During high school, you might have written short responses and essays. Now going into college and in your careers, and even in your daily life as an adult, you will be writing many other genres of writing: emails, lab reports, marketing plans, article reviews… the list is endless. While all of these might have some similarities, each has different expectations and rules.
So what do you do when you are assigned to write a type of paper you have never heard of before? If you follow these quick tips, you should be able to adjust your writing format and style to effectively write anything.
The first thing you need to do is determine exactly why you are writing. Are you arguing a point? Reporting on what you have done? Requesting additional funding? Sharing research?
It helps to write down the purpose of your paper. You should then make a list of what you will have to do in your paper to accomplish that purpose. Then while you are drafting your paper, refer back to this to keep on track with the goal for your writing project. Each section of your final product should support the purpose.
Next, determine exactly who you are writing your paper for. Is it intended just for your professor, or are your classmates also part of the audience? Does your audience include people who are not in your class? What age and education level do you expect your readers to have?
We almost never are writing just for ourselves, so you should always write to an intended reader, making sure that they will gain something by reading your paper and they will not be overly confused by your use of terminology, references, or the way you organized your thoughts.
You should also consider how you want to come across to your audience. Do you want to sound like a friend, casually discussing the topic of your paper over coffee? Are you writing as a professional who is very direct? Or are you the academic, sharing your expert opinion?
After you know what your audience is expecting, you can decide the best way to present yourself to this audience. This will determine how formal your language is, whether or not you use slang or terminology, and whether you will be more direct and concise or more exploratory and detailed.
The final thing you should do before you start to write, is look for examples of other people who have written this genre. The internet is full of great examples of just about any type of writing you may encounter. Try to find a few examples that seem similar to what you have to do.
First, look at these examples to see what the purpose, audience, and tone was for their paper. When they have a similar purpose, audience, or tone, you should find elements of their writing that you will want to mimic. When they have a different purpose, audience, or tone, you will find certain elements that you will want to avoid in your own writing. Both can tell you a lot about what to do in your own paper.
Next, look at the format they use. Are there standard sections, headings, or organization of main ideas? As readers we expect certain elements for certain genres, so make sure you include these standards in your paper.
As you take all of this information and start writing, remember that writing doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavor. You can discuss your ideas, organization, word choice, grammar, or anything else you are stuck on with someone at any point in your writing process. Find a parent, friend, or perhaps a friendly writing tutor to talk through your paper with you. Since you are writing to someone other than yourself, it is always good to get feedback from another person to make sure that what you think you are saying is coming across as you intended.
The most important thing to remember is that while writing a new genre can take time and effort, there are strategies you can use to effectively communicate your message no matter what genre you are writing.No matter what you are writing, you can always stop by UMHB’s Writing Center for feedback from trained, peer tutors! The Writing Center is located on the second floor of the Mabee Student Success Center and is a free service provided for all UMHB students. You can stop by for a walk-in appointment, or sign-up ahead of time online.