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Five Writing Tips for Students and Professionals

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writing-college-guidanceBy Dr. Elizabeth D’Andrea
Faculty Member at American Public University

Professional writing is key to getting a job, keeping it and advancing your career. The classroom assignments and forums that are typically part of college courses are a great way to hone your skill.

There are five key elements to great college writing that will lead you to success in the classroom and beyond.

  1. Clearly state your topic — what is the purpose of your paper? Write down the key points you want the reader to know before you start your paper.
  2. Who are you writing for? Depending on your audience, you will use different language. For example, you would write differently if you were presenting to a technical audience than if you were presenting the same material to the public. If you are presenting to the public, use terms that anyone can understand. Avoid acronyms.
  3. Briefly provide the background for your topic. Set the framework for your paper by providing information about the history of the topic and using scholarly references.
  4. Thoroughly discuss the topic. Give specific examples and make your topic relate to your reader. If you can capture the reader’s imagination, passion or energy with your words, your paper will be memorable.
  5. Summarize and provide a conclusion. Did you cover the key points you wrote down in step number one? Wrap them all up for the reader.

As you cover these key elements, be sure to use a professional tone and avoid slang, jokes and personal narratives. Use the third person tense when writing a professional paper. Be sure to properly check and cite facts.

Whether your document is a one-page paper or 500 pages, if you follow these key steps, you will have a well-written paper that will speak well of the skills and knowledge you bring to your classroom or workplace.

About the Author

Dr. Elizabeth D’Andrea is a senior scientist with over 38 years of experience in government service focused on science and technology. She has worked for NASA and the US Army, Air Force, and Navy. She has also worked with OSD, DOE, and the White House. She completed her Doctorate of Science from George Washington University in Engineering Management and Systems Engineering. She is currently dual positioned as the NAVSEA Assistant Railgun Program Manager and Deputy Program Manager at ONR. She is an adjunct professor for American Public University in the School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

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