School vs Work Writing: When Your Suspicions Were Write All Along


Five years ago, I discovered my suspicions had been correct.

I'd stopped teaching college and university writing after 20 years, and started teaching in businesses and other organizations. One thing that stood out to me? College writing hadn't necessarily helped people feel ready for workplace writing.

I'd always wondered, all those years teaching college writing: "Is this preparing my students for what they'll really have to do when they get into their careers?"

Of course, it many ways, it was. But in others, maybe not so much.

Surprise! Your boss doesn't want what your teacher wanted.

Maybe you were a sincere, earnest, hardworking student in school. I meet plenty of workplace writers every day who tried their best on their writing assignments in school. But, now that they're writing for work, they're discovering: Not all readers want the same thing. And bosses tend to want—for one thing—fewer words and less description than teachers often expected.

So what do readers want in the workplace?

Simply put, readers want to easily find the information they need. They don't want to hunt for it; they don't want to decipher. And in many cases today, they want connection on top of information. How can we provide what they need?

  1. Make it easy to find clear information in our writing.

  2. Frontload that information, so it's easy to access.

  3. Avoid providing more info than readers want: No one wants more reading to do at work right now.

  4. Write with Writing EQ to tend to the relationship as well as the info.

We didn't always learn how to do the above at school. Most of us picked it up later, when we got into the workplace and found out the five-paragraph essay didn't necessarily fit the bill anymore. But it takes awhile to figure all that out, right?

Let's help our new grads have an easier time with this!

I have a favor to ask this week. Personally, I know lots and lots of college students, and a few new grads. I want to help them avoid getting surprised when they start their new careers and write to their bosses for the first time.

So, I've made them a video! This brief YouTube vid helps new workplace writers understand the new readers they'll write to, and the new reasons they'll have for doing so, when they get to work. Please share it with a young person you know who's about to begin their career. Let's help our young friends enter the workforce with a little less stress.

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