Nov 02 2011
Scarily enough, I might be interviewing prospective marketing interns this year. Here are some writing skills I’d really like to see.
1. Basic proofreading skills. Poor proofreading skills raise all sorts of red flags about a prospective writer (such as diligence, attention to detail and sometimes intelligence). In contrast, good proofreading skills suggest the writer will be easier to work with, will require less hand-holding and can be trusted with proofreading assignments. In particular, editors have more important things to do than double-checking everything written by publisher’s assistants or interns. In an especially competitive field, like the publishing industry, a candidate with many typos in his/her resume or cover letter has virtually no chance of getting hired.
2. Conciseness. Almost all corporate writing is shorter than 1000 words and longer writing probably isn’t entry-level (e.g. legal contracts or Gallup survey results or long-form journalism). Besides proofreading, the ability to convey information quickly and clearly has probably been the most important writing skill in my brief professional experience.
3. The ability to vary writing style based on target audience and purpose. For example, Notre Dame’s marketing materials will sound different and will probably focus on different themes than marketing materials for West Point or the University of Chicago. Promotional copy for Grand Theft Auto will probably sound different than copy for Nintendogs, unless Rock Star and Nintendo are working on a very unorthodox crossover.
(Before you laugh, there actually was a Punisher/Archie crossover. We can only pray that they aren’t already working on Grand Theft Ausky).
3.1. A basic understanding of motivations and thought processes. For example, if you’re trying to convince teens not to smoke, I would definitely recommend NOT leading with long-term health consequences like cancer because most of your target audience isn’t thinking that far ahead. (And any teen that is thinking 20+ years ahead almost assuredly does not smoke, regardless of your writing). Instead, I’d recommend focusing on mundane, immediate concerns like bad breath/godawful kissing, stained teeth, a shortness of breath/athletic handicap, the financial costs, etc. (For example, smoking one cigarette a day over the course of high school works out to something like $700, which is enough for maybe 25 high school dates or 10 pairs of Abercrombie pants or 50 meals out or 20 used copies of Grand Theft Ausky or whatever else teens like to spend money on).