like any other skill, is something we can get better at with time and practice. Here are some strategies for developing your own written communication:

1. Review grammar and spelling basics.

Grammar and spelling form the foundation of good writing. Writing with proper grammar and spelling communicates your professionality and attention to detail to your reader. It also makes your writing easier to understand.  

Plus, knowing when and how to use less-common punctuation, like colons, semicolons, and em-dashes, can unlock new ways to structure sentences and elevate your writing. 

If you’re looking to strengthen your grammar and spelling, start by consulting a writing manual. The Elements of Style by William Stunk and E.B. White has long been considered a staple for writers. You can find similar resources at your local library, bookstore, or online.

2. Read what you want to write.

Knowing what a finished piece of writing can look like can guide your own. If you’re trying to write a humorous short story, read humorous short stories. Writing a book review? Find a few and take note of how they’re structured. Pay attention to what makes them good and what you want to emulate (without plagiarizing, of course). If you’re working on a school assignment, you can ask your instructor for examples of successful pieces from past students.

Make reading a part of your everyday life to improve your writing. Try reading the news in the morning or picking up a book before you head to bed. If you haven’t been a big reader in the past, start with topics you’re interested in, or ask friends and family for recommendations. You’ll gradually begin to understand what subjects, genres, and authors you enjoy.

3. Proofread.

While it’s tempting to submit work as soon as you’re done with it, build in some time to revisit what you’ve written to catch errors big and small. Here are a few proofreading tips to keep in mind:

Set your work aside before you edit. Try to step away from your writing for a day or more so you can come back to it with fresh, more objective eyes. Crunched for time? Even allotting 20 minutes between writing and proofreading can allow you to approach your work with renewed energy.

Start with easy fixes, then progress to bigger changes. Starting with easier changes can get you in the rhythm for proofreading, allow you to read through your work once more, and clear distractions so you can focus on bigger edits. Read through your work to catch misspellings, inconsistencies, and grammar errors. Then address the larger problems with structure or awkward transitions. 

If you could say something in fewer words, do so. Being unnecessarily wordy can cloud your message and confuse the reader. Pare down phrases that are redundant, repetitive, or obvious.

Read out loud. Reading out loud can help you find awkward phrases and areas where your writing doesn’t flow well. 

Should you use computer spelling and grammar tools?

Many computer-based tools—like spell check on your word processor, or Grammarly — can help you find and fix simple spelling and grammar errors. These tools are not perfect but can help even the most seasoned of writers avoid mistakes. Take note of any frequently highlighted words or phrases so that you can avoid the same mistakes in the future.

4. Get feedback.

Whether you’re writing emails or essays, asking for feedback is a great way to see how somebody besides yourself will interpret your text. Have an idea of what you’d like your proofreader to focus on—the structure, conclusion, the persuasiveness of an argument, or otherwise. 

Approach a trusted friend, family member, coworker, or instructor. If you’re a student, your school might also have a writing resource center you can reach out to. 

You might also consider forming a writing group or joining a writing class. Find writing courses online, at your local community college, or at independent writing workshops in your city.

5. Think about structure.

Grammar and spelling keep your writing consistent and legible, but structure ensures the big ideas get across to the reader.

In many cases, forming an outline will help solidify structure. An outline can clarify what you’re hoping to convey in each section, enable you to visualize the flow of your piece, and surface parts that require more research or thought. 

Structure might look different depending on what you’re writing. An essay typically has an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. A fiction piece might follow the six-stage plot structure: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and denouement. Choose what’s best for your purposes.

Like many skills, one of the best ways to improve your writing is to practice. Here are a few ways you can get started:

Start a journal or a blog.

Join a class or writing workshop.

Practice free writing.

Write letters to friends or family.

Put together an opinion piece for your local newspaper or publication you like.

7. Know some common fixes.

Even if a text is grammatically correct, you may be able to make it more dynamic and interesting with some polish. Here are some common ways you can sharpen your writing:

Choose strong verbs (for example, “sprinted,” “dashed,” or “bolted” instead of “ran”).

Avoid passive voice.

Vary sentence length.

Cut unnecessary words.

Replace cliches with original phrasing.

Showing your writing skills in a job search

Your writing skills will shine throughout the job search process , whether or not you intend to show them off. This is because job applications are largely written materials, including your cover letter , resume , and email communications . Use these opportunities to demonstrate your writing skills to prospective employers by submitting clear, accurate, and engaging materials.

Additionally, if you have specialized expertise, such as experience with legal writing, medical writing, technical writing, or scientific writing, you can note that in a resume skills section and further detail that experience within your cover letter or during your interviews .

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Getting started

Whether you’re a scientist or a product manager, journalist or entrepreneur, writing effectively will enable you to communicate your ideas to the world. Through practice, exposure, and familiarizing yourself with basic rules, you’ll be able to use your writing to say exactly what you want to say.

If you’re looking for a structured way to expand your writing skillset, explore writing courses on Coursera —the first week is free.

Give your team access to a catalog of 8,000+ engaging courses and hands-on Guided Projects to help them develop impactful skills. Learn more about Coursera for Business .

Keep reading

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Workplace Writers

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This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

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This page provides links to resources for workplace writers and people writing during the job search process.

For access to all OWL resources, click here . Please click on the links below to access resources for workplace writers and people writing during the job search process:

Effective Workplace Writing - This resource explains two dominant ideas in professional writing that will help you produce persuasive, usable resumes, letters, memos, reports, white papers, etc. This section outlines the concepts of rhetorical awareness and user-centered design, provides examples of these ideas, and contains a glossary of terms.

Audience Analysis - This section helps you build Information about your readers. It discusses your communication's complex audience and provides key questions you can ask to determine readers' needs, values, and attitudes. This section also provides useful charts to help you with your audience analysis.

Tailoring Employment Documents for a Specific Audience - This handout provides information on how to tailor your employment documents to a specific audience to help you land an interview.

Prewriting - This section explains the prewriting (invention) stage of the composing process. It includes processes, strategies, and questions to help you begin to write. While invention may seem to apply only to academic contexts, these strategies may also help professionals tackle workplace writing challenges and begin the research process necessary for white papers, reports, and proposals.

Employment Documents: The Cover Letter, Job Acceptance Letter, and Personal Statement

Job Skills Checklist - This handout provides a large skills inventory list that you can use to help build your cover letter and resume.

Action Verbs to Describe Skills, Jobs, and Accomplishments in Employment Documents - This section offers a categorized list of action verbs that can be utilized to explain the daily tasks completed by an individual on the job. In addition to the categorized lists, there are examples with some of the actions verbs being used; and there is also a sample resume provided for further assistance.

Cover Letters 1: Quick Tips - This page provides a guide to writing cover letters. Here you will find brief answers and lists of what you should include in a cover letter, how to order and format such a letter, and what to do before sending it out.

Cover Letters 2: Preparing to Write a Cover Letter - Before you start to write a cover letter, you should gather information about yourself, the company, and the job. This page will help you learn what kind of information to find, where to find it, and how and why to use that information to "sell yourself" in a cover letter.

