Volume 4 Issue 2
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e r c r e t o f n d i e k s C s wor ms g h t In n i a a t p i r e r g h b t o W t jo for r e p h • T fferen ared riting • Di t prep nal w ni m o e i u s G l a • ofes e • Pr et som • Me
Volume 4, Issue 2
Welcome to the Spring 2017 issue of MEMORANDUM. The publication is completely written and designed by students taking classes in the Professional Writing program at UAB, who continue to ask two important questions: “How can students strengthen their professional and technical communication skills?” and “What types of jobs are available to professional writing students after graduation?” In addition, we get to catch up with three recent graduates: Allison Underwood, Jay Haywood, and last year’s Outstanding Professional Writing Student Award winner Sydnei Wheat.
UAB’s Professional Writing & Rhetoric and Composition Magazine is published by the UAB Professional Writing Program in cooperation with the UAB English Department Please direct questions, comments, and suggestions to: Jeffrey A. Bacha, PhD. Assistant Professor Department of English Phone: 205.996.5328 Fax: 205.975.8125 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Copywright © 2017 UAB English Department
Now in its fourth year, this publication would not be possible without Publication Date the continued support of the UAB English Department. However, this March 30, 2017 publication would not exist without the hard work and dedication of the contributors. Anyone who has worked on the publication can tell you that it is a stressful experience converting over 20 blank pages into an entertaining and informative document that people actually enjoy reading. To those of you who worked on this issue, I say “Well Done.” You have put together a wonderful contribution to our program and you should be proud of your work. As I always say, “Thank you for playing along and for trusting in the process.” Lastly, MEMORADUM has a new digital home. All of the previous issues of the publication—both print and digital versions—can now be found at https://uabmemorandum. wordpress.com/. Like our print issues, the new website for MEMORANDUM was completely designed by students taking professional writing courses at UAB. Until next time, Dr. B.
Contents 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 10 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Providing Service, Gaining Experience Through the PWC
Five Professional Writing Must-Haves
Creative and Professional Writing
The Art of Collaboration
Follow the Leader
Keys to Successful Writing
Rhetoric and Discourse in Professional Writing
Marketing Yourself as a Writer Finding Your Niche
How Do Professional Writers Impact Our Entertainment?
Writing in the Scientific Community
Busting a Writing Center Myth
Navigating the Changing World of Professional Writing
The Introverted Tutor: Seeing Introversion as an Asset
Blogging: My New Favorite Pastime
11 12 13
Providing Service, Gaining Experience Through the PWC
Elizabeth Slatsky works on Wordsmiths magazine.
preparation and college applications.
seriously. Creating something that looks
Wordsmiths shows students how to submit
professional and polished that the students
Professional Writing students frequently
their work to writing contests across the state
will be proud of is important to me for this
engage in emotionless, business-like writing.
and the nation. Additionally, students who
reason. I want to create something they will
Unlike other English concentrations at UAB,
have enrolled in this after-school program
be proud of.”
professional writing requires students to
every year since middle school receive a
write briefly and concisely. Despite the
$2,000 scholarship when they graduate high
At the beginning of the project, PWC
mechanical nature of professional writing,
members learn how to construct a layout
students in this concentration can still create
for the magazine within Adobe InDesign.
meaningful products and impact their com-
Ultimately, the organization desires to show
As they format master pages, they also
students that their abilities are valuable
select fonts and designs for the publication.
and worth improving. They believe that
Members then learn how to design a cover
each student has a unique story, and they
page for the magazine. In this process, they
encourage students to express themselves
often utilize photography skills and gain
through short stories or poetry.
some Adobe Photoshop experience. This year
For instance, UAB’s Professional Writing Club (PWC) partners with a non-profit organization, Wordsmiths, to help design a literary magazine each year. Throughout the process, UAB students help Birmingham City students to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in future careers. Wordsmiths offers creative writing classes for students attending Birmingham City Schools or living within the city limits. They aim to provide students in 7th to 12th grade with the free opportunity to develop creative writing skills. Each year, professional writers and college volunteers work with the organization to instruct a group of up to sixteen students. They educate the students through extensive individual feedback. Since most of the Wordsmiths students are enrolled in schools where seventy percent of students need free or reduced lunches, Wordsmiths focuses heavily on preparing its students for college. Not only do volunteers assist with the students’ creative pieces, they also help with standardized testing
in particular, a PWC member photographed The PWC first began helping Wordsmiths
Rail Road Park to create a unique cover.
in 2014. The organization hoped to continue publishing their students’ work in an
As the Wordsmiths send in their students’
annual literary magazine, but it was too
poems and short stories, PWC members
time consuming and expensive without the
discover how to place their work into the
help of the PWC. To save the non-profit
document while preserving each student’s
organization a significant amount of money,
unique style. After the club completes the
UAB students now design the layout for the
project, the Wordsmiths receive a final PDF
entire publication. A representative of the
that is ready to print.
PWC meets periodically with Gin Phillips from Wordsmiths to ensure the club’s work
Any UAB student can join the PWC and
meets her expectations.
gain valuable experience while designing the Wordsmiths’ creative writing magazine.
Although UAB students do not directly
Through this project, students will acquire an
meet with the Wordsmiths students, they
extensive familiarity with Adobe InDesign.
enjoy knowing that their hard work enables
Specifically, students will master setting up
younger students to have their voices heard.
templates, creating paragraph styles, and managing a 60-page document. Students also
The PWC’s Social Media Manager, Elizabeth
develop negotiation skills as they work with
Slatsky, expressed the emotional significance
of the project by saying, “I really like knowing my work will have a positive effect
Through this project, PWRC students can
on someone. Also, I remember how much
obtain skills for future careers in publishing,
I wanted to be a published writer in high
and they create a product which many
school, and I wanted my work to be taken
members of the community can enjoy.
Five Professional Writing Must-Haves Sarah Goodman Has a teacher ever told you the textbook
have to write properly; the online resource
they assigned is one you need to keep?
called Purdue OWL (Online Writing
Have you ever kept any of them? In an age
Lab) can help with that. Whether you are
where renting textbooks is often the most
citing diverse bodies of work or trying
financially feasible option, it is hard to
to remember that one obscure grammar
follow that advice. Still, would it not be nice
rule, Purdue OWL has the endorsement
to know before you start your career what
of professionals in the field and professors
professional writing materials will help you
alike. Purdue OWL is a free online resource
in the real world? Here is a breakdown of
on style. Style is not grammar: grammar
that provides extensive guides in different
what books, manuals, stylebooks, software
is about correctness; style is about making
writing styles, grammar, research and
and online resources that professors and
writing clear and powerful.” Now, which
citation, and writing techniques for job
alumni swear by, and these are not required.
stylebook do you go with? There are
searches. The OWL even provides guides
plenty of valuable ones; it boils down to
for writing in specific industries such as,
Number 1: An online portfolio where you
the approach. Dr. McComiskey offered, “If
technical writing, creative writing, healthcare
can display and host your writing to prove
you’re interested in academic writing, Joseph
writing, literature, engineering, and more.
you are a great writer is a must-have. In
Williams’ book Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity
In addition to Purdue OWL as a reference
addition, the ability to maintain a website
and Grace is excellent. If you’re interested in
guide, A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker
for your employer or client is a must-have.
more general non-fiction writing, then Joe
is a great resource introduced in English
Content curation is not everyone’s strength
Glaser’s book Understanding Style is great. If
Composition 101 and continuing through
so the ability to manage a website or code
you’re interested in writing for the Web, then
professionals’ careers. However, Director
a website is extremely valuable. There
Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee’s book
of the University Writing Center, Dr. Jaclyn
are website hosts that are free such as
Nicely Said is wonderful.”
Wells said, “There is nothing that beats
Wix, WordPress, and Weebly, which offer
just writing for a long period of time.”
premium services for small subscription
Number 3: Adobe Creative Suite is a must-
Experience is the best teacher, but it never
fees. Without subscription fees, you can
have for many professions. The utility
hurts to have a cheat–sheet.
still manage and customize the website
of Adobe Creative Suite is practically
through coding. Sometimes a single line of
unmatched in the mainstream digital design
Number 5: The last must-have is coffee. Dr.
code can make a difference in the aesthetic
market. Adobe has an affordable package
Wells, Director of the University Writing
and readability of your content. If you are a
called Adobe Creative Cloud for students
Center, said that coffee is one of her many
coding novice, there are free online training
that features all the programs from Adobe
must-haves. The discipline of professional
and tutorials like Dash by General Assembly,
Creative Suite for $19.99 per month. For
writing is a tough one that requires working
CodeAcademy, and w3 Tutorials.
individuals who are not students, the
hard hours and enduring criticism. But if
Creative Cloud with all applications costs
you have the dedication, willpower, and
Number 2: The responsibilities of
$49.99. However, UAB alum Olalekan
an energy boost, you can be a great and
professional writers have evolved over the
Dada said that if you or the organizations
successful writer. You may not need all or
past decade; now it is a good investment
you work for do not have access to Adobe
any of these extra resources. Just remember
to keep a book on design rules and tips.
