Where Do Writing Samples Come From?

When searching for a technical writing position, your samples can make all the difference. Prospective employers want to see that you can, in fact, write. They want to see how you approach subjects, structure documents, and adhere to style. So when it comes time to find a job, and you don’t have any samples on hand, what do you do?

Writing samples don’t just appear. They were, at one point or another, crafted to reflect the best of your work. They stand on their own and fulfill a purpose beyond being a writing sample. Here are just a few ways to gather writing samples.

1. Look at Your Accomplishments

If you already have experience as a technical writer, then samples might not be hard to find. Think of write-ups, manuals, memos, procedures, whatever that you wrote and ask these questions:

  • Did you write this in its entirety?
  • Does it reflect the work you would like to do?
  • Is it a good representation of your ability?
  • Is it between 2 and 3 pages?
  • Is the information unclassified and available to share?

If you can answer yes to all these questions, congratulations. If not, consider using another sample. Remember, excerpts of larger documents are always acceptable so long as you provide context.

For those of you just getting out of school, no worries! Apply the same questions to class projects. While they may not reflect your work goals, they still show writing and research ability.

2. Share Your Blog Post

Writers love to write. In fact, many manage blogs or write published articles. Consider these for your writing samples. While outside of the box, they show what you’re capable of outside of a restricted work setting. Blog posts can illustrate organization, research, and personal writing style. Not to mention, it shares your passions outside of the workplace. Make sure it’s work friendly and that you’re comfortable sharing before sending them off.

3. Write Something New

So maybe you just don’t have a writing sample you’re proud of. That’s okay! Here’s what you can do. Think about the kind of documents you want to write, and write them! Interested in software manuals? Write one up for your favorite program. Want to do process management? Create a fictional (or real) process and build it from the ground up. Remember to have purpose behind your document beyond being a sample.

About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit .

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2 thoughts on “Where Do Writing Samples Come From?

  1. Larry Kunz September 16, 2015 / 4:11 PM

    That’s good advice. Thanks, Greta.

    Here’s one more: do pro bono work. Your favorite church or charity probably would love to have a Policies and Procedures manual, or a guide to using the office computers. Open-source software projects are always in need of good documentation. It’s a win-win proposition: you get stuff for your portfolio and the satisfaction that comes from contributing to a good cause.

    Like

    • gretaboller September 16, 2015 / 5:43 PM

      Thanks, Larry. You’re absolutely right. Pro bono work is too often overlooked. What we all forget is that it’s great experience and exposure. Plus you walked away with samples and the joy of helping others. Thanks for contributing.

      Like

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