Cover Letters 3: Writing Your Cover Letter - This resource offers a series of short documents that walks you through the creation of a cover letter. Here you can see the information in the "Quick Tips for Cover Letters" and "Preparing to Write a Cover Letter" pages put to use. This page guides you through adapting your experiences to the content in your cover letter and its different sections.

Letters Concerning Employment - This section covers writing additional correspondence beyond cover letters including reference requests, interview follow-up letters, inquiry letters, acceptance and rejection letters, request for further negotiations letters and thank you letters.

Academic Cover Letters - When you're applying for a faculty position with a college or university, the cover letter is your first chance to make a strong impression as a promising researcher and teacher. Below you'll find some strategies for presenting your qualifications effectively in an academic context.

Writing a Job Acceptance Letter - This slide presentation is an interactive presentation to help students and professionals understand how to prepare a job acceptance letter. This presentation is ideal for students and professionals who are involved in the job search process.

Writing the Personal Statement - This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.

Example Employment Documents - These annotated employment documents provide examples of resumes, CVs, and cover letters for a variety of disciplines.

Working Class Job Search Documents - These resources, developed with WorkOne Express at the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy (LARA), explain how to compose cover letters and resumes, as well as follow up and thank you letters, for working class jobs.

Employment Documents: The Resume and Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Resume Design - This handout offers advice making informed design choices in creating a resume. We also have a sample resume that uses these design principles available in the media section above.

Resumes 1: Introduction to Resumes - Before beginning to write your resume, it is a good idea to understand what you are writing, why you are writing it, and what is expected as you write it. This basic introduction will aid both new resume writers and those who may have forgotten certain details about resume writing.

Resumes 2: Resume Sections - When writing a resume, you need to understand the specific needs of each section. This resource, with information about contact information, education, and work experience sections, will help explain what each section requires.

Resumes 3: When to Use Two Pages or More - You have probably heard the saying, "Keep your resume to a page." Although this is true for most cases, many employers are accepting longer resumes...in certain instances. Use this resource to gain more understanding about what constitutes the page length of a resume.

Resumes 4: Scannable Resumes - This handout provides a traditional resume sample and a scannable resume sample for a comparison as well as general guidelines on writing scannable resumes.

Management Resumes - This handout describes how to tailor your resume when applying for management positions.

Writing the Curriculum Vitae - This handout provides an overview of strategies for writing an effective curriculum vitae. This topic is particularly important for graduate students who are entering the academic job market for the first time.

Reference Sheets - This section details how to develop and format a reference sheet.

More Professional Writing Resources

Email Etiquette - Although instant and text/SMS messaging is beginning to supplant email for some groups' primary means of Internet communication, effective and appropriate email etiquette is still important. This resource will help you to become an effective writer and reader/manager of email.

Writing the Basic Business Letter - This handout covers the parts of the basic business letter.

Business Letters: Accentuating the Positive - This handout provides information on accentuating positive news in writing business letters.

Model Letters for Various Purposes - This handout provides several model letters for various job-search purposes including: a reference request model, a request for further negotiations model, and a reply to a rejection model.

Sales Letters: Four Point Action Closing - This handout covers four points on how to write a good conclusion for a sales letter.

Writing Report Abstracts - This handout discusses how to write good abstracts for reports. It covers informational and descriptive abstracts and gives pointers for success.

Memo Writing - This handout will help you solve your memo-writing problems by discussing what a memo is, describing the parts of memos, and providing examples and explanations that will make your memos more effective.

Writing a White Paper - A white paper is a certain type of report that is distinctive in terms of purpose, audience, and organization. This resource will explain these issues and provide some other tips to enhance white paper content.

Writing a Research Paper - This section provides detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.

Handbook on Report Formats - This resource is an updated version of Muriel Harris’ handbook “Report Formats: a self instruction module on writing skills for engineers,” written in 1981.

Medical Writing - This resource contains information on medical journalism. The material explains the objectives of medical journalism and its applications in the media. Moreover, this resource demonstrates ways writers can accurately translate complex, scientific literature into layperson's terms.

Writing Press Releases - Effective publicity often requires the use of a press release (sometimes called, news release , or media release ). Essentially, a press release is a document that has been crafted for publication in newspapers, magazines and other print media, or for broadcast on television, radio, or Internet video. Learning to write press releases is as much about writing well as it is about knowing your audience expectations for content and format.

INDOT Workshop Resources for Engineers - This area contains resources for the Purdue Writing Lab-Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) Workshops. These detailed materials will help engineers from all disciplines, workplace writers, and students compose clear, dynamic, and effective technical communication. Elements of writing covered in these resources include grammar and mechanics, visual and document design, and overall organization.

Writing Definitions - This resource provides suggestions and examples for writing definitions.

Writing for a North American Business Audience - This handout provides examples and information (written for non-North Americans) on how to write for a business audience. It includes information on getting to the point, keeping it simple, active and passive voice, nondiscriminatory language, and verb overgeneralizing.

Writing for a Chinese Business Audience - This handout provides examples and information on writing in English for both domestic and international audiences doing business in China. It includes information on letters and memos, as well as important stylistic considerations.

Writing for an Indian Business Audience - This handout provides examples and information on writing for both domestic and international audiences doing business in India. It includes information on letters and memos, as well as important stylistic considerations. The handout concludes with comments on some important characteristics of English writing in India, and on the status of English in business writing compared with native Indian languages, such as Hindi and Bengali.

Tips and Terms for the International Student's Job Search - If you are an international student looking for a job in the United States, it is important to understand what specific job search terms mean in the United States as opposed to in your home country in order to be able to meet a prospective employer’s expectations. Listed below are some key terms that you will frequently hear while conducting a job search as well as important tips for creating a resume in the United States.

Style, Language, Research, and Revision

Paragraphs and Paragraphing - The purpose of this resource is to provide some basic instruction and advice regarding the creation of understandable and coherent paragraphs.

HATS: A Design Procedure for Routine Business Documents - The HATS presentation introduces students and instructors to the basic elements of document design. The presentation outlines how to use headings, (information) access, typography (fonts), and space in routine professional documents to promote user-centered communication.

Tone in Business Writing - This handout provides overviews and examples of how to use tone in business writing. This includes considering the audience and purpose for writing.

Transitions and Transitional Devices - This resource discusses transition strategies and specific transitional devices to help fs' and professionals' essays or reports and sentences flow more effectively.

Adding Emphasis in Writing - This handout provides information on visual and textual devices for adding emphasis to student and professional writing including textual formatting, punctuation, sentence structure, and the arrangement of words.

Conciseness - This resource explains the concept of concise writing and provides examples of how to ensure clear prose.

Paramedic Method: A Lesson in Writing Concisely - This handout provides steps and exercises to eliminate wordiness at the sentence level.

Sentence Variety - This resource presents methods for adding sentence variety and complexity to writing that may sound repetitive or boring. Sections are divided into general tips for varying structure, a discussion of sentence types, and specific parts of speech which can aid in sentence variety.

Using Appropriate Language - This section covers some of the major issues with appropriate language use: levels of language formality, deceitful language and Euphemisms, slang and idiomatic expressions; using group-specific jargon; and biased/stereotypical language.