Creative Suite, it is worth your time to learn
it is tough to fix things with no tools. Having
“Because of everything that professional
how to design and layout your work through
knowledge of industry-standard programs
writers have to know and be able to do in
Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office users can
like Adobe Creative Suite or best practices
2017, sometimes our attention to writing
attest that creative design is not an easy
such as online presence on your résumé
effective, clear, balanced, and elegant
task in Word, but learning how to use the
can make a difference. Also, you can create
sentences gets lost in translation,” said
other components (Powerpoint, Publisher,
works to add to your design and writing
Dr. McComiskey, Director of Professional
Sharepoint, Visio, etc) could also serve as
portfolio to prove your expertise and
Writing Programs. “So for me, every
professional writer, and every professional writing student, should own and use a book
Number 4: When writing is your job, you
Creative and Professional Writing: What to Do if You’re Interested in Both Lauren Moore As new students come pouring into UAB every fall, some know exactly what to study. However, the majority of the lower classmen are going to explore their options, possibly
interested in both concentrations, a way to
wanted to be, with a professional writing
concentration. Again, this idea is a stigma
Creative Writing Offers More Than You Think
associated with the concentration that is far from the truth. There are many ways to be creative with a professional writing concentration.
making changes to their career paths along
Oftentimes when people ask me what I’m
the way through some process of trial and
studying, I don’t specify creative writing.
Professional writing is an interesting
I’ve grown tired of the judgemental
concentration because it is essentially
comments and looks that some offer to me
applicable everywhere. Students in this
For some, this process goes a step further-a
in response. Many stigmatize that studying
concentration will learn to develop skills in
student may find the right subject matter to
creative writing can only result in a teaching
technical writing, editing, and publishing.
study, but what about the concentration? I
job. However, this idea could not be further
These skills are useful both in the print
struggled with this decision myself. After
from the truth. In fact, the creative writing
and digital media worlds. Not only can
changing my major a few different times and
concentration opens you up to a wide range
professional writers find work as editors and
feeling unsatisfied, I realized what I felt I
publishers, but they can find work with any company that requires a skilled writer.
should really be studying was English. The creative writing concentration teaches
The Two Concentrations Can Collaborate
However, I found my insecurities with my
you how to be a skillful, observant writer.
major surfacing once again when I was faced
Creative writers are taught to take words
with finding a concentration. There were
and pair them in ways that are visually and
many stigma that clouded my judgement
audibly pleasing to the reader. While a short
The thing to keep in mind with both of these
when I looked to pick a concentration. I have
story and a term paper are very different in
concentrations is that they teach you how to
always loved constructing fiction and other
content, they both require skillful writing.
write, and how to write well. It often comes
forms of creative writing, but was it practical
This concentration will provide you with
down to how you advertise yourself when
you interview for a job. If you are able to assure your employer that you have the
I enjoyed being on the newspaper staff in
There are many careers that can come from
necessary skills to get the job done, that’s
high school, and writing in a professional
this concentration, including publishing,
often all that matters.
sense. Would it in fact be more beneficial to
marketing, and journalism, proving that
my career to be a professional writer despite
creative writing can be a very practical
There are some opportunities that allow
my passion for crafting stories? I had to find
you to use both of these concentrations at
out. Through this article, I hope to not only break some of the stigmas surrounding both
Professional Writing is Not as Rigid as it Seems
once. For instance, some literary magazine publishers and editors get to enjoy both piecing together the magazine and submitting their own creative work as well.
concentrations, but to also give insight to
The idea that first struck me when
At the end of the day, these concentrations
careers that allow individuals who might be
I considered a professional writing
are what you allow them to be; if you really
concentration was that it was boring. I
look deep and explore all of your options,
immediately feared that there was no
there will be something there for you.
way I could be creative in my carrer, like I
The Art of Collaboration Tammy Blue
emerging into the field has a lot more to offer than is often realized. They have fresh eyes with innovative approaches to the work.
Regardless of the career choice a professional
On the same scale, the recent graduate
writer makes, mastering collaborative skills
should look to the writer with more
is essential for success. Working with clients,
experience. After all they have seen and
editors and other writers at various stages
experienced many of the ups and downs
of their career is all part of the job. While it
of the profession. They can offer tips and
can be one of the more challenging aspects of
advice to the developing new writer. And
the profession, it is often the most rewarding
more often than not, they can navigate the beginner clear of roadblocks and potential
part of the creative process. successful collaboration, the client will
setbacks before they occur.
In virtually every professional scenario,
change their mind or realize they actually
the writer will find themselves without full
don’t like what was mutually agreed upon.
When all parties involved donate their
creative control. Business clients will have
This can be frustrating for the writer, to have
personal expertise, collaboration can create
guidelines that often serve as the blueprint
to revisit details and change aspects of the
a masterpiece. It is important to come into a
from which the writer bases their work. The
project that they feel don’t need revision.
collective creative process with a mind clear
writer must learn how to implement these
Sometimes the new ideas can even feel like
of any past negative experiences.
ideas effectively without losing their own
a regressive step back to the writer. Yet the
unique edge. They must make the ideas their
seasoned professional will dig deep and dive
Regardless of previous failures, each new
back into the creative collaboration process
collaborative effort is an opportunity to
to make it work.
start again. The most amazing ideas often blossom from the varying strengths of each
Even the freelance writer will report to an
editor or publisher, who ultimately has the
The most difficult challenge of collaboration
final say on subject, content, and style. The
is often working across age or experience
professional writer who is able to collaborate
gaps. In the professional world, writers will
The talent of a professional writer can be
within the hierarchy is going to be in more
often have to work with others who are in
attributed to the fact that they themselves are
demand. After all, one role cannot exist
different stages of their careers. For example,
a product of collaboration. All writers have
without the other. There isn’t a successful
they may work with a professional who has
been influenced by others’ ideas. Professors,
writer today who will tell you their work has
over 20 years in the field or a recent graduate
editors, publishers, clients, and other
not improved with advice and input from an
with no real world experience.
writers have all contributed to the writer’s personal style in some way. The writer has
editor. The veteran professional may feel
also learned how to emerge from a failed
Collaboration is often most difficult when
intimidated by a younger writer with
collaboration and come out stronger.
working laterally with peers. A healthy
expertise in programs and software they
competition can often bring out the writer’s
have never used or have yet to master. It is
A professional writer will know their
best work. It can also cause stalemates and
important to see collaboration with a more
weaknesses and be willing to lean on the
put up barriers, ultimately derailing a project
technically skilled writer as a huge benefit to
strengths of their collaborative partners.
timeline. It is imperative for the professional
the less than tech savvy professional.
By implementing and expanding on these influences, the writer doesn’t lose their voice,
writer to express their ideas but always be open to the art of collaboration. They must
There may also be the instinct to dismiss
in fact, that is how it is found. That is the art
always remember that everyone is on the
a novice writer due to their inexperience.
