3 Tips on How to Choose Writing Samples

Matching samples to an ad is like fitting together puzzle pieces.
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I am currently part of a mentorship program for writers who are working to break into educational publishing. One of the topics that we discuss is selecting samples. Many educational jobs require you to submit a resume and writing samples.

One of the people I’m working with asked how to select what pieces to include. She has a 3rd grade history piece and an 8th grade science piece. Can she use both of these? I told her that it depends based on the original ad.

Start with the Ad

First things first, start with the call for writers. Some are very specific. “We are looking for writers to help create a series on social studies for 3rd graders.” “We need writers for a project focused on science and current events for high schoolers.” For the first ad, her history piece would work. For the second her science piece would be best.

Some ads are much broader. “We have been hired to produce assessment tests for 4 states. “Writers needed to create passages for readers in second grade through high school.” For an ad with this wide a call, she could use both. How do I determine which sample to use when?

Start with the Broad Topic

When selecting samples for a specific call, start with the topic in a rather broad sense. If it is a social studies project, I would submit samples of my history and archaeology writing. For science, I have written about genetics, ecology, and viruses.

Some topic areas are more difficult to do well than others. For example, not everyone can write about science. Perhaps their backgrounds aren’t strong enough. Or it might have trouble explaining things to a younger audience. This is why matching the topic, at least in a broad sense, can be important.

Note the Reading Level

Next check out the reading level for the project. While writing for a specific reading level is a matter of sentence length and complexity, we all have a natural level. Mine is 8th grade. I can write things for an 8th grade audience with very little effort. I can also write for 3rd graders but it takes more work. Working outside of your sweet spot can be tough so match your samples to the call.

Matching your samples to a call for writers is a lot like putting together a puzzle. It takes a little time to figure out which ones are the best match but it is worth the effort since it increases your chance of getting the assignment.