Parallel Structure in Professional Writing - Provides information and examples on parallel structure in business documents.

Research: Overview - This section provides answers to the following research-related questions: Where do I begin? Where should I look for information? What types of sources are available?

Searching the World Wide Web - This section covers finding sources for your writing in the World Wide Web. It includes information about search engines, Boolean operators, web directories, and the invisible web. It also includes an extensive, annotated links section.

Conducting Primary Research - This section includes information on what primary research is, how to get started, ethics involved with primary research and different types of research you can do. It includes details about interviews, surveys, observations, and analysis.

Evaluating Sources of Information - This section provides information on evaluating bibliographic citations, aspects of evaluation, reading evaluation, print vs. Internet sources, and evaluating internet sources.

Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing - This resource will help you become more comfortable with the uses of and distinctions among quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. This handout compares and contrasts the three terms, gives some pointers, and includes a short excerpt that you can use to practice these skills.

Avoiding Plagiarism - This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work—there are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts.

Prioritizing Your Concerns for Effective Business Writing - When you are revising your resume or other business messages, there are priorities of concerns in choosing what to look for and work on. This handout provides tips for reviewing the content and quality of your business documents.

Punctuation - This resource will help clarify when and how to use various marks of punctuation. When speaking, we can pause or change the tone of our voices to indicate emphasis. When writing, we must use punctuation to indicate these places of emphasis.

Revision in Business Writing - Provides information on revising business documents for audience and purpose with emphasis on language, tone, organization, and correctness.

Proofreading Your Writing - This section provides information on proofreading, finding and fixing common errors.

Commas - This resource offers a number of pages about comma use.

Writing and Research Help by Email - Still have questions about your writing? Haven't found what you need? Send us an email! Our staff will provide individualized writing help online.

  • Professional Writing

Learn professional writing with online courses and programs

What is professional writing.

Professional writing is a broad term that encompasses a variety of writing skills that are used in the workplace. These skills are critical in nearly every role because communicating can be vital to outcomes. Whether you’re using business writing for your company, helping tech experts through technical writing, sharing patient symptoms with a specialist, or furthering research with academic writing, professional writing skills can help you effectively deliver messages and information.

professional writing for work

Browse online courses about professional writing   New

Related topics, professional writing course curriculum .

There are many different online courses available to help learners acquire professional writing skills.

Foundational courses in professional writing may cover topics such as grammar, punctuation, and style. These courses can provide learners with the basic skills they need to write clearly and effectively. Some foundational courses may also cover topics such as research, documentation, and ethics.

Intermediate courses in professional writing may explore more specialized topics, such as business writing, technical writing, and creative writing. These courses can help learners develop the skills they need to write effectively in specific contexts. Some intermediate courses may also include topics such as persuasive writing, grant writing, and proposal writing.

Whether you are looking to expand your professional writing skills or gain expertise in another discipline, edX offers online courses that allow learners to study a variety of topics. ‌Sign up for an accelerated boot camp or enroll in a full degree program and start working toward a bachelor's degree or (or more advanced learners) a master’s degree in a relevant subject. You can also explore executive education programs specifically designed for busy professionals.

Professional writing jobs

Professional writing is a valuable skill that can open up a range of career opportunities. In today's digital age, businesses and organizations of all sizes need communicators on their teams who can: 

Write clearly and concisely.

Use correct grammar and punctuation.

Write for specific audiences.

Organize thoughts effectively.

Use evidence to support claims.

Roles in which writing skills are especially important include: 

Authors write and create literary works such as books, novels, short stories, poems, or plays, using their imagination and language skills to express ideas, entertain, inform, or provoke thought in readers.

Copywriters create persuasive and engaging content for advertising and marketing purposes. They write promotional materials such as advertisements, website copy, social media posts, product descriptions, and sales emails.

Content writers produce informative and engaging articles, blog posts, and website content. They may write on a wide range of topics for different industries, including news websites, online publications, and businesses looking to establish their online presence.

Technical writers specialize in creating clear and concise documentation and instructional materials for technical subjects. They write user manuals, guides, tutorials, and other technical documentation, often in fields such as software, engineering, or healthcare.

Grant writers prepare compelling proposals to secure funding from grants and other funding sources. They research grant opportunities, gather relevant information, and write grant proposals that effectively communicate the goals, objectives, and impact of a project or organization.

Journalists research, investigate, and report news stories for print, online, or broadcast media outlets. They conduct interviews, gather information, and write news articles that inform the public about current events, politics, business, sports, or other topics.

Editors review and revise written content for clarity, coherence, grammar, and style. They work on various types of materials, including books, articles, reports, and marketing collateral, to ensure accuracy and readability.

Social media managers create and manage content for social media platforms. They write engaging captions, posts, and updates that align with the brand's voice and engage the target audience.

Scriptwriters write scripts for various mediums, including film, television, theater, and radio. They develop compelling narratives, dialogues, and storylines that bring characters and stories to life.

Public relations experts craft press releases, media kits, speeches, and other communication materials for organizations or individuals to manage their public image and enhance their reputation.

Whether you aspire to be a novelist whose works connect with readers around the world or you are a business manager with higher ambitions, professional writing skills can help you deliver your message with flair. Start building your writing skills with edX.  

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A (Very) Simple Way to Improve Your Writing

  • Mark Rennella

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It’s called the “one-idea rule” — and any level of writer can use it.

The “one idea” rule is a simple concept that can help you sharpen your writing, persuade others by presenting your argument in a clear, concise, and engaging way. What exactly does the rule say?

  • Every component of a successful piece of writing should express only one idea.
  • In persuasive writing, your “one idea” is often the argument or belief you are presenting to the reader. Once you identify what that argument is, the “one-idea rule” can help you develop, revise, and connect the various components of your writing.
  • For instance, let’s say you’re writing an essay. There are three components you will be working with throughout your piece: the title, the paragraphs, and the sentences.
  • Each of these parts should be dedicated to just one idea. The ideas are not identical, of course, but they’re all related. If done correctly, the smaller ideas (in sentences) all build (in paragraphs) to support the main point (suggested in the title).

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Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .

Most advice about writing looks like a long laundry list of “do’s and don’ts.” These lists can be helpful from time to time, but they’re hard to remember … and, therefore, hard to depend on when you’re having trouble putting your thoughts to paper. During my time in academia, teaching composition at the undergraduate and graduate levels, I saw many people struggle with this.

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  • MR Mark Rennella is Associate Editor at HBP and has published two books, Entrepreneurs, Managers, and Leaders and The Boston Cosmopolitans .  