The writing professional who has been in the field for many years may be set in their
“This isn’t going to work.” These are the
ways with a “Been there, done that” mindset.
words every professional writer dreads
This can make collaboration stressful in
to hear. Sometimes even when there is a
these situations. However, the new writer
Inside Mentoring for Course EH-301: Reading, Writing, and Research Malecia Luckie
co-authored by Allen Brizee. Dr. Wells gave
Have you ever thought about what it would
real-world writing jobs
How do her points benefit a professional
be like to be mentored in the professional
writing student for work? Simple, one is now
writing world? Well, I have had the chance to be mentored by the director of the Writing
me many tips on how to be prepared for the
Take Notes on the Advice
Benefits of Mentoring
prepared, ready to hand out résumés and to apply for jobs. Dr. Wells suggested that
Center, Dr. Jaclyn Wells. It was a requirement
My experience with Dr. Wells was very
students should post their work everywhere
of the English 301 Course: Reading, Writing,
helpful and insightful. She gave simple
so that employers can view them. Posting
and Research. The course is designed to
advice that was sharp and to the point. Dr.
your work will benefit you. It shows
improve in-depth reading. Most Students
Wells’ first tip for me was, “Internships are
employer how well you know what you are
overlook the deeper message beneath the
incredibly useful for professional writing,
doing. It gives them a chance to notice you
smaller idea. The course features mentoring
actually any sort of real world experience
before you apply for a job. She suggested
to help students move forward to graduation
with writing is great and to have a portfolio
that if you plan ahead and do everything
and prepare students for life after college.
by the end of college is helpful as well.”
she presented, then applying for jobs after
The mentors are selected based on the
One internship is enough, however, many
college should be a breeze. Planning ahead is
students’ career plans. Students write a
you may come across will look great to
a major key point. It helps keep everything
500-word essay describing their future plans
employers. She really stressed that finding
go smoothly during the job search.
leading to their careers.
an internship was important. A portfolio is
Everything she mentioned was a part of the
good because it highlights all of your skills.
planning process. Each piece of advice helps
It shows your improvement over time and
students to be prepared and ready.
Getting to Know Your Mentor
helps the employers know what to expect from you if hired.
Now You’re Ready
path to take while in school and helps guide
She even included that finding a nonprofit
Now that you know how and what to do to
you to choose the right career for you. To be
organization would benefit students
stay afloat in the job searching process, stay
mentored by someone who has a powerful
tremendously. Nonprofit organizations
determined. Even if you do not get every
influence in the writing world is a great
look great on résumés, because it is close to
position you apply for—keep going. Failure
opportunity. It is always great to know your
volunteering. Even if you are not sure if it is
is a reason to try harder. It may feel like it
mentors background. It gives you more
“good enough,” you should keep it stored.
will never work, but just that know good
questions and helps you know what to
“Obsessively hold onto things, for people do
things come to those who wait. It takes hard
not credit themselves enough. You should
work to reach your career goals.
Mentoring is a great way to consider what
keep everything you have,” she emphasized. Dr. Wells’ work has been featured in
Dr. Wells made sure to tell me to keep
Professional writing majors go through
the Writing Center Journal, Community
everything multiple times. All work is
many obstacles. Get connected with others
Literacy Journal, and WPA: Writing Program
valuable. She believes that students too often
just like you and find someone who has
Administration. She even has a book that has
discredit themselves when the work could
experience in the field you choose to apply
been published, Partners in Literacy: A Writing
be used in many ways to help students on
to. There will times when you feel like giving
Center Model for Civic Engagement, which was
the road to success. Never sell yourself short.
up on yourself. Remember, winners never
You may miss out on an opportunity of a
quit, and quitters never win.
lifetime, because you were not confident in yourself.
Keys to Successful Writing
used punctuation marks in writing are:
(2) Rewrite text to make it easier for readers
periods, commas, exclamation marks, and
to understand. Those are just two example of
question marks. It appears that the period
a position where punctuation is critical to the
and the exclamation point can be used
interchangeably. One of the most important positions of all Most importantly, even though we know
where punctuation needs to be carefully
Mary J. Doss
the difference, sometimes we forget to
looked at is when one does freelance work,
use the correct punctuation when writing.
because they most likely work alone.
“Punctuation can make an enormous
Therefore, be very careful when writing for
With that being said, they are their own
difference in the meaning of whatever it
someone else’s eyes. Make sure you indicate
proofreaders. Since they write for several
is you’re writing” says the UAB Writing
where you want your reader to slow down,
companies the text could be different.
Center. Getting a degree as an English
to pause, and to stop. Around 1984 to 1992
Therefore, they are required to carefully read
major with a concentration in Professional
I had the opportunity to work in the Word
the text and not assume that it will read the
Writing prepares the student to use
Processing Department for the Army. We
necessary skills in punctuation. Clarity is
were assigned to read, properly punctuate,
the foundation of good writing. Have you
and sometimes rewrite the sentences. I did
Professional Writing courses prepare the
or do you know someone who has been
not think of this assignment as professional
student for the real world of writing. Be
denied employment because of incorrect
writing at the time. Everything we read
careful, read, and re-read everything you
punctuation? That’s what could happen
had to be perfect because this was training
write. Former UAB Professional Writing
if you apply for a position that requires
material for the soldiers. I mentioned this
student, Olalekan A. Dada, shares his
writing. When one does not use proper
because now we are into a world where
experience regarding Professional Writing.
punctuation, miscommunication can occur.
writing is classified as professional writing.
Olalekan says, “Writers are needed in a
More than likely, you will not be present
Professional writing has to be perfect.
variety of fields, from engineering to the tech industry. Having a Professional Writing
when someone else reads your work. As a result, writing for the reader is extremely
The Occupational Outlook Handbook
degree can allow you to experience what
different than speaking person-to-person.
provides many type of careers. Therefore,
it is like to be in various fields.” Also, he
When speaking face-to-face you have
if you are looking for a writing career look
shares that an individual will need to write
the opportunity to clarify or restate your
no further. In this handbook it mentions:
texts for different audiences. Knowing how
intentions. This is not the case with writing.
“What Reporters, Correspondents, and
to punctuate correctly is a must for the
For instance, a misplaced comma or period
Broadcast News Analysts Do.” In this
individual entering a Professional Writing
could alter the meaning of your sentence.
position Reporters and Correspondents
For example, if you write a sentence such
are also called journalists. We know that
as: “Don’t stop” as opposed to “Don’t, stop”
journalists write. The job description for
Career options that allow a professional
and leave out the comma, the entire sentence
the article says, “These workers are often
writer to use his or her talents are: nonprofit
has different meaning.
responsible for editing interviews and other
organization, publishing companies,
recordings to create a cohesive story and
manufacturing plants, medical institutions,
Another example according to “The
for writing and recording voiceovers that
and legal offices, all of which requires
Importance of Punctuation” by The Write
provide the audience with the facts of the
the use of writing skills. All of these
Corner shows how punctuation can change
story.” The person writing the story should
organizations require the use of correct
the meaning of a sentence. If you write “He
write with the reader in mind.
was bitten by a dog, which hurt him,” the
If you, as a professional writer are thinking
Most importantly, should a person choose
meaning becomes unclear and the sentence
about becoming an editor, then you’d better
one of these career paths, then they should
could become misleading. The first sentence
be prepared to use punctuation correctly.
be willing to write well.
was bitten by a dog which hurt him” or “He
means the dog hurt him where the second sentence means the bite hurts him. It is the
The job’s description says editors typically
comma after the word “dog” that changes
do the following:
the meaning of the sentence. Improper punctuation can damage an otherwise well-
(1) Read content and correct spelling,
intended sentence. The most commonly
punctuation, and grammatical errors.
UAB Department of English
PROFESSIONAL WRITING Minor The Minor in Professional Writing prepares students in any major for the writing required in their chosen careers. If you choosethis minor you will learn how to compose both academic and professional documents, emphasizing the requirements of writing in your own discipline. Professional writing courses emphasize drafting, revising, and designing documents in both print and digital formats.
Major English Majors who concentrate in Professional Writing will learn how to write and design the kinds of documents that are most common outside of university classrooms, such as memos, brochures, newsletters, reports, instructions, manuals, multimedia presentations, and rĂŠsumĂŠs. Professional Writing courses emphasize drafting, revising, and designing documents in both print and digital formats. Many of the courses provide students opportunities to engage the community and gain hands-on experience writing for real audiences and purposes.
Graduate Ideal for students who wish to pursue careers as teachers of writing or as professional writers or editors, the theme in Rhetoric and Composition focuses attention on the art and craft of teaching, on the many roles of writing in business and industry, and on the history and practices of public discourse itselfâ€”from political rhetoric and the rhetoric of advertising to the complex uses of language and imagery in contemporary magazine and internet publications.
