Whether you’re taking college-level courses to begin a new career or simply to increase the opportunities available to you in the one you’ve already established, it’s a good bet that your job will require you to write. While you might be asked to write reports and presentations, you’ll probably perform other writing tasks too, like sending emails or updating social media accounts. Writing skills are so important that the National Association of Colleges and Employers has identified strong oral and written communication as a top indicator of career readiness. Luckily, many of StraighterLine’s courses—including English, Business Communication, Biology, and Spanish--can help you develop transferable writing skills applicable to a wide range of career paths.
Approaching Your Writing Assignment
Regardless of the course you’re taking, you should always read the instructions for a writing assignment very carefully. In particular, you’ll want to make sure you can answer the following questions:
- Who is your audience?
- What is the purpose of your writing?
- What kinds of information will you need in order to complete this assignment?
- What are the technical requirements?
- How will you be graded? (Hint: you can check the grading criteria for each writing assignment by reviewing the rubric before you submit!)
If you’re still unsure of how to tackle an assignment, check out George Mason University’s Writing Center page for tips on how to decode any writing prompt!
Embrace the Writing Process
Once you understand the assignment instructions , it’s time to get started. The best advice for beginning a project is to let yourself write anything. What you write doesn’t have to be good. In fact, award-winning American author Anne Lamott once noted, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first drafts.” (Truth! The first draft of this blog post was no exception.)
Writing is a process, and one of the most valuable parts of that process is getting feedback. Many courses, including English and Business Communication, allow you to submit a draft before you submit the final product. Taking advantage of this opportunity allows you to get substantive comments from one of StraighterLine’s highly qualified evaluators so that you can revise and refine your paper before it’s graded.
Approach your feedback with an open mind. It’s easy to feel attached to what you’ve written, but remember that even—or rather, especially—professional writers go through many, many drafts of a work before it gets published. Allow yourself time to process and respond to the feedback. When you’ve made your revisions, you’re ready to submit your final product.
Submitting Your Assignment
Submitting writing assignments in a StraighterLine course is easy, but keep a few things in mind. First, be sure that you’ve saved your file in an approved format--.docx, .pdf, and .rtf are three of the most commonly accepted file extensions, but check your course for all options.
When you submit an assignment, it’s reviewed for originality through Turnitin. Turnitin scans your writing for matches to other writing and produces a similarity score, which shows how much of your writing matches other sources. It’s not necessarily bad to have a high similarity score—for example, in assignments like lab reports that have templates, originality scores may be high. In assignments that don’t follow a template, an originality score can help your evaluator determine if you’re using a source effectively. For example, an evaluator might suggest that you paraphrase a particularly long quote, or they might point out that you haven’t cited your source correctly. Ultimately, originality scores are meant to help you understand how to integrate the ideas of others with your own.
Reviewing Your Score and Feedback
You can expect to receive feedback within 3-5 business days, though turnaround times are often much shorter. Once a grade has been entered for an assignment, you can go back to the assignment and open it to review the comments. (If you’re unsure about how to do this, look for instructions in your course or contact a student advisor.) It’s a good idea to think about ways you can apply feedback from one assignment to your next essay. If you have specific questions about feedback, advisors are always happy to help you get clarification!
“I Hate Writing; I Love Having Written.” –Attributed to Dorothy Parker
Writing can be difficult, but keep in mind that writing is really just another type of conversation. When you write and someone responds, you’re exchanging ideas, and that’s deeply satisfying. Here’s to happy writing in your courses and in your career!
Sources “Career readiness defined.” (2019). National Association of Colleges and Employers. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org. Lamott, A. (2007). Bird by bird: Some instructions on writing and life. Anchor.