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Professional Writing – How to Write for the Professional World

  •   Joseph M. Moxley
  •   Julie Staggers

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CC BY-ND 2.0 by Internet Freedom Fellows

The writing styles of professional writers tend to vary across communities of practice . For instance, the writing style of a lawyer is quite different from that of an accountant or a mathematician. However, across work contexts , there are a number of stylistic attributes that tend to characterize the texts of professional writers, including

  • Accessible – Universal Design Professional writers aspire to produce readable, legible, and understandable texts that are physically available to readers and users

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  • what their audience thinks about the topic
  • how their audience perceives or sees the topic
  • how their audience feels about the topic
  • what they want their audience to do .
  • Brevity Professional communicators know less is more when it comes to facilitating clarity in communication . Knowing that every word can be misinterpreted, knowledge workes are careful to cut the vague words from their sentences .
  • Citations Professionals are mindful of copyright . They are careful to attribute sources using the citation style expected by their audience . For instance, in the humanities, writers use the MLA Handbook, 9th Edition to format texts and attribute sources . In the social sciences, writers use the Publication Manual of the APA: 7th Edition
  • Evidence Based , Well Developed, Substantive Readers of professional texts expect writers to support their claims with evidence . They distinguish fact from news and opinion . They expect more than anecdote and informal observation. When writers weave evidence into their texts — whether it’s a textual reference or an empirical observation — they understand all information isn’t created equal. Rather, they know their readers will question the currency , relevance , authority , and accuracy of their evidence . They know their readers will engage in rhetorical analysis (even if they do this tacitly ): readers will question the writer’s purpose for saying what they’ve said–and question bias and efforts at sophistry .
  • Flow & Scannability Professional writers tend to employ deductive order and deductive reasoning . In cover letters , abstracts , executive summaries and introductions, they tell the reader what the text is about, how it’s organized. They craft their texts to facilitate scanning .
  • Inclusive Professional writers use language that is respectful and sensitive to ageism, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status of others.
  • Truthful Readers and users of technical documents need to be confident that they can rely on the information being provided. Your own ethos and the ethos of your company is always on the line, and never more so than when you are producing documents for external audiences. Lying, misrepresenting the facts, or ignoring the counterarguments an audience holds dear seldom helps a company prosper. You need to check and double check your facts. Check all of the details for accuracy. Avoid lawsuits! Ensure you have included all of the information the audience needs
  • Rhetorical Stance The audience for professional writing tends to be coworkers, clients, employers. Typically the audience is less informed about the topic than the writer in workplace discourse. Often knowledge workers are endeavoring to simplify complex information. They write from the persona of expert and use visual language to present information as simply as possible.
  • Simplicity To promote clarity and readability, professional writers are as concise as possible. They endeavor to strip away any unnecessary information and provide the gist of things. Knowing the power of the image, they employ visual language .
  • Topic Professional writing is fundamentally  transactional : usually if you are writing it is because you are trying to solve some kind of a problem. Your  audience  — the people you are writing to — probably need to do something in response to your writing. They may not be expecting your writing. They probably don’t want to read your writing. Your writing is interrupting their day. So, if you’re gonna bother them you need to make it worth their time.

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Textual Practices Common to Both Professional & Academic Prose Writing Styles

A professional writing style shares many characteristics with an academic writing prose style : knowledge workers . . . in both discourse communities aspire for brevity , flow , simplicity , unity and clarity in communications .

Academic and professional writers also share information literacy perspectives : they value openness and strategic searching . They know when they need information , where to get information, how to assess information, and how weave the work of other researchers into the fabric of their arguments. They value critical literacy practices : They are conversant with the research methods , the knowledge-making practices , that their audiences expect them use in order to propose or test a knowledge claim .

And, in most academic and workplace contexts , knowledge workers are expected to conform to discourse conventions of Standard Written English and Standard Spoken English, including

  • attributions for evidence
  • citation styles tied to particular disciplinary communities (e.g., MLA , APA , Chicago)
  • organizational schema
  • punctuation .

Not surprisingly, style is a concern for readers across discourse communities : knowledge workers from both academic and professional writing camps abhor vagueness , unsupported claims, and a lack of organization . No one likes a sentence that goes on and on in multiple directions. People don’t want to be bored or confused.

Why Does a Professional Writing Prose Style Matter?

Readers, especially critical readers , have expectations regarding

  • how texts should be shaped
  • what texts should say.

Communication and learning are, after all, a social processes.

Communications that fail to account for the reader’s expectations are unlikely to be read. They will tossed aside, dumped into the recycle bin along with other writer-based prose . Your readers are unlikely to take your work seriously if your communications fail to account for what your readers know about topic–and how they feel about it. (See interpretation)

What is the Difference between Academic and Professional Writing?

While professional writers share some values and practices with academic writers, they ultimately approach discourse situations in unique ways.

Below are 9 distinctions between an academic and professional prose style

  • Relationship to Audience
  • Relationship to Topic
  • Formatting & Use of Visual Language
  • Sentence Structure & Sentence Patterns
  • Point of View

1. Relationship to Audience

The audience for a lot of academic writing assigned in high school and college settings assumes the teacher as examiner role. When teachers serve in the role of examiner , they are checking to see whether you can demonstrate what you know or have learne d.

Outside of schoolwork, the audience for academic writing tends to be subject matter experts . In the peer-reviewed research , investigators and theorists write to other experts—often using jargon , discipline-specific research methods , and agreed-upon styles, such as MLA or APA .

The audience for professional writing tends to be coworkers, clients, employers. Typically the audience is less informed about the topic than the writer in workplace discourse. Often knowledge workers are endeavoring to simplify complex information. They write from the persona of expert and use visual language as well to help inform and persuade readers.

2. Relationship to Topic

Academic writing is largely about problematizing and exploring ideas.

Professional writing is fundamentally transactional : usually if you are writing it is because you are trying to solve some kind of a problem. Your audience — the people you are writing to — probably need to do something in response to your writing. They may not be expecting your writing. They probably don’t want to read your writing. Your writing is interrupting their day. So, if you’re gonna bother them you need to make it worth their time: your work must be clear , substantive , properly attributed , and evidence based .

3. Formatting & Use of Visual Language

Academic writing tends to focus on traditional alphabetical language; professional writing, in contrast, tends to rely on formatting to facilitate scanning and visual language wherever possible.

professional writing for work

4. Sentence Structure & Sentence Patterns

Academic writers may communicate in long, complicated sentences and long paragraphs. It’s not unusual in professional-peer review journals, to see paragraphs that are 300 to 500+ words long.

In contrast, professional and technical writing embraces simplicity, negative space, visual language, and simple sentence patterns.

Related Resources: Sentences | Sentence Types

In terms of channel and media , professional and technical writers are more flexible, less convention-bound than academic writing. In other words, they are likely to be willing to move beyond traditional genres and alphabetical text to embrace the possibility of new media.

7. Point of View

Because professional and technical writers presume their audience — which they tend to call users rather than readers — are reading the text to understand how to do something or how something works, they generally keep the spotlight on the topic rather than the writer’s thoughts or feelings about the topic.

Related Resources: | Perspective | Thesis

Organization – A Direct Approach

Professional Writing is nearly always employs a direct approach when it comes to organization: professional writers clarify their purpose for writing upfront–sometimes in the first sentence or paragraph .

In contrast, an indirect approach to organization leads with relevant, attention-getting details that do not directly state the purpose of the document. Most often, in business and technical communication, indirect organization is employed when the writer is delivering bad news or anticipates an audience that is resistant to the main message and may require some persuasion.

Professional writers use cover letters , abstracts , executive summaries , and introductions to emphasize key points, arguments , methods , findings, interpretations and conclusions . They don’t hold off on the best arguments till last or keep the reader guessing about why they are being given information .