Rhetoric and Discourse in Professional Writing Jessica Robbins
It is important to say what you want to say
When it comes to discussing hotly debated
to hurt someone’s feelings. The reality of the
issues, it is never easy to talk to someone
situation remains that a conversation is not
with whom we disagree. It is even harder to
going to take place if we do not talk about
write about these issues since it is difficult
the issues that hurt people’s feelings.
instead of tip-toeing around it in an effort not
to know exactly how our words will be perceived by those who disagree with us. If
Arguably the most important element of
the language is hostile and unsympathetic
writing about heavily debated subjects in a
to those who find themselves on the “other
respectful and civil manner is not to inject opinions into places that they do not belong.
side” of the argument, it is very likely that these individuals will become frustrated and
it directly opposes someone else’s. Finding
It is important to listen more than we speak.
simply stop reading. This becomes a huge
an element of connection is important in
For writers, this means reading heavily and
problem for the writer because the ones who
making sure that no one is immediately
frequently as it relates to the topics about
disagree with us are often the very people
shut out. We must communicate that we
which we write. We need to understand
whom we want to receive our message.
know and understand the other side’s
where the conversation stands at the present
argument before we move forward with the
moment before we offer an opinion. In
dealing with written discourse, reading other
The professional writer has a unique
people’s work also gives writers clues as to
disadvantage when it comes to writing about sensitive topics, because a professional
The next step in this process is, of course,
what works and what does not work when
writer writes strictly non-fiction. While a
engaging in the conversation. This can
approaching sensitive topics.
creative writer has the luxury of hiding their
be incredibly difficult to accomplish as a
ideas behind fictional characters and literary
writer considering the other party is often
Writing about problems that evoke strong
critics conveniently mask their opinions
not present at the time that the arguments
feelings and emotions is no easy task
by critiquing literature and not necessarily
are being made. It is hard to understand
regardless of the chosen method. It requires
actual situations, professional writers have
exactly when and where a particular idea,
transparency, vulnerability, a willingness
to discuss controversial ideas candidly and
phrase, sentence, or choice of wording is
to understand the other point of view, and
openly. It brings the author to an important
going to discourage a reader. Therefore,we
usually, a consent to have your own beliefs
question: How do writers stand firm in their
must vigilantly ensure that we are never
criticized. Identifying with and establishing
own opinions while being considerate of
condescending toward a specific belief or
an area of common interest is the most
those who share a staunchly different view?
ideology in our writing.
important step we can take in these written conversations to be sure that everyone
There may not be an easy answer to this
Making sure that condescension stays out
knows they are respected and heard,
question, but there are certainly steps we
of our work is often equally as difficult a
regardless of their beliefs on the matter.
can take as professional writers to ensure
challenge, though. There is no way to predict
that our ideas are at least heard. According
exactly the way in which every word will
Writers should always keep the opposing
to the director of the professional writing
be perceived, but there are precautions
party in mind in order to reach the largest
program at UAB, Dr. Bruce McComiskey,
that writers can take to reach the largest
audience possible and communicate that
finding common ground is, without a doubt,
number of people possible. According to
we are listening as much or more than
the most important step when engaging in
McComiskey, one of the rhetorical devices
we are talking. Keeping the conversation
any type of discourse. Expressing interest
that individuals use all too frequently is the
open ensures that we are actively seeking
in a shared concern is always the best place
passive voice. It removes the controversy in
a solution to these issues and not simply
to start because it lets the other party know
a lot of ways, he says, but it does not move
fighting with each other to get our own way.
that you understand why they would be
the conversation forward in any way, which
upset about a particular issue. McComiskey
defeats the purpose of writing about these
continues by saying that it is never a good
subjects in the first place. McComiskey
idea to start with your own personal view if
states: “If the goal is to offend, then offend.”
Marketing Yourself as a Writer
title should be something along the lines
process. Include your website URL on your
of “marketing specialist” rather than the
business card, résumé, and letterhead so that
bland and relatively non-descriptive title of
employers can find their way to your work
on their own. Additionally, employers may log on to view your work even if they are not
As experts in curating content, moreover,
requiring you to submit examples of prior
professional writers understand the
work, which can give you an advantage over
importance of branding and maintaining
the appropriate image. This should be no different at the personal level either. Create a
The most important aspect of marketing
There exists a common misconception
personal brand and stick with it.
yourself to potential employers as a
in society regarding the usability of an
Find your identity; find one that is
professional writer, however, is to value
English degree and other humanities
recognizable, original, and consistent. Coca-
industry experience over everything else;
degrees. They are often seen as archaic
Cola is identifiable thanks to its cursive-
this sort of work is truly indispensable.
and inflexible. As students of the English
lettered logo and high-contrast colors. Create
Considering the way humanities degrees are
language, however, professional writers
a design and use the same elements across
viewed, especially in the highly technical
know that this could not be further from
everything that may be sent to a future
fields professional writing graduates often
the truth. They are curators and creators
employer. This includes business cards,
find themselves working in, it is important
well versed in all things content, design,
résumés, letterhead, and other printed
to get tangible, résumé-worthy experience
and project management. Nevertheless,
before you enter the job market. This can be
some sort of disconnect continues to persist
acheived via numerous methods including
between what professional writers believe
As was said previously, find something that
internships, paid work, freelancing, or even
their degree to be, versatile and flexible,
is uniquely you and use it to your advantage.
volunteering your expertise to organizations,
and what employers perceive it to be. As
To do this successfully, though, you not
companies, and individuals.
experts in written and visual communication,
only have to think in terms of your own
professional writing students already have
personality, but also the personality of your
More specifically, it is important that you
an advantage, but there are some steps that
intended profession. If you are a young,
obtain experience that is relevant to your
even the most seasoned expert should adopt
energetic college student nearing graduation
desired industry. A student interested in
in order to excel in the competitive job search
and searching to being a career in technical
pursuing a career in marketing may gain
writing at a cutting-edge biotech firm, you
some interesting and valuable skills by
need a modern, energetic look and feel to
spending the summer at a biotech firm
There is a generally accepted rule that all
your brand rather than a traditional and
writing technical documents, but it would
professional writers believe to be true,
be much more worthwhile if the student
but it bears worth repeating: never call
had spent his or her summer at a marketing
yourself a “professional writer.” Even if this
Just as you should use your personality in
or advertising agency or in the marketing
is exactly what you are, which it is, this is
creating an individual brand, you should
department of a large corporation. Simply
not what should be on your résumé. The
also use it to create and maintain a personal
put, the experience gained for this student
reasoning behind this is that it tends to be
website and portfolio. There is no better
is not bad experience, per se, but it is most
a broad term. With the countless industries
way to showcase what you are capable of
certainly not relevant.
that professional writers can end up in, it
than by showing what you have done in the
is important that you cater to the specific
past. If you are an expert in Adobe Creative
By obtaining a degree in the humanities,
industry to which you are applying.
Suite programs, prove it with design and
professional writing students are often at a
Employers are looking for some sort
document layout work you have done in the
disadvantage in the job application process.
of expertise beyond document design,
programs. If you want to dive into the world
Regardless of how they perceive their
typography, and rhetorical analysis.
of technical writing, use documents that you
degree, employers have been slow to adopt
That is why it is vital that you focus on
have created either while in school or during
the concept that a degree in this discipline
the fields you would like to find a career
is, in all actuality, very versatile and flexible,
in. That is, if you are searching to start a new job with a marketing agency, your
leading to many different career options. By Applications to some jobs may require that
properly marketing yourself and taking steps
prior work be submitted, so having your
like the ones above, however, you can be on
best examples close by and in one place will
your way to that dream job in no time.
make this a much easier, more streamlined
Alumna Spotlight Interview: Allison Underwood Natalie Pagan
stellar career goal, Underwood admits that
Allison Underwood, a former student at
feel the need to analyze every document
the University of Alabama at Birmingham
or advertisement seen. Underwood
sat down with me to discuss how the
unabashedly stated, “I’ll look at a billboard
Professional Writing program can help
and think about what I would change to
current students reach further career goals.
fix it.”As someone currently taking the
Underwood currently works at Good Grit
Developing Digital Documents course, I had
Magazine here in Birmingham, Alabama as
to agree with Underwood in the fact, that
a digital media coordinator. This magazine
nothing can possibly look the same once
these skills have made it difficult to not
you’ve figured out all of the tricks and trades
focuses on an elegant and progressive reflection of southern heritage. Underwood
whatever they want with it.” Underwood
of designing a document. The interviewee
stated, “I’ve lived here my whole life,
listed: Technical writing, teaching, social
agreed and said that this was in fact the
but it wasn’t until I started working with
media, and coding as some of the jobs that
gift and the curse portion of learning all
Good Grit that I fell in love with the South.
are relevant in the professional field.
of these skills. “Once you know how to do it correctly, you notice that the rest of the
Good Grit brings the Southerner out of the box – there’s a place for everyone here!”
