Exploratory letter, English

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Many situations involve sharing information and explaining ideas, and one popular format for passing along information is the letter. The popularity of email has certainly made letters a less common form of professional communication in recent years. Nonetheless, businesspeople still send letters on a regular basis to apply for a job, to document a verbal agreement with a client, to announce a promotion or salary increase, to advertise a product or service, etc.

For the first major assignment in ENG 221, you will try your hand at professional letter writing. I'd like you to explore the types of writing and research you will do in your future profession and then compose a letter to me that explains your findings.

Be sure to answer the following questions in your letter:

  • What is your major, and what type of career are you pursuing? 
  • What kinds of information do people in your field write about? 
  • How do they communicate this information? White papers? Articles in professional journals? What formats are used for writing on the job (i.e., reports, memos, proposals)?
  • Because communication is a two-way street, think also about the type of reading you will be doing in your career.  What specific publications are most useful in your field? What is everyone reading? What are current topics of discussion in those publications?
  • Aside from the publications you have discussed, what research tools will be helpful to you in your field? Will you use web resources, analysts' reports, government documents or other sources?  Perhaps you will do your own research through personal interviews, questionnaires and surveys, or experimentation. 

 

You don't necessarily need to answer these questions in the same order I have presented them above, and please don't write your letter as if it's simply a Q&A transcription.   Your letter needs an effective introduction and conclusion and at least three well-developed discussion paragraphs in which you provide the information I have requested.

You can collect the information you'll need to write this letter in a variety of ways.  One of the easiest ways is to interview a professor or professional in your field. Ask that person what kinds of writing you can expect to do in your career and what types of publications and web resources will provide you with useful information. If you conduct an interview, be sure to include the full name and title of the person you interviewed in your letter.

Another way to find information for your letter is to search online for professional organizations in your field. Web sites for these organizations often provide current topics in the field and popular publications. Textbooks for classes in your major may also offer good information for your letter.


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