Related Resources

  • Inductive Order, Inductive Reasoning, Inductive Writing
  • Deductive Order, Deductive Reasoning, Deductive Writing
  • Sentence Order within Paragraphs
  • Topic Sentence

Because of the transactional nature of professional and technical communication, it favors conciseness . Time is money. Readers aren’t reading for pleasure. All they want is to get the information they came for as quickly as possible.

Professional writing is all about conciseness , active voice, direct writing, and short paragraphs with a clear, and single main idea.

Related Resources: Sentence Schemas |

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How to Become a Writer: A Guide

Lindsay Kramer

So you want to be a writer. Awesome choice, if we do say so ourselves. 

But now you might find yourself wondering how to be a writer. Is a writer simply somebody who writes, or is there more to it? How much writing do you need to do before you can officially call yourself a writer? Do you need to get paid for your work in order to earn that title? Does it need to be published somewhere? 

Give your writing extra polish Grammarly helps you communicate the way you intend. Write with Grammarly

The answer to all of the questions above is no. As long as you’re writing, you’re a writer. Even if it takes ten years to get your first book published, you’ve been a writer since you sketched out your very first book outline. And although writing a book is one way to become a professional writer, it’s hardly the only way. Read on to learn more about the different writing careers you can pursue and how to get started. 

Determine the kind of writer you want to be

Writers fall into two very broad categories: writers who write simply for personal enjoyment and writers who write professionally. Many, perhaps even most, professional writers also write for fun and personal fulfillment—but not every writer who does it as a hobby also does it for a living. 

If you’ve determined you want to become a professional writer, there are a lot of different career paths to choose from. Take a look at a few of the most common career paths for writers:

Copywriters write the taglines, product descriptions, ads, and other short, emotion-packed bits of writing (known in the biz as “copy”) that drive people to take specific actions. Within this field, there are lots of specializations, like direct response copywriting, email copywriting, SEO copywriting, marketing copywriting, and brand copywriting. While plenty of copywriters are employed full-time, plenty more work for themselves, taking clients on a freelance basis. 

Beyond these specializations, copywriters typically focus on specific industries, like the medical industry, arts and entertainment, SAAS, pets, subscription services, and more—basically, any industry you can think of employs copywriters.  

According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for copywriters in the United States is $57,864.*

Content writer

The blog post you’re reading right now was written by a content writer. In fact, all the content you’ve ever read on a website, like how-to guides, informational articles, and the text on infographics, was written by content writers. Even the ads you’ve watched on TV come from content writers—after all, somebody has to write the scripts.  

Bloggers fall into the category of “content writer.” Just like copywriters, content writers typically specialize in one or a few specific industries. And just like copywriters, they can work in-house or freelance. 

According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for content writers in the United States is $47,233. 

Technical writer

Technical writers create documentation that teaches people how to use applications and tech equipment. They do this by writing instruction manuals, how-to guides, articles, and product guides. They write similar kinds of material as content writers, but the difference is that while content writers generally aim to engage readers, often as part of broader marketing strategies, technical writers write to explain how a product or system works. 

A technical writer’s work needs to be highly detailed and leave no room for misinterpretation or error. It’s fairly common, but not necessarily universal, for technical writers to have degrees or other formal training in STEM fields. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for technical writers was $74,650 per year in 2020.

Communications officer

A communications officer acts as the spokesperson for a brand or another organization, publishing content like press releases and responding to media inquiries. Communications officers are sometimes referred to as public relations specialists or communications specialists. 

According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for a communications officer is $57,896.

Journalists write timely news stories. A career in journalism requires more than writing skills; it requires strong research and interviewing skills, too. Journalists work in a variety of settings, from online outlets to radio and television to print publications. 

According to Payscale, the average annual salary for journalists in the US is $41,624.

Grant writer

A grant writer—also known as a proposal writer—researches, writes, and submits grant requests on behalf of individuals and organizations seeking funding. Generally, this role involves finding specific grants and determining whether they’re appropriate for the organization seeking them. It can also involve acting as a liaison between the funding provider and recipient. 

According to salary.com, the median salary for grant writers in the US is $72,645.

Columnists write and publish short essays from their personal points of view. Their publication platforms are known as “columns” and can be found in newspapers, magazines, and online. Often, a column covers news and evergreen topics within one specific area, like cryptocurrency or fashion design, and the columnist writing it has some sort of credential to write authoritatively on that subject—like a lengthy career as a crypto trader or an MFA in fashion design. 

According to salary.com, the average annual salary for columnists in the US is $66,725.

When you say “I’m a writer,” most people’s minds automatically jump to authors, as in published book authors.

For authors, it’s close to impossible to list an accurate annual salary. For every mega-bestselling author who rakes in millions, there are thousands of other authors sporadically publishing in literary magazines for a few hundred dollars per story. Even authors who publish books regularly and semi-regularly have wildly varying incomes, with the average coming in at $51,103 per year according to Payscale . If you’re considering the author path, the reality is that you’ll most likely need to work a full-time job while writing and publishing on the side. This is true whether you plan on pursuing traditional publishing or self-publishing, both of which have unique benefits and challenges for writers. 

>>Read More: How to Write a Book

If your primary focus is poetry, you’d refer to yourself as a poet. Similar to authors, poets’ incomes vary widely and typically, writing poetry is more of a monetized hobby than a full-time job. That said, there are commercial opportunities for poets, like writing for greeting card companies, but these are often on a freelance basis. 

Create realistic goals and expectations

The reality is this: You’re not likely to sit down and bang out a bestseller on the first try. Similarly, you’re not guaranteed to pitch a bunch of articles to websites and get them all accepted with no prior experience. Like every other pursuit, a writing career is something you cultivate and nurture over time. 

When you’re first starting out, set realistic goals for yourself. Maybe you want to become a full-time blogger . Choose a platform, set up your blog, and start publishing posts, giving yourself a reasonable but consistent schedule like one or two posts per week. Or maybe you’ve decided you want to give copywriting a shot. Some realistic starting points for an aspiring copywriter include listening to podcasts like The Copywriter Club and Copy Chief Radio , researching different areas of specialization, and applying for entry-level copywriting jobs and internships. You could even reach out to an already established copywriter for an informational interview .

The more you write and try out different kinds of writing, the better you’ll get to know yourself as a writer. Maybe you’ll find that you’re at your best when you’re working under a tight deadline and you have to focus on nothing but the work in front of you. Or you might find that’s the complete opposite of your style and you need lots of time to be able to write at a comfortable pace. Maybe writing is the creative outlet you need after spending the day at a boring desk job—or your best ideas come to you in the middle of the night. 

There are lots of different types of writers , and nobody fits neatly into one box or another. But taking the time to determine which type of writer you can primarily classify yourself as can help you identify your strengths and areas of opportunity. If you’re planning to pursue writing as a career, it can also help you determine which kind of writing career suits you best. A meticulous plotter, for example, can find a ton of success as a technical writer, but they might not have the spontaneity necessary to make it as a direct response copywriter. Similarly, an idea generator can be their blogging client’s best-kept secret, but they might not make a great grant writer. 