The interviewee explained that in their
Underwood has been employed at this
particular job, there is not only writing
magazine for two years coming this August.
involved, but coding, designing and editing
The interviewee strongly encouraged current
documents. Although Underwood does not
English majors to look into the professional
Underwood started off at Good Grit working
code for Good Grit Magazine, they have
writing program. Underwood has shown to
as a paid intern and is now a part-time staff
done some coding as a freelancer.
be proof that with the right experience and
world does not.”
education, the job that you yearn for can be
member and currently the person in charge of running digital and social media. Some
During the interview, Underwood explained
of the job activities include posting on social
that the courses taken while still working
media sites such as Facebook, managing
towards a Bachelor’s degree allowed the
Days after interviewing Underwood, they
social profiles, emailing newsletters, and
opportunity to gain the experience needed
have just obtained a new position at Good
creating graphics for profiles. Underwood
for the job at Good Grit Magazine. Being
Grit Magazine. While keeping most of
mentioned the previously taking Digital
that the internship was geared primarily
the same responsibilities Underwood has
Media Capstone course which brought upon
towards digital media, they were able to use
added that their new position now includes
the unpaid internship. This allowed them to
what was learned throughout courses such
managing interns, gift guides, developing
receive a job offer to be a part-time employee
as Developing Digital Documents to better
campaigns for magazine subscriptions, and
at Good Grit Magazine.
analyze the documents that were going to
curating sponsored content. While still being
be distributed or posted onto the internet.
actively involved in scheduling Facebook,
I asked about the experience that
This course allowed them to learn how
Instagram, and the email campaign,
Underwood had prior to working at Good
to compare different font choices, colors,
Underwood has begun delegating a lot of
Grit. They gave credit to the background
and proximities on different documents,
these responsibilities and tasks to interns to
obtained in professional writing and how
making sure that the magazine is sent
be able to focus on the bigger picture. Good
the degree has helped thus far. Crediting
out looking its absolute best. This course
Grit is always looking for hard working
the professional writing major as being the
allowed Underwood to become familiar
students to fill internship roles.
reason Underwood was able to land the
with programs such as Adobe Illustrator,
position currently obtained. The interviewee
InDesign and Photoshop which many
On behalf of the University of Alabama at
mentioned that they are thankful for having
magazine companies work with such as
Birmingham, we wish Underwood the best
been introduced to the major early enough
Good Grit Magazine.
of luck in continuing to further their career.
the job that you obtain and thrive at.
to pursue and finish the degree. Underwood went on to promote the degree by stating,
Although all of these skills that were learned
“A person who chooses this major can do
have helped Underwood reach a
From Bar to Brewery: Alumni Interview with Jay Haywood Lexi Waldon
While earning his degree, he continued
He’s the guy shaking your hand at the end
working restaurant jobs to stay afloat—all
of a meeting, the guy sitting behind the
Jay Haywood, a graduate from UAB with a
the while making connections and building
computer screen booking the band for the
BA in English-Professional Writing, has built
long-lasting professional relationships.
next event, and the person making sure the food truck shows up for “Good Lil’
his career by maneuvering himself through the restaurant and bar business since the day
During the beginning of his senior year
Wednesday,” a charity fundraiser Cahaba
he graduated high school. He made his way
at UAB, an old friend from a previous job
hosts every Wednesday night for a local non-
from restaurant gigs and bar-backing jobs to
called him up and asked if he’d be interested
becoming a Sales Representative for Cahaba
in running the bar at a new brewery in
Brewery here in Birmingham.
town—Cahaba Brewery. This put Jay’s
He stays in contact with those who drink the
foot in the door of a fresh company with a
beer and makes sure that the people creating
quickly increasing demand.
it understand how crucial it is to keep
Because there are only two members on the
Cahaba Blonde in stock. He reaches out to
sales team for this swiftly growing company, Jay’s responsibilities lie beyond those of a
For the remainder of his time in school and
the other breweries and restaurants in town,
typical sales rep. With his service industry
the beginnings of his time at Cahaba, he
making sure not to host any specials on the
experience and his professional writing
began to push the company to host events
same night as them.
skills, Jay proved himself to be pretty useful
and create an online presence for itself. Once
to a newly established brewery in a town
the company realized the impact of social
When asked about how he stays in the know
where many competitors have already made
media in today’s society, its presence became
with the community and the customers, he
their mark. To learn more about Jay and his
imperative. The company saw the need for
states, “Because most of my work is done
line of work, MEMORANDUM met up with
this and Jay saw the opportunity to fulfill
outside of these walls, I get to experience the
him on his own turf.
it, so he began curating online content and
people of our brand and feel more connected
creating a social media following for the
to our customers. It feels very close knit that
various restaurant jobs after high school.
As the online following grew, so did the
Because Jay is still fairly new to this position,
After a few years, he decided at the age of
sales, thus creating a new job position for
he is eager to learn more and create more.
24 to move to Birmingham and begin his
Jay as a sales representative and professional
He is always thinking of new ways to engage
college career at UAB.
social media guru.
with the community, whether it be through
With a major in Secondary Education and a
Jay plans events, books bands and food
on social media, or helping a non-profit put
concentration in English, he found himself
trucks, posts on Facebook and Instagram,
on an event of their own. These things not
enrolled in a few Professional Writing
updates the website, writes press releases,
only drive customers directly to the Brewery
courses and became increasingly involved
and coordinates with distributors and
itself, but allow the personality of the brand
with the program. After establishing a
graphic designers to make sure the concept
to be experienced, which is one of Jay’s
relationship with one of his professors
of the brand remains intact.
priorities when it comes to his work.
direction and begin working towards a
Jay calls sales meetings, meets clients,
Swing by Cahaba to see how professional
degree in Professional Writing.
coordinates donations for non-profit events,
writing and beer can come together to form a
and hosts tastings at restaurants in the state.
unique and exciting career.
Jay began his journey to this position in Columbus, Georgia where he began working
planning new events, promoting a new beer
within the PW program, he decided to shift
Alumni Spotlight: Sydnei Wheat Danielle Ivey
a dream as I wanted it to be. When I got a
UAB Alumna Sydnei Wheat was a
in my junior year, I fell in love with the
Professional Writing student at UAB, and
environment and knew that librarianship
was the first winner of the Outstanding
could be another option for me. I’m happy
Professional Writing Student Award in
to say that with my new job I am now on the
2016, for her research paper that she wrote
track to further advance that dream with a
concerning the visual representations of
MLIS (Masters in Library and Information
transgender women, specifically Laverne
Science) education that will be fully paid for!
student job on campus in the research library
Cox and Caitlyn Jenneron, magazine covers The Professional Writing concentration
(and within) and how the visuals and the narratives written about them perpetuate
influencing that and still getting to write?! To
and the English major itself was a natural
long-existing racial myths and discourse
me, it was the best major ever!
precursor to library and information
surrounding black and white women. After
studies. Dissemination of information is
her internship with Good Grit magazine
the main foundations of both fields and I
and during her time at UAB, she has since gone on to the University of West Georgia to work as a Library Assistant in their research library. MEMORANDUM recently caught up with Sydnei (pictured to the right with her colleagues), to learn about her experiences:
What was your goal after graduation? How did you prepare for starting out in the professional world? I always (and still do) want to be a book
find that both complement each other well. I even wrote an article on it for the digital MEMORANDUM site.
Tell me a little bit about the job that you have now: things like what your role is, what you like the most about your job, and the most difficult parts of your job.
