How Does College Writing Differ from Workplace Writing?

Just as college writing is specific to your mission as you earn your academic degree, workplace writing is specific to the needs of your job. Most of the time, however, the specific format and content of workplace writing have already been established by others. You may use templates, or documents already set up with the correct format and subject headings. As a writer, your role may be one of information gatherer, and, in some instances, you may never write an entire document on your own.

One of the major differences between workplace writing and college writing is reflected in the expectations of those who assign the writing. In the workplace, the emphasis is on producing a written product. In college writing, the emphasis is on writing to think, writing to learn, and writing to demonstrate learning. For example, at work, you may be expected to write a memo to employees to explain a procedural change. In a college assignment, you may be expected to understand the process of creating a memo, to clearly explain the new policy, and to demonstrate reader-centered writing techniques in writing the memo.

Your workplace writing may also differ from college writing in the number of abstract ideas it contains and in the ways that you as a writer are expected to work with them. In general, workplace writing conveys information and is predetermined in purpose and form, whereas academic writing shows knowledge and understanding of both content and process. Workplace writing tends to be pragmatic—oriented toward completing a work-related task—whereas college writing enables you to explore new avenues of thought.

Although the expectations differ, both the workplace and college offer you many opportunities to write to different audiences and to adopt different styles, depending on your assignments. As a manager in business and as a college student, for example, you may write letters, memos, performance evaluations, status reports, financial reviews, feasibility studies, proposals, and many other types of documents. However, you may never write anything in the workplace like the thesis you write to complete your master of business administration degree.

  • College writing is different from workplace writing.

  • Workplace writing allows collaboration, whether through teamwork or through the use of another's preformatted templates.

  • Workplace writing is task-oriented, but college writing encourages exploration of information and ideas.

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