Work with the tools writers use

There are a lot of apps and other tools available to help you organize your writing, take notes on the go, write faster, and make sure your work is free of mistakes (hint hint: there’s one that starts with a G and ends with “rammarly”). 

Explore these tools and if you plan on going into a specific writing-focused career field, familiarize yourself with the tools writers in that industry use most frequently. A few of the most common tools professional and hobby writers use are:

  • Google Docs
  • Wordstream Free Keyword Tool
  • FX Flesch-Kincaid Readability tool
  • Citation Machine
  • StayFocused

There are more tools and resources available for you—a lot more. Many of them are specific to certain kinds of writing, like Yoast, which is a search engine optimization (SEO) plug-in. 

Become a regular reader

You’ve probably been told that if you want to be a writer, you need to be a reader. And it’s true—just like listening to a variety of music is key to being a skilled musician, reading lots of different kinds of writing will help you become a stronger writer. 

Don’t just read the kind of writing you want to do; read about writing. Here are a few great books for learning about different types of writing and the craft of writing:

  • Breakthrough Copywriting by David Garfinkel
  • Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  • Telling True Stories by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

Other valuable resources for writers include blogs and social media groups about writing. Reading doesn’t have to be a formal, sit-down-and-don’t-get-up-until-you’ve-finished-the-chapter kind of thing; you can easily get some valuable reading in by scrolling the r/writing subreddit or another forum for writers while you’re standing in line at the store, sitting on the bus, or on your work breaks. 

Common questions about becoming a writer

Do you need a degree to be a writer.

Not necessarily. But it can help, and if you’re looking for full-time writing jobs, a degree may be required. 

Common degrees to pursue if you want to be a writer include English, journalism, and communications. It also isn’t uncommon for a professional writer to have a degree in another area and focus their career on writing in that niche. For example, you might have a degree in economics and decide you’d like to become a finance journalist. 

Advanced degrees and beyond

Just like you don’t need a bachelor’s degree to become a writer, you don’t need an advanced degree—in most cases. As you search for writing jobs, you’ll likely come across listings for higher-level positions that do require advanced degrees. Usually, these listings are for candidates with highly specialized knowledge in one area, like a listing for a legal writer requiring that all applicants have a JD. But do you need an MFA in Creative Writing to publish your novel? Of course not!

Do I really need to write every day?

You’ve probably heard that if you want to be a professional writer, you need to write every day. What this advice really boils down to is practice makes perfect. You don’t necessarily have to write every single day, but carving out a block of time to focus on your writing regularly will help you become a stronger writer. 

Where can I connect with other writers?

For a lot of writers, being part of a writing community is important. This is especially true if you go the freelance route—it’s always helpful to have peers you can bounce ideas off and ask for advice. 

You can find lots of writing communities on social media as well as other places online. Some are free and open to everybody, while others are industry- and niche-specific and may require membership dues. You can also find in-person writing groups through platforms like meetup.com. 

Become a better writer instantly

As Hemingway said, good writing is rewriting. But before you can rewrite your work, you need to know where you made mistakes and where you can make changes to make your writing stronger. Grammarly can help with that. 

No matter what kind of writing you’re doing, Grammarly catches issues with punctuation, grammar and syntax mistakes, and tone inconsistencies. This way, your writing doesn’t just shine but also helps you reach your goals—whether that’s to teach your reader something, to convey important information, or to make them feel something deeply. 

*All salaries cited in this article were the averages at the time of this article’s original publication unless noted otherwise.

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Guide to Submitting a Writing Sample

By Status.net Editorial Team on November 15, 2023 — 7 minutes to read

Writing samples are pieces of your previous work that showcase your writing skills and ability to communicate effectively. They can play a crucial role in various aspects of your education and professional life, be it applying for a job, an internship, or a college program. By providing a relevant writing sample, you demonstrate your writing talent and persuade others that you’re perfect for the opportunity.

When selecting a writing sample, aim to choose one that best represents your strengths in written communication. It is typically advisable to pick a piece that is relevant to the position or designation you’re applying for.

It’s important to prioritize quality over quantity in your writing samples. Showcasing an error-free, polished piece helps to create a lasting impression and credibility. Therefore, it is advisable to thoroughly proofread and edit your writing sample before submitting it. Even if the submission guidelines don’t specify a word count or page limit, avoid submitting very long pieces, as people reviewing your application may not have ample time to read through them.

As you progress through your education or career, keep updating your writing samples with recent, relevant, and stronger pieces to reflect your improvements and growth as a writer. This will not only help you exhibit your current writing abilities but also keep you ready to seize any new opportunity that comes your way.

  • Make sure your writing sample is relevant to the job you’re applying for. Tailor the content to showcase your understanding of the industry and the tasks expected in the role.
  • Proofread your writing sample carefully. This is your chance to make a great first impression, so make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes.
  • Format your writing sample correctly. If a specific format or length is requested, follow these guidelines. Otherwise, use standard formatting: an easily-readable font, clear headings, and bullet points where appropriate.

Types of Writing Samples

Research papers.

Research papers are a great way to showcase your analytical and critical thinking skills, as well as your ability to conduct thorough research on a particular topic. This type of writing sample can be useful for jobs that require a deep understanding of complex concepts, such as scientific research or academic positions. Including a research paper that demonstrates your expertise in a specific field can set you apart from other candidates.

Articles and Blog Posts

Submitting articles and blog posts as writing samples is a good choice for positions in content marketing, brand development, or online journalism. Articles and blog posts should showcase your ability to engage readers while clearly presenting information on a specific topic. Choose samples that are relevant to the industry or company you are applying to, as this will help the employer see how your writing skills can benefit their organization.

Press Releases and Public Relations

Press releases and public relations materials demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively with a wide audience, making them ideal for jobs in business, media, or journalism. These writing samples show your ability to deliver news or announcements in a clear and concise manner, which can have a significant impact on a company’s reputation and success. Be sure to select samples that highlight your ability to convey the main points of a story or event in an engaging way.

Narrative and Descriptive Writing

Narrative and descriptive writing samples allow you to showcase your creative voice and storytelling abilities. This type of writing is relevant for positions that involve crafting narratives, such as advertising, scriptwriting, or creative writing. Choose samples that include vivid descriptions and engaging characters to help the reader visualize your story. Be sure to maintain a professional tone, even when writing about personal experiences or fictional situations.

Cover Letters and Resumes

Finally, your cover letter and resume can also serve as writing samples, especially when applying for jobs that emphasize communication skills. A well-written cover letter shows your ability to clearly articulate your qualifications and why you are the right candidate for the position. Similarly, a well-structured resume demonstrates your ability to organize information and present it in a clear, easy-to-read format. Take the time to customize your cover letter and resume for each job application to highlight the most relevant skills and experiences.