Why did you choose Professional Writing, and what were your favorite experiences as a Professional Writing Student?
editor, but as many probably know the
the Internship Director for the English
I just recently accepted a job offer from Uni-
Honestly, my initial decision to go into
department—set me up with a magazine
versity of West Georgia to work as a Library
Professional Writing stemmed largely
Assistant in their research library, in fact as
book publishing industry in Birmingham, Alabama is slim to none. The magazine publishing industry is thriving in Birmingham. And so in order to gain hands-on experience, Dr. Ryan—who is
I’m writing this, I’ll be completing my first
from wanting increased job opportunities and choices than actual interest in the
While I did enjoy my time at Good Grit
official week at my new job! I work in the
concentration. I was previously in Creative
Magazine along with learning about how
circulation department, so the most difficult
Writing—from my freshman to mid-junior
magazines work, my love for books working
part of my job is actually talking to peo-
career—and while I did love the courses and
with them didn’t go away and so I decided
ple, it’s not my strong point. But the other
the various prose, short stories, and poems
to continue to pursue a career in which I
employees are patient with me and answer
that I wrote (I did after all, aspire to be a
could work around books whether through
all of my questions even if I asked them a
writer/editor) it just didn’t feel like it was
librarianship or publishing. If I’m lucky I
thousand times already! What I like most
enough for me. After taking all the classes in
might even be able to do both!
about my job is the fact that I’m surrounded by so much information and I can actually
the concentration and engaging in so much awesome interdisciplinary work, I fell in love
Honestly, I think the best way to prepare
use my academic/research skills and knowl-
with the major. Coding websites, filming
for the real world, is to not put your eggs
edge to help patrons locate items and even
and editing videos, designing promotional/
all into one basket. Meaning: always have
make suggestions on reading or reference
advertising materials, even studying the
another career option for yourself. I have
human psyche and how Professional
always wanted to be a book editor, but I
Writers or design architects have a hand in
also knew that that might not be as feasible
Finding Your Niche: The Hidden Careers for Professional Writers Elizabeth Slatsky
these managers do a variety of different
understanding of editorial concepts. For
jobs including handling “complaints and
instance, Digital Document Design, a class at
The opportunities professional writing
customer feedback” and organizing “social
UAB, focuses on developing documents and
brings to English majors is game changing.
media requirements for Marketing and
different programs in which to design these
These classes equip students to take the skills
tak[ing] photos.” A previous job you enjoyed
programs. Also, someone talented in art or
they learned in their literature and creative
in a certain field is just one way to lead to a
graphic design would find themselves better
writing classes and bend them to match a
prepared for such fields.
Almost every organization needs writers;
English assignments prepare students
and, because of the wonderful flexibility
to appeal to multiple audiences since
of professional writing, there are multiple
professors often have different standards
Passionate about a non-profit organization?
jobs out there for a writer who is willing to
and preferences. Professional Writing is
Active in your faith community? Then
branch out into other fields of study. One
no exception and, in fact, exemplifies this
something similar to a Communications
just has to find where they fit in; one has to
ability. Going back to the example above,
Director at Ingleside Baptist Church
find their unique niche.
someone who has worked in a coffee shop
in Georgia could be an option. A
or a similar environment can combine the
communications director is in charge of all
What do I mean by finding your unique
variety of skills they learned on the job with
the organization’s communications with
niche? People are usually interested and
their college experience to get a job that is
those outside of their organization. This
knowledgeable about a wide range of
just right for them.
could be on social media or through emails.
certain career field that is right for them.
different topics and skills. Your niche is a place where writing and another interest intersect to form a job that will be the perfect match for you. Below I have provided three job examples. Each job is different yet incorporates English along with other experiences and interests.
Advertising Art Director
The job ad stated having a passion for their ministry and possessing “excellent written and verbal communication skills” was
Enjoy art and writing? As an Advertising Art
important. This is an example of how to
Director, one can channel their artistic side
channel a passion for a certain belief or non-
as well as the different skills gained from
profit into a potential career
four years of writing experience. Amazon’s job advertisement wanted a portfolio that
Community outreach can be as competitive
“demonstrates big, campaignable thinking
as marketing a product to a specific group
that can extend into any medium.” An
of people. Good writers are needed to create
English major who was experienced in
successful content that will appeal to the
Did you enjoy working as a barista at a
different forms of art would have the
church’s intended audience. However, these
local coffee shop in college? Have a thing
perfect portfolio for this job. This career is
organizations also need people passionate
for customer service? Toby’s Estate, a coffee
an example of someone who might take a
and knowledgeable about their work to
shop located in Brooklyn, New York, is
hobby or a minor in a specific field and turn
fill these positions. Here is where a writer
looking for a Customer Experience Manger.
it into something they can do for the rest of
interested in the organization’s work could
These managers take care of the overall
shine on a job application.
Though English classes give students a
These are only a few of the possibilities for
general idea of how to appeal to different
English majors. So go explore the internet!
audiences, professional writing classes
Your dream job could be right under your
provide students with a more precise
Customer Experience Manager
experience of customers as well as the staff. Toby’s Estate’s job ad mentions that
How Do Professional Writers Impact Our Entertainment? Brett Hurst
inspires a person to decide to watch it.
Professional writers have been influencing
attention to what professional writers say
the public for a long time. They often find
within their reviews, it may be beneficial for
themselves writing reviews on multiple
them to start. Of course, everyone will have
subjects. Such critics encourage people to
their own opinion about the movies they
either participate in or skip out on what they
watch, but critics are not here to put you in
are reviewing. Whether you are checking
Even though many people do not pay
out what critics are saying about a movie or a book, critics use professional writing to
Critics are here to help people for many
persuade and motivate society.
reasons. One main reason is to help people decide whether they want to watch the film
Professional writers not only review movies
or not. Their work is nothing more than a
and books, but they also dive into reviewing
friendly suggestion along with helpful tips.
music and food. Alongside critics, social
In the end, it may be useful if you just read
media is one factor that is either helping
one review for a movie that you are going to see. It may help you in ways that you never
or hurting professional writers. So, how
does a critic convince us to engage in
Rotten Tomatoes, they still come in contact
our entertainment? They use the art of
with some form of professional writing.
Usually, during the trailer for a movie, short
Aside from professional writers creating
reviews of the film will be included, still
movie reviews, they also tap into the world
trying to persuade viewers to watch the film.
of literature, music, and food. Society will
Let’s say there is a movie out in theaters that
always be in contact with reviews on their
you have wanted to watch, but you don’t want to pay the ridiculous ticket prices for
Even though what your friends on social
entertainment and food. Some questions
a film that is not worth it. What are your
media say is not considered professional
that all critics share include: How does
options? You can go to many professional
writing, it still influences the decision to
professional writing make an impact? What
outlets to read movie reviews. Some of these
watch the movie. Your best friend could
are some of the things that professional
outlets include The New York Times and Rotten
post their thoughts on a movie, which might
writers use to help to create an overall trend?
lead you not to watch the film. A person can
What are the things that people look for in
hate and completely disagree with what a
Lately, Rotten Tomatoes has been giving these
professional writer says about a movie, but
highly anticipated movies high ratings. They
will still be influenced by what their friends
Based on a Twitter poll that asked: “Do you
have also been giving low ratings to movies
are saying on social media.
read reviews on movies before you watch them,” ten people voted no, and two people
that are not entirely popular. Movies that are nominated for awards, like the Oscars,
How do professional writers engage their
voted yes. Even though there is a lack of
have higher ratings than sequels to certain
audiences? There is a pattern with every
attention that people give to critics, it is
genres of movies, like horror and comedy.
film review that professional writers write.
always good to know that they are available
Professional writers know exactly what
The review usually starts out with an
for the public to use. One reason why people
to say about the film to either make their
introduction of what the movie is about
may be hesitating on reading reviews is
audience love or hate it.
and who the director is. Then, the critic will
that most reviews are very opinion based.
either praise the film or vilify it. Throughout
In the end, it may benefit people to look up
It is an interesting thing to see how many
the review, the writer comments on the
a review every once in a while. It may help
people actually rely on critics to influence
actors and the content of the movie. Is it
you save money and skip out on a movie
them to watch a movie. It is only interesting
fresh? Has it already been done? What are
that is not worth a trip to the theater.
because a majority of people don’t pay any
the strengths? How can the movie improve?
attention to what the critics say. Even if they
The answers to these questions are ultimately
don’t go directly to The New York Times or
what make up a film review, which is what
Writing in the Scientific Community Stephanie Thomas
Science Writing vs. Scientific Writing
every scientific paper has to have a minimum
and figures, good writing is still evident.
of five main sections: abstract, introduction,
It follows a narrative structure and is
methods, results, and discussion. However,
therefore interesting to read.
most scientists struggle with this stage of their work.
It has a greater chance of being shared outside of academic circles and reaching the
Why? Because they’re not writers. And
rest of society. Good science is worthless if
often enough, their papers are filled with
it’s not communicated properly.
complex terminology and technical jargon. Scientists struggle with writing because they
If you’re interested in science journalism,
aren’t taught how to communicate complex
the nice thing about getting involved is
theoretical findings into everyday language.
that it’s quite egalitarian. Most publications accept open submissions for article ideas.
