Sample of Student Work

Analytical Report - Project One

Research Report on Professional Writing

As college graduates enter the work force, the one skill that will put them at an advantage over their peers is the ability to communicate effectively through writing. In most jobs, some type of writing is necessary whether it be basic, such as keeping a production log or writing a memorandum to one's employees, or something more in depth, such as a short report on how to make the production line more effective. In each case, the employees are expected to know how to collect the information and write down their findings or thoughts in a logical manner, so that others can read the information and apply it accordingly. In doing this, it is important that the employee or employer recognize the importance of good writing skills such as conciseness, punctuation, spelling, organization and possibly illustrations or graphnics of some kind. With such skills, the employee will be a highly valued asset to any company and have the overall advantage in a large pool of resumes. Therefore, this report will describe some ways in which writing is used in business, why these skills are valued, the types of writing one may encounter and some suggestions on how to write effectively.

IMPORTANCE OF PROFESSIONAL WRITING

Functions of Business Writing

Although our businesses are equipped with many high tech tools such as computers and fax machines, they cannot think for us or communicate our thoughts and ideas, rather they can only transmit what we have to say. In fact, because of technology, we often do much of our communication through writing via e-mail, faxes and memos, in turn increasing our need for skills in business writing. When using writing in business, one has many targeted audiences and must be able to communicate with each one, so that both the company's needs and the audience's needs are adequately met. For example, Brown believes when building an organization, a mission of purpose statement is often vital in trying to get a group of people to understand their role or purpose for performing their jobs. He claims that when this is done, people will understand how they are beneficial to the team or company, further deepening their commitment to the company's needs (1993, p. 313-314).

Customers are also an essential target audience with whom many busineses must effectively communicate. For instance, the Miller Brewing Company must keep in constant communication with their distributors. Miller keeps them informed of their policies, while the distributors give them feedback about changing consumer tastes (Parnell, 1996, p.11-12). Consequently, if there was poor communication between the company and the distributors, both could suffer major losses of money and/or customers.


Value of Good Writing Skills

Many times before meeting someone in person, we have already been judged based on our capability to present ourselves in writing. For instance, (person's name), a fourth grade teacher, feels that possessing good writing skills is a valuable asset to her profession because it demonstrates that she is competent and capable. Since she sometimes has to send letters to parents, she wants them to be clear and concise, so that the parents do not disregard what she has to say, and, in turn, judge her inept (personal interview, May 23, 1998).

As an employee, it is also important to realize that writing skills are highly valued among employers. According to a survey of 150 executives, 29 percent identified writing skills as most lacking in job candidates (Boles & Sunoo, 1997, p. 21). Consequently, this fact is important to remember when writing one's resume. Since employers quickly glance through the stack of resumes on their desks before filing them away, how well the resume is written will make it stand out or blend in. Betsy Vardaman, program coordinator at Hankamer School of Business, recalls one student who called her to say he had received a job because the interviewer told him his writing skills elevated him over the other candidates (Writing Skills, 1992, p. 21). Again this demonstrates the great value employers place on good writing skills.


Types of On the Job Writing

Students often feel that their desired job is not going to require much writing and grit their teeth as they struggle through a required English course. However, as found in a survey of four career areas by Mary Kirtz and Diana Reep, most surveyed spent between 20-60 percent of their time on writing tasks, and a considerable number responded that effective writing was a crucial or very important part of their jobs. In this survey, it was also shown that letters, memos and short reports were among the most frequently written documents (1990, p.3). In understanding these results, students must realize that although their job may require them to design buildings or examine patients, there will always be writing involved. For example, James North, a project manager for a market-research firm, reports that 50-60 percent of his job is spent on written communication. He must write memos, but he mostly writes about the gathered information he analyzes in order to inform his clients of his findings. While interpreting the data, he demonstrates the characteristics of good writing by being concise and reporting the information in terms that his audience can relate to and understand. Although James probably spent many hours in classes focusing on marketing and business, rather than English, he is still responsible for most of the writing in his job (Lannon, 1997, p. 635). Thus, this demonstrates the importance of good writing skills in other professions.


Tips for Effective Writing

Although there is no exact science to being an effective writer, there certainly are a few tips to keep in mind when writing on the job. First, writers should organize what they want to say in some type of outline, and use it consistently. Blair Cordasco, a training specialist for an international bank, claims when using a consistent format employees will feel comfortable when they begin to write, especially when they are up against a deadline (Lannon, 1994, p. 634). Once the organization has been decided, the next area to think about is what type of audience will the pieces be written for and what their expectations are, so there is no unncessary information added. It is also important to avoid technical words that may not be understood or words that would offend them. For example, one software salesman lost a large account when talking to a group of executives from Walt Disney Studios by commenting that this was no "Mickey Mouse System" (Parnell, 1996, p. 14). As can be seen, if he had thought about his audience in advance, he may not have lost the account due to a poor choice of words. Next, it is important to get the main point across quickly and with as few words as possible, because many business executives do not have time to sit and read reports in full detail, but rather scan for the main idea. As noted by Parnell, while trying to save a failing company, Gil Amelio asked each division head to provide him with a statement of his or her value proposition which would decide their fate at the company based on how well it was written. The only catch was that it had to be written in 25 words or less (1996, p. 14). Finally, the writer should always go back and revise what he or she has written. It is important to determine if the set goal has been accomplished, whether it was to inform, persuade or instruct someone. When re-reading, the writer should also ask if all of the important information is included such that the reader will be able to make an informative or educated decision based on the report (Parnell, 1996, p.15). By simply following these few suggestions, writers should be able to write a competent piece of work demonstrating good writing skills.


Professional Application

As a math teacher, writing will play a large role in my career. I will have to write for several different audiences which include students, parents, my principal, and other colleagues. As in other professions, I must be prepared to write letters, evaluations and proposals as well as write unit plans which will require more time and research, as in the case of short reports.

However, before reaching my desired proficiency, I am going to have to learn to adjust my writing style to be more professional for both this class and for my career. According to much of the research, conciseness seems to be an important characteristic of good writing. Since I tend to be wordy, I will have to concentrate on being succinct and to the point. I am also going to have to concentrate on my organizational skills. I often just sit down and begin writing without figuring out my purpose or main points. I find that my writing sometimes moves in all different directions and does not particularly prove or support my main idea. Once I have improved in these areas, I feel my writing will take off in a whole different direction and prepare me to be an effective communicator in my profession.

In today's fast paced and high tech society, good writing skills are what is most valued by an employer. In having such prepared employees, businesses can concentrate more on the task at hand, rather than wasting time teaching the basics or what should have been taught in college. They are also benefitted because good writers attract and maintain customers while poor writers send them away. On the other hand, job applicants are also benefitted by their ability to write effectively because their skill is in such high demand. In using their ability to its potential, they are more likely to get the job as well as being looked upon as a competent and capable employee. In the end, it is a win win situation as employees offer their proficient writing skills to starving employers, while employers offer their good jobs to willing employees.


References

Boles, M., & Sunoo, B.P. (1997, December). Wanted: Leaders who can lead and write. Workforce76(12,21).

References continued...