How to Choose Your Sample

  • When selecting a writing sample to submit, it’s important to consider the tone and style of your work. Make sure it aligns with the expectations of the audience you’re trying to reach. Think about who will be reading your sample and what they are likely looking for in a writer. Your writing should be engaging, informative, and reflect a style that is suitable for the medium.
  • As you pick your writing sample, focus on relevance, selecting a piece that showcases your abilities in the specific genre, niche, or subject matter that is relevant to the position or opportunity you’re pursuing.
  • Keep in mind the administrative aspects of submitting a writing sample, such as following submission guidelines, including word count, document format (such as PDF or Word), and any other specifics related to the requirements. Double-check your work for structure, grammar, and punctuation to ensure that your writing sample is polished and professional.

Preparing and Formatting Your Sample

Before submitting a writing sample, take time to carefully edit and polish your work. Ensure that your text is free from grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Check your sentence structure to make sure your ideas are clearly articulated and easy to follow. Using a style guide, like the APA or MLA style, helps maintain consistency and professionalism throughout your writing.

A well-formatted writing sample is not only easier to read but also demonstrates your attention to detail. Break up large blocks of text into smaller paragraphs, aiming for three to five sentences per paragraph. This helps your reader stay engaged with your work and digest the information more easily.

Consider using formatting tools like bullet points or bold text to emphasize your main points. This allows readers to quickly understand the main concepts you’re presenting and makes the content more engaging. However, be cautious not to overuse these tools, as it might make your writing appear cluttered and unfocused.

Proper Submission of Writing Sample

  • To start off, craft an engaging introductory paragraph that immediately captures the reader’s attention. A strong intro sets the tone for the rest of the piece and ensures the reader understands your purpose and focus.
  • Make sure your writing sample is accessible in the required file format – typically, this would be a PDF or Word document. Double-check that the formatting is consistent throughout the text, including font style and size, as well as spacing and indentation. Should there be any specific formatting requirements, be sure to adhere to those guidelines.
  • Before submitting, take the time to proofread your writing sample thoroughly for grammar and spelling errors. Correct any issues you come across to ensure a clean, polished presentation. If possible, ask a friend or colleague to review your work and provide feedback. They might catch errors that you initially missed or suggest improvements.
  • When you’re ready to submit your writing sample, carefully include it in your application or email it as an attachment, if that is the requested method. Clearly label the file with your name and the title of the piece so that recipients can easily identify your work.
  • Don’t forget to follow up once you have submitted your writing sample. If you haven’t received a response or feedback within a reasonable amount of time, it’s okay to send a polite reminder. This shows your interest and enthusiasm for the opportunity.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can i create a standout writing sample for a nonprofit position.

To create a standout writing sample for a nonprofit position, focus on showcasing your passion for the organization’s mission, your understanding of the target audience, and your ability to communicate complex ideas effectively. Some tips to consider:

  • Research the organization and its mission deeply
  • Use persuasive language and storytelling techniques
  • Highlight your problem-solving and critical thinking skills
  • Address the challenges faced by the nonprofit sector and offer potential solutions

What type of writing sample should I submit for an internship?

For an internship, it’s important to submit a writing sample that demonstrates your enthusiasm for the industry and your ability to learn quickly. Some possible options include:

  • A research paper or article from a relevant class
  • An excerpt from a personal blog or previous internship project
  • A piece about a recent development in the industry

Ensure your sample is well-organized, free of errors, and demonstrates your writing abilities and critical thinking skills.

How long should my writing sample be for different applications?

The length of your writing sample will depend on the specific application requirements and position. As a general rule:

  • Academic applications: 10-20 pages
  • Professional job applications: 2-5 pages
  • Internships: 1-3 pages

Always follow any specific guidelines provided by the institution or company you are applying to. If no length is specified, aim for a concise and focused sample that showcases your abilities effectively.

What are the basic guidelines for creating a professional writing sample?

When creating a professional writing sample, consider these basic guidelines:

  • Choose a topic or prompt relevant to the job or application
  • Follow a clear structure and use headings and subheadings
  • Maintain consistent formatting and use appropriate fonts and margins
  • Edit and proofread your work to eliminate errors and ensure clarity
  • Tailor your sample to the specific company or industry
  • How to Ask for a Raise in Writing (Sample Emails)
  • Best Color to Wear for an Interview (Guide)
  • Letter of Continued Interest Example (Guide)
  • Complete Guide to Writing Reference Letters [Templates]
  • Best Job Interview Request Email Responses (Examples)
  • Effective Interview Confirmation Email (Examples)

professional writing for work

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Writing At Work : Professional Writing Skills for People on the Job

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Writing At Work : Professional Writing Skills for People on the Job 1st Edition

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  • ISBN-10 0844259837
  • ISBN-13 978-0844259833
  • Edition 1st
  • Publisher McGraw Hill
  • Publication date February 11, 1997
  • Language English
  • Dimensions 6 x 0.97 x 9 inches
  • Print length 416 pages
  • See all details

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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ McGraw Hill; 1st edition (February 11, 1997)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 416 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0844259837
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0844259833
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.19 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 0.97 x 9 inches
  • #427 in Business Writing Skills (Books)
  • #1,688 in Writing Skill Reference (Books)
  • #2,361 in Communication Skills

Important information

To report an issue with this product, click here .

About the authors

Stephen bernhardt.

Dr. Stephen A. Bernhardt is Professor Emeritus, Kirkpatrick Chair in Writing, at the University of Delaware, where he taught from 2001-2016. From his position, he promoted strong writing and communication skills across the university. Together with Nancy Sommers of Harvard, he is the author of Writer’s Help, a Web-based reference handbook from Macmillan/Bedford/St. Martin’s. Professor Bernhardt is widely published in leading journals, with research interests centering on visual rhetoric, computers and writing, workplace training and development, and the teaching of scientific and technical communication. He is Past President of both the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication (CPTSC) and the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW). He is past Director of two National Workplace Literacy Demonstration Projects, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. He chaired the English Department at University of Delaware for 5 years. As Senior Consultant for Scientific Services, McCulley/Cuppan LLC, Salt Lake City, he has consulted widely with the biopharmaceutical industry on designing large documentation sets using global teams and technologies, developing training programs, and improving written communication as a part of new drug registration and post-marketing surveillance. He taught at New Mexico State University for 14 years and at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale for 6 years. His earned his PhD at the University of Michigan.

His website contains full details on his career: http://www.english.udel.edu/sab/

Edward L. Smith

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In the modern workplace, everyone employs professional writing skills

Certificate in Professional Writing courses

A closer look at the students who enroll in Certificate in Professional Writing courses reveals a microcosm of Penn LPS Online as a whole: adults from a wide variety of professional and educational backgrounds pursue professional writing skills, including business writing, in these accelerated online courses. Developing good writing is a valuable asset in any career, and the Certificate in Professional Writing provides a flexible and accessible way to enhance these skills for a range of professions. Students pursuing the certificate learn alongside students who are completing the writing requirement for the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree as well as those who are just taking an individual course to explore the subject matter. Any individual course may include seasoned professionals and career changers updating their skill sets, academic scholars seeking to communicate their research more effectively, and new or inexperienced writers in search of confidence and expertise.

In other words, anyone could benefit from instruction in professional writing because everyone puts these skills to work. “We sometimes unwittingly become professional writers when we're trying to set up meetings or to communicate an idea or event to others,” explains Valerie Ross, Faculty Director of the Certificate in Professional Writing. “The professional world is all about inducing cooperation in others. Professional writers—in the workplace and other organizations—are continually communicating in an effort to get things done.”

