Writing like a one-trick pony

When I tell people that I study “writing”, I’m met with an unsure glance. “So… what will you do with that later on?”

University has taught me not only to research and analyze, but also to communicate my findings intriguingly, clearly, concisely—a skill that you’ll notice many employers seek. I have had two very different experiences in writing instruction at this university. Now that UTM’s administration will implement discipline-specific writing instruction, as was investigated in last week’s “How well do UTM students write?”, I’ve been thinking about the process of developing into a better communicator across all programs.

I took a first-year history course that involved writing abstracts on readings and attending a writing-intensive tutorial taught by the Academic Skills Centre. I noticed a dramatic difference in the quality of my writing during this course. My essays became more clear, logical, and organized. As a result, my grades skyrocketed.

Then I hit a snag. In comparative politics, I had two TAs—one for each semester. The first TA wrote stellar comments on my essays, praising my complex sentence structure and vocabulary. When second semester came around, my essay grades dropped by 10% and my new TA wrote that my writing was unclear and included too many commas.

Then I took on another major. In third year, I took my first course in the professional writing and communications program and I was hooked. After three years in the program, I’ve written non-fiction narratives about my stalkers in Paris, composed journalistic investigative pieces on controversial lobby groups, created engaging online content about hipsters and rappers in the Medium office, researched company financials, and applied my skills at both not-for-profit and corporate communications internships.

In my communications internships, I wrote articles and strategic communications on a variety of topics, from charity initiatives to technology reviews. On many occasions, I received vastly different feedback from professionals. An article was either too formal or informal, spot-on or not quite there yet.

Writing, like art, is subjective. The best asset I’ve found as a writer is versatility. The ability to research and write about a variety of topics on a tight deadline has been the main skill that has progressed my career. The university’s plan to develop skills specific to each program will be beneficial to some people, like those headed for medical school or laboratories. For the rest of us, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a job out there that will only require you to write geography or politics essays. At times, the communications program forced me out of my comfort zone, and that’s what made me a better writer.


Stefanie Marotta

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