This page offers
you links to example documents and guidelines for creating different types
of public and professional writing.
In any professional
setting—whether it is in the public (or governmental) sector, the
nonprofit sector, or the for-profit sector—there are common documents
whose forms are fairly standard (letters, memos, reports, and press releases,
for example). The predictable form of these documents allows readers to
access information quickly and allows them to compare information across
different documents. In many cases, you will not want to totally confound
your readers' expectations for a document. In the case of a resume, for
example, readers expect the document to fall into the recognizable resume
genre. If the resume doesn't look at all like what we imagine we should
see in a resume, we have to take some time to figure out how to read it.
Some readers may not take that time; others may be intrigued enough to
do it. As a writer, you have to weigh risks, think about what form offers
you and what it keeps you from, and then make some decisions. Knowing
simply how to format a commonly used document does not guarantee that
your version will be effective—format is a tiny part of the whole
process. The arguments you present, the evidence you provide, your language,
your style—all of these take a lot more work than correctly typing
a memo in memo format.
Some documents require both the writerly choices that show up on the page
as well as those that have to do with packaging and design. A brochure,
for example, can be a tri-fold double-sided sheet of paper with very little
text, or it can be a long booklet. A newsletter can be a few paragraphs
with little formatting or a longer, more elaborate piece that resembles
a magazine. A document that a nonprofit publishes in order to tell an
audience about their work in a certain area could take many different
forms, none of which are completely dictated by a standard form established
Below you will find some "how-to" guides and example documents.
As you look at these, please note the limitations of "how to"
guides and look for the ways in which the writing works more generally,
aside from form, and at how form hinders or facilitates the writer's project.
Think of these materials critically and analytically rather than imagining
that they offer a template that you can just pour your words into in order
to create an effective document.
You can scroll through the list or click on one of these links to jump
to the section you want:
Correspondence | Reports | Persuasive Documents | Career
Materials | Press Materials | Proposals | Creating Websites
Correspondence: Letters and
sites offer some documents for free and require a fee for others:
Smoking Gun collects all kinds of official documents for their entertainment
Reports: Letter Reports,
Memo Reports, Manuscript Reports, and More
For examples of reports, try the U.S. General
Accounting Office. You can read reports prepared with your tax dollars
for the people who represent you.
Documents That Make a Case
The documents in
this section range from those that use journalistic research and carefully
designed presentations to educate or persuade audiences to those that
digest the results of research in order to disseminate key findings.
The Birdwatcher's Guide to Global Warming is a nicely designed piece that explains science to an interested and educated audience.
The Polar Action Guide is produced to help families discuss the implications of a greener lifestyle.
The State Initiatives
in End-of-Life Care series informs policymakers about how public
policy can be improved to ensure that more Americans get adequate end-of-life
Charting Nursing's Future educates policymakers about changes that could address America's shortage of Nurses.
Career Materials: Resumes,
CVs, Cover Letters, Thank-you Notes
Advice Center contains some sample interview letters, thank you letters,
and even letters that try to do "damage control" after a poor
MonsterTrak offers tips on creating a resume and other job-seeking help.
Purdue OWL offers detailed information and examples to help you create
effective job materials.
A number of sites
offer guidelines for constructing CVs:
Dartmouth College also offers tips on constructing
About Grad School provides many links to material about CVs.
Example CVs: an
Writing and Publishing Op-Eds
Consortium Media Center offers brief submission
guidelines for 100 newspapers and tips on writing op-eds.
Creating Press Releases
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility at the University of
Chicago offer An Anatomy of a Press Release.
The Foundation Center
presents a short course
in proposal writing as well as many other resources for those seeking
The Carnegie Corporation
of New York offers links to great
resources on writing grant proposals.
The Cornell Community
and Rural Development Institute offers Finding
the Funds You Need: A Guide for Grantseekers.
The Small Business
Administration offers guidelines
for business plans as well as links to examples.
Try Greg Markel's
tutorial on designing
for the web.