In addition to her role as faculty director for the certificate, Ross is the Director of the Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing at Penn, which provides instruction and support for undergraduate and graduate students across the University. “Our program is very research-oriented, which is one of the things that distinguishes us from many other writing programs,” says Ross. “We do a lot of research on the knowledge domains that you have to master in order to be a good writer. We also hire people who have had not only academic but professional writing experience. We continually gather data and test our pedagogical strategies and their effects, and we have regular meetings of our multidisciplinary faculty to analyze and explore our findings.”

The Certificate in Professional Writing courses are taught by Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing instructors who can provide that broad view of writing expertise and the depth of their own experience—which is imparted to students through instructor feedback as well as lectures and readings. “They get a great deal of individual attention in our courses,” says Ross. “Instead of a long paper at the end of the course, we provide many short, frequent assignments that advance your writing skills, and provide you with feedback on all of these assignments, so that we are in nearly constant communication with our students.”

What is professional writing—and why is it important?

At its core, professional writing is any communication that helps employees exchange information; persuade and inform others; and build and document knowledge through various types of writing or what is often called “discourse”—internally, with colleagues and employers, or externally to customers and clients. All of this writing is focused on achieving a desired outcome and requires not only excellent grammar and vocabulary but also effective organization and style.  That includes the types of text produced by professionals whose job title includes the word “writer,” such as blog posts and press releases, but also everyday communication like emails and text messages. “Genre is a key concept that we feature right from the beginning in our introductory courses,” says Matthew Osborn, Associate Director of the Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing. Osborn teaches PROW 4000: Writing for Social Media , which examines different kinds of social media posts as genres. When students observe how a celebratory social media announcement differs from a crisis management response in form as well as content, they can more effectively communicate on those fast-paced platforms without mishap. In PROW 1000: Fundamentals of Professional Writing , students may be surprised to find themselves assigned to write a passive-aggressive text message. “That one that tends to be most transformative for students,” laughs Ross. “They really get a sense of tone, and how you can create tone even with the tiniest snippet of words.”

Many genres explored in the certificate courses fall outside of what we traditionally think of as writing—including charts, images, and formatting. Dana Walker, Lecturer in Critical Writing at the Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing, tasks students in PROW 2000: Writing with Data with comparing how two economists presented their data differently in an academic article, a news article, and an Instagram post. “Same data, just writing for different audiences,” explains Walker. “Students are surprised at the rhetorical impact of a slight change in presentation of information in charts and graphs, or what needs to be done to make a table or figure accessible, or how informal or formal they need to be. Those are all choices that a writer makes, consciously or otherwise.”

The small, nuts-and-bolts assignments of the introductory courses lead up to bigger-picture concepts like storytelling, crisis communication plans, and branding or social media campaigns. “I try to shatter that myth of the creative writer who was born creative,” says Fayyaz Vellani, Lecturer in Critical Writing. “There are actual techniques and tools you can use to deliver a good story.”

In a recently added course, PROW 401: Composing a Professional Identity , students are encouraged to think about their career trajectory as a kind of story or campaign: “The new course brings together a lot of threads of other classes in our certificate: thinking about how you actually map out your career, how to put together a campaign about yourself that effectively tells your story,” adds Ross.

What can a Certificate in Professional Writing do for you?

With a wide range of genres to explore, including email and LinkedIn, there are as many practical applications for professional writing skills as there are professions—but you can count on practice and support as you develop your abilities in a few key objectives.

1. Make your case

“When we say writing, we’re talking about rhetoric: how you use symbols and words to inform and persuade people,” says Ross. “While there’s no bias in numbers as such, how you construct a table, the decision as to what to include or exclude, what to put first and second, even what colors to use, are all rhetorical choices that will shape how your audience understands and responds to it,” adds Walker. Becoming an effective communicator means understanding the range and weight of those choices and cultivating an awareness of your audience so you can make informed decisions about how to convey information.

2. Think on your feet

According to Ross, one of the defining characteristics of professional writing is that it usually happens on a deadline. “Unlike academics or creative writers, professionals don't have a lot of time to develop their work,” she says. “They have to be highly adaptable and responsive, able to write on the spot and do so crisply, quickly, factually, and persuasively. It's an impressive, seldom acknowledged skill set.” The best way to get up to speed is to become familiar with the relevant genres—and to practice so that you can think fast. One of Vellani’s students from PROW 3010: The Power of Storytelling happened to run into a cable CEO one day—and had a brief window in which to make an elevator pitch. “He got angel investor funding because he knew how to tell the story,” Vellani recalls. “Stories happen in doctors' offices. They happen in workplaces. They just happen.”

3. Connect to others

PROW students interact with one another as much as they interact with their instructors, which exposes them to other working adults who have unique insight or even professional opportunities to share. “People finding communities in these online courses, and using these online tools to communicate with each other, has been a feature of the classes that I’ve really enjoyed—and I think students have really enjoyed as well,” says Vellani.

As Walker points out, the online community is also a practice ground for connecting with professionals in other fields, experience levels, and even time zones. “Students learn a lot from each other. They have pretty different strengths and backgrounds, and that gives them lots of practice in communicating with others who do not share their expertise. That is the reality of most workplace writing: learning how to communicate with a wide range of individuals representing sometimes a vast continuum of expertise,” she says.

4. Expand your professional portfolio

While every exercise is designed to increase your fluency in professional writing genres and best practices, some students have turned their assignments into career opportunities: with experience and feedback on writing press releases and social media posts, professionals can make the case for contributing those skills to their own companies, volunteer organizations, or hobby communities.

For others, the writing assignments provide a taste of a potential new career path: envisioning the social media platform for your passion project or side business is the first step toward making it a reality. “There’s a sense that, now that your concept is on a Facebook page, you can actually do something with it—cultivate a following, take a small business online, or begin to develop a community around an issue or interest,” says Osborn. “The digital presence brings their ideas alive. It’s empowering.”

5. Have courage

Professional writing students encounter the concept of the affective domain when they explore how to appeal to an audience’s emotions. In reflective writing exercises throughout the courses, they learn how to understand their own. “The affective domain is such a pivotal piece of a skillful writer,” says Ross. “How much confidence do I have when I put my writing out there? How frightened am I of feedback? What do I do with these emotions I feel as I write or prepare to share my writing? These are important aspects of the affective domain for all learning, but they are really important for writing, because writing is the manifestation, the end product, if you will, that must be done for the work to go on.”

But for the time you’re enrolled in a Penn LPS Online course, you write in the company of a diverse, motivated community—and an enthusiastic support team. “Online turns out to be a really wonderful way to learn and teach writing, and the students are fantastic,” says Ross. “They earn their confidence.”

The Penn LPS Online Certificate in Professional Writing is open for enrollment. To read more about the benefits of Penn LPS Online certificates, visit our feature: “ What are certificates—and why do working professionals increasingly find them worthwhile? ”

Dive deeper into all the opportunities available through Penn LPS Online by visiting our homepage .

Penn LSP Online


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