Skill Series #3: Written Communication

writing scrabbleWhy is it important to write well? What does ‘writing well’ mean, anyway? Every day I read resumes, cover letters, personal statements, essays and email and text messages. So do you.

Have you ever gotten a text that made no sense? Was the verb or subject missing? Maybe you thought that you knew what the person meant to say, but you had to guess.

Let’s start with some examples….

  • My courses in History and Philosophy taught me strong critical thinking skills.

Your courses taught you? YOU had nothing to do with amassing these skills? Don’t you think that YOU learned or developed critical thinking skills by taking courses in History and Philosophy?

  • Other responsibilities include progress toward degree meetings every semester.

What does this mean? Who made progress? And, what did this person do to advance the progress of these meetings?

  • I have developed a valuable database of employer relationships that get results.

Have you known databases that get results? I have not. I thought that people used databases and the information in databases to get results.

  • My educational experiences and my work experience have allowed me to develop exceptional interpersonal, clerical, analytical and leadership skills.

Your educational and work experiences gave you the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills – how did that work? Would it be accurate to say that while you pursued your education and gained work experience, YOU strengthened your interpersonal…..skills?

  • I am the daily liaison between coaches and instructor’s.

Your turn….what is the issue?

  • Young Democrats of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah May, – June 2006

               Volunteer Champagne Manager

 Have you spotted the typos?

  • I am interested in applying for the position of with you organization.

Did this person read the sentence out loud? How many problems do you see?

  • One who will make a positive contribution to your college.

Is this a sentence? Does it include a complete thought OR do you feel something is missing?

  • All of these experiences have shown that children and animals are forever bonded and the stories arising from that relationship inform us how to approach and respect

Be clear about what and who you are referencing. WHAT RELATIONSHIP is this person talking about? And WHO exactly are we approaching?

Whether you are writing a resume, an email or an academic essay, writing skills are critical.

Here are some tips for writing as clearly as possible to convey what you mean to say:

  • Use active tense: Experiences do not teach you. YOU learn skills by engaging in experiences and completing projects.
  • Be specific and include details: As a senior majoring in Anthropology, with a minor in History, I have traveled to WWI battlefields in Belgium and worked with forensic anthropologists to uncover the remains of soldiers who died in the trenches.
  • Use a font that is large enough to see. No one will read your work, no matter how excellent it is, if the person can’t see the text!
  • ALWAYS read what you have written out loud to yourself. That is the only way you will notice if you have left out a word or used the wrong phrase.

Resources in the Career Center Library:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The zero tolerance approach to puncuation, by  Lynne Truss

On writing well: an informal guide to writing nonfiction, by William Zinsser

Get to the Point!  by Elizabeth Danziger

Writing That Works, by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson

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