Re: Writing Samples

Subject: Re: Writing Samples
From: Erik Harris <ewh -at- PLAZA -dot- DS -dot- ADP -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 24 Oct 1994 14:13:52 -0800

>Would anyone be able to tell me what employers/companies are looking
>for when they state that they would like to see writing samples.
>Being a Professional/Technical writing student, I am not sure what to
>show prospective interviewers. Do I show them the documentation on
>conducting a user ability testing procedure for a cerin product; do I
>show them documentation I wrote up for a tutorial performed in class
>on a particular software application for the Macs?

Anything that shows clear writing abilities for which you can claim some
form of authorship/editorship/publishership should serve as a writing
sample. This means high-quality published documents as well as clean,
work-in-progress drafts of things. When I was looking for my first TW job,
I used an outline I had written for a set of policy guidelines for my
college radio station. It was by no means a DTPed document, having been
written at home on a Compaq 8088 with WordPerfect 4.2 and printed in
Near-Letter-Quality font on a dot-matrix Okidata, but it was readable to a
"layman" and showed good organization and a clear writing style. I got that
job, too.

Now I use an honest-to-God portfolio of professional, paid work--but the
intent is the same. Whatever you have that shows command of the skills
required in the field is usable. If it isn't readily apparent to an
interviewer why an item is in your collection of writing samples, learn how
to present it to them.

Also, if you can at all help it, never mail away or loan your portfolio! It
WILL be misplaced or lost, especially when the interviewer promises to
"take it home and read through it tonight", and you will be lost if you
can't reconstruct it. If you have the resources and lots of spare copies,
you could mail off individual writing samples, but this can be bothersome.
If an ad for a TW job requires samples, promise it at the interview--the
company should understand that writers can't be shipping their portfolios
to every ad they are interested in. If they don't, they're probably not
looking hard enough for a pro.

>I have designed some brochures,flyers and am working on a magazine
>project in one of my classes, and being interested in DTP, I know that
>these materials will be useful. However, does this also show my
>writing skills, or do I have to emphasise that by including other
>materials such as those mentioned above?

The answer to this question is in your presentation of the materials you
have chosen in an interview. A collection of samples that shows a range of
skills is a big asset to a tech writing job.

>One last question: having performed several oral presentations in
>class on issues such as "The basics of PageMaker 4.2a" and "How to
>create a table using Microsoft Word", do you think that I can include
>these in my resume to enhance my credibility on the knowledge of the

Absolutely. (limit them to twelve words per mention, though.)

Quod erat demonstrandum
Erik Harris
ewh -at- plaza -dot- ds -dot- adp -dot- com (weekdays)
TrinityPlc -at- aol -dot- com (home)

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