Whether you are applying for a job, internship, or to graduate schools, you may be asked to provide a writing sample. Writing samples allow an employer or graduate program to judge your ability to convey a written message and should be taken seriously.
When choosing a sample, consider the writing style that you will be using at your job, internship, or graduate program. Writing samples can come from your coursework and/or work experiences. Typical samples include:
- Academic papers
- Policy briefs or memos
- Published articles
- Blog posts or web content
- Press releases
The purpose of a writing sample is to demonstrate your ability to write professionally and clearly. When selecting your sample, try to find one that is relevant to the position or program for which you're applying. Where possible, your sample should reflect the organization's style and tone. Don’t hesitate to revise your writing sample as needed.
Many employers will specify the desired length of your writing sample. If no desired length is given, choose a writing sample that is two to five pages long.
If you'd like to highlight a section of a longer paper, be sure to include your best two to five page selection. To provide context to the reader, you should start the sample with a brief paragraph about the topic of the paper and the course for which it was written.
Spelling and Grammar
There are no excuses for spelling or grammatical errors in a writing sample. Be sure to proofread the entire piece and have a trusted friend, colleague, or reliable software check your work.
- If you don’t provide a writing sample when required, your application may be considered incomplete and discarded.
- Select your best writings or revise those that have good potential (e.g., your “B”- graded papers).
- Make sure your writing sample is appropriate and relevant to your reader (your targeted employer, or targeted grad program). If you don’t have one, create a new piece.
- Do not use your high school writings, not even award-winning ones.
- Provide your own work. If you have relevant writing prepared as group/team projects, select only those excerpts that you authored. Describe the context of the sample in a brief note prefacing the writing sample.
- If you cited works in the sample, include the bibliography.
- Make sure that your sample has a clear title. Don’t forget to put your name on the byline.