Most scientific publications aren’t written
Search through the websites for “submission
for the average reader in mind. Even more,
guidelines” or even contact editors directly.
this writing is sometimes difficult for other
Science writing is a field of journalism that
scientists to read. When researchers want to
If you want to get a feel for how academic
aims to communicate the world of science to
go further with their work (and publish) they
writing works in the world of science, start
audiences through forms of popular media
may find the skills of the professional writer
by reading science blogs in your area of
such as blogs, magazines, and journals.
interest. Follow your favorite writers and
Science writing is broad and can cover
familiarize yourself with their citations and
topics ranging from genetics, to artificial
The most brilliant of findings can be swept
sources. Or do your own research. Most
intelligence, to environmentalism.
under the rug if they’re not communicated
interesting articles have abstracts available
properly. All science tends to build on
online and are easily located.
Writing of this type is dynamic and
previous findings—and effective reporting is
multifaceted, and most writers are
a key component in this process.
specialized in a specific field. Whether it’s
Many professional writers have gone on to specialize in writing and editing for
producing a trade publication or a technical
Yet, little do we realize that today many
scientists within a specific field—such
journal, this kind of writing is essential
research results and scientific breakthroughs
as medicine, psychology, astrophysics,
to society because it helps translate and
simply aren’t made accessible for the general
or ecology. Writers who work with (and
distribute abstract and complex findings into
public. Often, this is because of ineffective
within) scientific communities help bridge
lay terms for the general public.
writing and the lack of proper translation.
the divide between the world of scientific
Cue the science savvy writer.
discovery and the general public.
Familiarizing Yourself with the Broader Contexts
A specialized science writer can cover a
presentations. But, science writing can
Most professional writers are uninformed
writer you could can write on alternative
involve these types of writing, too. The
about this writing style and the opportunities
theories for climate change education. Or,
science writer (like any writer) must find
therein. Why don’t we hear more about the
write an article on the psychological benefits
their niche—be it public, academic, or
possibilities for professional writers in these
of urban forest projects. Or even help
areas of science? Why isn’t anyone talking
popularize new innovations created to aid
about the communication issues going on in
When we think about writing, most of us don’t immediately jump to science writing. Instead, we think about writing blogs, articles, grants, business documents, or
But there is a totally different facet of science
range of topics within their specific field of interest. For instance, as an environmental
small academic research circles?
writing—scientific writing. Scientific writing
Writing in the sciences readily ties in to a
is different because it is a strict form of
Well, it’s because the majority of people in
vast landscape of sociopolitical issues. It
technical writing performed by scientists
these environments don’t leave these circles.
is the vehicle by which new information,
for their peers in the world of academic
There is a huge gap between them and the
theories, and findings are incorporated
research. Its rules on grammar, format, and
public. And it’s up to writers of a certain
into society. The best science writers are
structure are strongly enforced. For example,
breed to help close it.
tough, informed critics who never forget the greater importance of their task. Just as with
While the overall goal of scientific writing
any writing, science writing is diverse and
is to communicate precise scientific findings
expansive. It’s all about finding your niche.
Busting a Writing Center Myth Anna Sims
The mere words “peer review” inspire
By speaking your thoughts out of your
The workplace in which many Professional
dread in students. They come to class nail-
head, you can untangle them. A great way
Writing students will find themselves will be
biting. They pass their papers around with
to identify flaws with your argument is to
a collaborative environment. Bouncing ideas
warnings and apologies. However, the fear
explain your thoughts to another person. In
off one another allows a company to produce
of feedback is unnecessary.
that situation, you are forced to think about
quality content and services. Practicing
your peer’s immediate reaction to your
collaboration by visiting the Writing Center
The opportunity to have a fellow student
thoughts, which causes you to evaluate your
provides students with a better idea of what
critique your work before it gets to the
argument more critically.
they will encounter in the workplace.
At UAB, we have the University Writing
Also, by hearing your thoughts spoken out
Writing feels more personal than other
Center that offers face-to-face tutoring to
loud, you may draw connections that you
schoolwork, so students may be afraid to
undergraduates and graduates.
had not drawn when your argument sat
have personal work critiqued. However, the
professor, the final authority, is invaluable.
stagnant on a map in your head. Verbalizing
tutor wants the student to succeed. When
Students can schedule sessions for 30 or
thoughts transforms them from the abstract
teachers give grades for papers and deduct
60 minutes and bring papers at any stage,
to the real.
points for errors, it easily may seem like
from drafts to finished products. The center
punishment for poor writing. This idea is
currently offers tutoring from graduate
Having a graduate student who has
often carried over to tutor-student scenario,
students of English.
previously been in your undergrad shoes
causing the student to feel that the tutor as
listen, critique and support your ideas helps
well is picking apart their work and looking
However, there exists the myth that the
foster awareness of public reaction to your
for failure. However, the entire process at the
Writing Center is meant for freshman
UWC is a collaborative effort that improves
students struggling in English Composition, or that to visit the Writing Center means to admit failure.
Receiving Peer Feedback The tutors at the Writing Center have been in
not one specific piece but the entire writing process of the student.
According to the 2016 UWC newsletter,
your shoes; let them offer you wisdom that
35 percent of those who visited the
they wish they had been offered. Similarly to
Asking for help indicates strength rather
Writing Center were upperclassmen, and
how you can identify flaws or links in your
than weakness. The identification of the need
an additional 23 percent of clients were
argument when you speak it aloud, peers
for guidance demonstrates self-awareness,
graduate students. This leaves only 42
can find flaws or links in your argument that
investment in individual potential,
percent of the breakdown to freshman
you had not seen.
intellectual confidence and maturity. Going to the Writing Center may feel like admitting
clients. The highest percentage of clients by category, therefore, were upperclassmen
Seeking feedback means that the student
defeat, but nobody is above asking for help.
wants to improve the final product. While
Being able to ask questions means that a
there is a considerable number of freshman
student has evaluated his or her writing,
Making an appointment with the writing
students who visit the writing center, this
identified pitfalls, and has decided that the
center does not denote an acceptance of
more reflects on those students’ desires to
piece deserves to be carried out to its full
failure but rather an investment in greater
understand the writing process and how to
potential. Understanding the strengths of
succeed in a new writing environment.
the piece and knowing that the student has taken the necessary steps to improve
For any stage of the writing process, any
Seeking feedback requires confidence. One
weaknesses allows the student to turn it in
major, and any class standing, I see the
student indicated that, “it was great to come
with confidence in the result.
following four points as the most important
and talk to someone about my ideas and get
results of visiting the UWC.
great tips, advice and comments.”
In the Flow: Navigating the Changing World of Professional Writing Theodore Rowe
Not only do differing businesses require
that you have a voice that is unique from
a variety of voices, the brand itself may
the company guidelines. A strong voice is
On first glance, the differences between The
necessitate numerous voices within the
as necessary as experience in establishing
New York Times and Buzzfeed are evident: one
credentials to show employers.
with headlines referring to events of
Thus, the professional writer should expect
Maneuvering from one writing job to
international political theater while the other
to create a specific voice depending on what
another is a daunting task. Professional
entertains with allusions to pop culture and
is being written. For instance, an article
writers should expect to assume any
memes. But are the two really that far apart?
regarding a new restaurant near a promoted
position that is offered. Journalists are much
has the appearance of a serious publication
apartment complex can be more playful if
more fluid than before, meaning that one
Buzzfeed now has a team of journalists that
the restaurant is family-friendly as opposed
might be hired on to write material that
interview high-level politicians, including
to something more elegant, assuming the
engages a multitude of audiences. Thus,
the President, while breaking stories before
restaurant is of a higher quality.
the professional writer should be sensitive to contemporary political events with the
other, traditional sources. Likewise, The New York Times has sniped some of Buzzfeed’s
The example is unambiguous, but imagine
ability to engagage culturally or with an
means of reporting, as readers can now find
juggling varying social stratas in a single
adaptation to the latest technology.
