The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

MLDP Recap: Writing in the Workplace

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Read a student's account of our most recent session in our Management Leadership and Development program below. For more information about MLDP, click here.

MLDP Session Three, “Writing in the Workplace” was directed by Julie Kalish '91 on Wednesday, October 13, 2011. Kalish is a Vermont attorney and lecturer in both Dartmouth's Institute for Writing and Rhetoric and Vermont Law School's Legal Writing Department. Kalish asked the group about their writing experience, and whether they’d had to do writing assignments in leave-term or summer jobs, what kinds of writing they’d done, and whether they thought Dartmouth had adequately prepared them for those different writing styles. She stressed that the workplace requires different things than English teachers do, but that many of the same principals definitely apply. 
While the workplace audience is broader and can include colleagues, bosses, and clients, three universals of good writing still apply: clarity, concision, and correctness. Clarity is about characters and actions; to go along with that, Kalish suggested using active verbs rather than longer, flowery nominal phrases. Concision is important because the workplace audience is busy and doesn’t have time to read overly wordy documents or to hunt for the basic information in a document. Wordiness requires interpretation; on the other hand, one shouldn’t pare down writing to the point of leaving out important or key information. Correctness means not only accuracy of grammar, word choice, syntax, spelling, citing sources, but also cultural sensitivity and workplace values. 
Kalish then had participants work in small groups on hypothetical situations, most based on actual work scenarios. Each group was given a problem that required a written reply; the group conferred, decided on a solution, and composed an email response, considering personnel, the institution, and how and to whom to respond. After 20 minutes or so, Kalish asked for a few groups to share their hypothetical situation and their solution/response, saying what factors they considered in responding as they did, then asked the entire group for comments about the solutions. Overall, the session was very informative and helpful, and will be very useful for students going forward.

-Will Lowry '13

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