Usefulness of Writing

When students leave the classroom and enter the professional workplace, they often feel overwhelmed by the demands on them to write. Even though they have written assignments, term papers, and essay exams for years, they find that the writing they excelled in at school is not the writing that wins them accolades on the job.

As one Spanish Translator suggested, school writing tends to focus on learning how to expand ideas and words and rewards fulfilling specific assignments. Thus clarity and accuracy may not be valued so highly as citing sources correctly or using what students term as “flowery” words. Furthermore, school writing usually prescribes a particular subject, scope, length, method, and essay format.  Audience considerations, beyond worrying  about what the professor likes or wants, are never in doubt, since students ought to know that their professors already know more about their topics than they do.  Although students may or may not be engaged in their writing projects but nevertheless believe that anything they produce is important, their  writing is actually useful only for securing a grade or determining a grade.   It cannot be reused or repurposed on most campuses without compromising academic integrity.   It does not provide content that the reader needs.  Instead, It shows what the writer knows—or disguises what he does not know.

In contrast, a French translator in New York believes says that professional writing comes with the job.  It has utility:  it serves uses that are indispensable in today’s world.   It may provide directions, preserve history, attempt a sale, lay out common understandings and procedures, or become a legal document.  It may be used many times and in many ways.  It is the property of the employer, who may alter it or use it as written.

Instead of focusing on what the writer wants to say, it requires the writer to assess the audience to determine who that audience—or multiple audiences—might be, what the audience needs and wants, how much that audience already knows about the subject, what level of language to use, and how to present the information in a format that is psychologically appealing.  And it requires logical organization, clear expression, accuracy in all details, and correct grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.  As if this were not enough, the writing must also be so clear that every reader understands it in the same way and so concise that the readers do not waste their time plowing through unnecessary words or confusing sentences.   It must be clear, concise, direct—and easy to use.  It is determined not by the writer’s preferences but by the reader’s needs and expectations.

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