“listicles” integrated into older sections of
article. Think of the overarching audience:
who is the key reader? From there, attempt
Finally, professional writers should not feel
to either localize or heighten details
restricted by the free-form world of writing
News no longer exists in its own separate
depending on the article. Buzzfeed must
jobs that exist. I do not necessarily think
sphere away from the sorts of entertaining
connect to a larger audience, so the target
that jumping from one assignment with one
articles those online seek.
articles attempt to include a massive group
company to another with a different one is
of people via pop culture, social issues,
pragmatically a good thing—instead, the
Additionally, the Internet, encompassing
etc. An article for a company’s blog does
constant maneuvering is means of survival.
a larger network of social media, blogs,
well to include communal elements of the
and so on, purports massive amounts of
However, the sorts of shifts one must make in order to put food on the table does allow
competition between who receives attention. The attempt at framing a particular voice for
for a specific working of style in developing
What does the influx of new media mean for
a blog runs into issues of authorial erasure.
a unique, but professional voice.
the professional writer? Is the contemporary
The issue comes from churning out material
sphere of writing particularly fruitful for the
that does not have a sense of personality
Companies are attempting to brand
professional writer and if not, how do they
behind it. At this point, websites like Buzzfeed
themselves now more so than ever; language
are so popularized that they merit parodies,
helps develop the company’s ideology.
thus a sense of individuality is unique in Professional writing obviously extends into
carrying a brand. Obviously guidelines must
There might exist a greater question
a number of differing fields, but this essay
be adhered to, but an injection of humor by
of morality for the professional writer:
will focus on taking on a specific company
the author, even if it seems like “too much,”
when language holds power to sway on
or brand’s “voice” in order to emit an ideal.
can be good.
an intimate level (perhaps received more intimately on an individual-to-individual
Working on your own interests manifests a
basis than ever before), with what should it
more interesting article while also signaling
be aligned and how should it be used?
The Introverted Tutor: Seeing Introversion as an Asset Nicola Larson
way to a student. I was also worried that
Even though the name of the class was
would be very overbearing and not take well
Tutoring Writing, it still came as a shock
to someone like me who tends to be more
when Dr. Wells announced that everyone in
quiet and not as outgoing.”
because my students are athletes, they
the class would be tutoring in the University Writing Center. I have always seen my
Eight months later Jessica is much more
introverted personality as a handicap that
confident in her tutoring abilities. She is able
I needed to overcome. This self-perception
to acknowledge the fact that her introverted
was reinforced at the thought of tutoring
personality is actually very beneficial in the
other peer students in the UWC.
the smaller issues. It can be very difficult to
push spelling and punctuation mistakes to What I learned through this experience,
the side to focus on the overall content and
Jessica recognizes the importance of placing
however, was that my introverted
organization of the paper. However, this
all of the focus on her student-athletes,
personality coincides well with essential
becomes a little easier for an introvert who
admitting “It is easy for me to focus on them
methods of tutoring.
is accustomed to analyzing more thoroughly
because as an introvert, I naturally do not
before making a judgement.
like for the attention to be on me.”
to learn to listen more and talk less. The
Most students who go to the UWC feel
The most difficult aspect of tutoring for
introvert can more easily fulfill the role of
nervous about the tutoring session. An
Jessica is being assertive when the student–
the listener because he or she is likely to do
introvert will be able to mindfully approach
athlete is unresponsive. I can attest to the
this in everyday situations. It is easy to point
each tutoring session in a way that relates
fact that being assertive is one of the things
out all of the mistakes in the student’s paper.
to the insecurities of the student. Exposing
I have struggled with most throughout my
What is more difficult is getting the student
one’s written work to criticism can make
to open up and begin talking about the
anyone feel vulnerable.
In the tutoring session it is invaluable
thought process that went into the writing of their paper.
Those who are extroverted are likely more An introverted tutor has the ability to relate
comfortable with being assertive, and
to these feelings of insecurity because it is
there are obviously many other strengths
An essential function of a tutor is to teach
likely he or she has felt the same way in
that characterize an extrovert. However,
the student how to find their recurring
the past. The tutor can steer the tutoring
the tutoring session is a great opportunity
mistakes and learn how to fix them in the
session in a positive direction by offering
for the introvert to practice honing those
future. The student will more easily be able
constructive feedback to the student in a way
communication skills innate to the extrovert.
to self-correct if the tutor acts as a guide to
that is sensitive to the student’s insecurities.
lead them to the mistakes rather than fixing them for the student.
The introvert is more than capable of being Jessica Robbins is a tutor for UAB Student-
a successful tutor and possesses several
Athlete Support Services. She also considers
attributes which offer significant value to the
One of the first things a tutor-in-training
her personality more introverted than
learns is that higher-order concerns should
extroverted, yet it has not kept her from
be addressed before lower-order concerns.
becoming a successful tutor for the last eight
By accentuating the positive qualities of the
An example of a higher-order concern would
months. She had similar concerns as myself
introvert I am hoping that all personality
be the overarching thesis of the paper. A
when she first began her tutoring job.
types, whether introverted or extroverted or
lower-order concern would be issues such as spelling and punctuation.
somewhere in-between, will be inspired to When I asked Jessica if she was intimidated
change the way they think about their own
when she first began tutoring student-
personality in relation to tutoring.
An introvert, who tends to put more thought
athletes she responded, “Most definitely.
in before speaking, can process the over-
I was scared that I would freeze up and
arching ideas of the paper before addressing
explain something in a totally ineffective
Blogging: My New Favorite Pastime Silvia Pettway
In the professional writing world, there isn’t much room for expressing emotions,
Blogging has become a very close companion
and opinionated thoughts conflict with the
of mine over the past few years. As an
facts that news brings. So blogging is a great
English major whose entire academic career
way for writers in the professional world to
has been consumed with formal essays and
talk about about the interests that they love
10-12 page research papers, I can admit that
without the rules and regualtions that limits
it is refreshing to write and research certain
their writing and ideas.
interests of mine that do not revolve around passing a class.
An advantage to blogging is that it can become a stepping stone for journalists to
Blogging has given me the freedom to not
advance in their careers as professional
only explore and write about other avenues
writers. The Next Web writes about Shane
that interest me, but it has also given me the
Evans, the Deputy editor of Goal.com, a
ability to reach other individuals that have
soccer blog. Evans states that “in today’s
similar hobbies, ideas, and interests as I do.
information-based society, where everything me. I try to post on my lifestyle blog, “Living
is at your fingertips […] people are basically
What is blogging and how did it become so
SILsationally” as much as I can. And when
teaching themselves how to be journalists.
widely regarded as another outlet for writers,
I can’t post on my blog, I at least write ideas
Gone are the days when you need a degree
journalists, and pretty much anybody that
that I would like to have for my blog.
to show how credible you are as a writer.
has something to say? I see blogging as
If your blog gets a ton of hits and you have
an open diary, where you get to express
Technology has undoubtedly taken over our
thousands of followers on Twitter, you get
yourself without the limits of privacy.
world in every aspect. Blogging is proof
of this. In 2008, the news blogging journal, As a lifestyle blogger, I can honestly say
The Guardian released an article about “The
Of course, there are many ways for an
that I truly don’t know how the concept of
World’s 50 most powerful blogs” and at the
individual to express themselves, but I
blogging turned into something so massive
top of this list is the widely popular political
believe that blogging allows more room for
in the world of media, but this new technique
blog journal The Huffington Post.
connecting with others, which is great for us
has influenced millions of individuals around
introverts that have a difficult time opening
the world. There are many different genres
Before illustrating the highlights of The
up our lives to others. Blogging opens the
of blogging that can pique anyone’s interest.
Huffington Post, the authors of the post
door to networking in the professional field
Lifestyle, travel, fashion, politics, beauty, and
describe how bloggers have a show of
as well, which is an especially important
the news are just a few of the outlets that
solidarity and are seen as the underdogs in
assest to have in the field of professional
welcome the style of blogging.
comparison to mainstream media.
writing. With blogging, the viewers of your
I believe for any writer, it is important to
Hearing news on television has a profoundly
become vividly expressed. If the right
reserve time each day to simply write. It
different effect than reading a blogger’s
potential employer views your blog and
doesn’t have to be a profound piece of work,
latest post that gives their opinion of what
enjoys what they see, then they may be
nor does it have to be something small.
the news has reported. Blogging garners
more enticed with having you on board as a
Writing anything progresses the creative
emotions, and expresses thought and most
member of the staff.
flow and allows us to release the thoughts
of the time, their followers agree with how
that have consumed our minds throughout
they feel. This only makes sense, because in
The progression of this new form of media is
the day. Blogging has this same impact for
order for a blog site to have followers, there
exciting and unique for the world of writers.
has to be a similarity in interest, or else the
I know I’ve certainly enjoyed writing as
followers would not visit the site.
SILsationally as I can.
blog get to see more of your personality
Mary J. Doss
Meet Our Contributors Malecia Luckie
UAB Department of English 1720 2nd Avenue South. HB 215 Birmingham, AL 35294-1260
MEMORANDUM is the official newsletter for UAB's Professional Writing and Rhetoric & Composition programs.