By Andrew Willett
Many PR students sweat the writing test agencies often require to get an internship. What’s on it? Is there anything I can do to brush up for the test? How can my writing help me stand out from other candidates?
These questions and more were answered by a panel of PR pros at a recent DePaul PRSSA meeting. Here are the panels’ top five tips to help you become a better writer and breeze through the agency writing test.
1. To Be a Good Writer, You Have To Be A Good Reader
Good writers are those who read the most because you’ll learn from the examples of good writing. Follow good writers on Twitter and read their stories. In a PR entry-level job, most of the writing you’ll be doing will be pitches. Reading the news everyday will show you how each reporter writes. Study the story headline and how the reporter sets up and structures the story. If you understand how reporters write, you’re more likely to write an attention-getting pitch, and land a placement.
2. What to Expect in a Writing Test
Writing tests are often done online through email with a given time frame, although some employers still might have you complete the test in-office. You can expect to write a pitch, edit a piece of work, and answer questions about grammar but all employers have their different take on their writing test.
3. During A Writing Test
If you’re writing a pitch as part of the test, get to the point within 2-3 sentences. Creating a good headline will grab attention and treat each sentence as if its working for you, moving information forward. If you’re writing test is conducted electronically, have your copy of the AP stylebook right next to you for proofing.
To proof your writing, read it aloud. Print it off and scan the document from end to start to check any errors your mind might autocorrect. If you’re not sure about an AP style rule look it up, rewrite the sentence, or cut it. Avoid all AP style common errors. Not sure what a common error is? Commons errors are the 25 most made mistake in writing. Check them out here. Many students don’t realize that their resumes and cover letters are also parts of the writing test. All of your marketing materials should be error free and in AP style.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Finally, being a good writer takes time and practice so continue to write as much as possible. There are many writing labs and resources at universities across the country. Writing a blog is a great way to keep your skills sharp and get published. Like I said before, keep reading. There are so many great books like Wait, How Do I Write This Email? and How to Not Write Bad to teach you about seamless writing. If you’re not an AP style expert follow my new twitter @APstyleAndrew for daily tweets write out of the AP stylebook.
5. Writing Samples
Many agencies ask for writing samples and students often wonder what agencies are looking for. The panelists recommended submitting three samples to show how you can write in different voices. One sample might be a press release, another a blog post designed to reach a specific audience such as twentysomethings or a more formal audience, and a third might be a social media post or calendar. Be sure to have include a one or two-line overview of the audience, strategy, and voice for each sample.
If there is one thing that you should take away from this post is that the writing test shows employers the way you think. Create good, effective content first then edit to show off your AP style fluency. Keep reading and keep writing.
- Jill Stewart – associate professor, DePaul University
- Eric Benderoff – director, consumer and brand marketing, market leader, Burson-Marsteller Chicago
- Alexandra Sobczak – junior associate, healthcare, Weber Shandwick
- Amy Merrick – professional lecturer, DePaul University
- Jon Hilkevitch – adjunct journalism professor, DePaul University and transportation reporter, Chicago Tribune
Andrew Willett in a junior majoring in public relations and advertising. He is the Chapter President of DePaul’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Chapter. Andrew is currently the communications intern in DePaul’s Office of Community and Government Affairs. In the future, he hopes to work in brand management, corporate communication, and crisis communication.