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Writing: Communicating Intentionally

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch August 21, 2023

Post written by guest blogger Emily Grugan; Postbac IRTA fellow, OITE Summer Program Staff Assistant

What does it mean to write something? To compile a series of words that, moments prior, were merely amorphous surges of energy in your brain, but which now exist on a page or a screen to be interacted with by yourself and others? To put those words in just such an order so as to induce in their viewer’s brain a desired and reciprocal surge of energy? This process is similar to that of speaking. But the spoken word is different. It is uttered and then lost to the degradation of memory and time (unless it is being done for the sake of recording, in which case, there has likely been at least some writing done in preparation). Words that are written, however, are intended to linger, to remain, to be interacted with again and again, in exactly the order in which their creator has arranged them.

To write something is to communicate a message with intention.

Perhaps this is all a little too philosophical. Either way, writing is a thing that we all do, in some capacity or other, and it is worth considering that intention, especially in the context of career.

Throughout the stages of our careers, we will write many things: cover letters and personal statements, papers for classes, scientific articles, grant proposals, possibly a syllabus for our own class, resumes/CVs, protocols for experimental procedures, and at the very least, emails to people whom we hope to hire us. As important as it is to communicate our intended message in these various contexts, it can take time to learn how to do so in an effective and efficient manner. Here are some examples of strategies and tips you can use to improve your writing:

Consider the intention: This may seem obvious but staying focused on the intention, or aim, of what you are writing can be a helpful practice. When working on a longer project, it is easy to get a little lost in the weeds, accidentally going down unnecessary writing tangents. Try writing a one or two sentence summary of the main point(s) you intend to convey with your writing. You can refer back to this as you go. For example, if you are writing a personal statement, it may not be the time to display your creative writing skills with flowery language and lengthy description (unless of course you are applying to a creative writing program). While that may be a strength of yours, the aim of the statement is to communicate your relevant skills and experiences, as well as your interest in the program, in a clear and concise manner.

Consider your audience: Different audiences will want different things from your writing. For example, if you are drafting an email to your supervisor, consider how they prefer to be communicated with in-person. Do they tend toward short, direct, facts-over-fluff conversation? Or do you instead find them asking for the details, wanting to know the whole picture? While you will tend to write/communicate in one of these directions yourself, your words might not be as effective if you aren’t considering the person who will be reading them. Likewise with scientific writing: does your reader have a background in your subject area, or are you writing to a more general audience? These two articles could have the same intention but should be worded very differently.   

Set aside uninterrupted time: If you have a larger, on-going project, designate as consistent a time each day (or week, depending on your schedule) for writing that you can. If you have a varying schedule, you could instead try establishing a weekly “writing hours” or word count goal. Then, plan out at the beginning of each week when you will have time to work towards that goal. Establishing a routine helps you write more efficiently, allowing necessary time for proofreading and editing, rather than waiting until the last minute.  


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