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Why is this course important?

Earth Lights

Electric lights on Earth at night

This course is designed into increase the control you have over paragraphs and sequences of paragraphs. Your actual thoughts are chaotic. Writing sentences, writing a series of sentences on the same topic, a paragraph, imposes order (aka syntax) on those chaotic thought. When you read back what you wrote, you’ll be able to see your ideas articulated and organized. You revise your writing in order to articulate and organize more effectively for your audience and their purpose.

You can’t do that without the research and thinking that go along with writing, so you’re going to do some research, too.

How do I know what I think until I read what I wrote?

In many areas of life, writing can be a form of self-expression or self-revelation. However, an organization isn’t going to hire you to do that kind of writing. The organization hires your professional self, not your personal self. (In that sense, how many selfs do you have?) The writing that you are most likely to get paid for in a job is not necessarily writing that you want to do. It’s not necessarily about topics that you feel strongly about. No one cares about your “personal opinion” of the topic. What your writing advocates, you may not agree with at all. In any case, you may well be writing with a team of other employees, and your words will get melded with theirs.

The office A.I. (after the Internet)

The office A.I. (after the Internet)

But you’re still going to have to write and think. The alternative is no job.

Always in the back of the mind of the officer on the right: How am I going to explain this under cross-examination?

That sounds pretty bleak. Let’s look at it from the other direction. Strong communication skills will help your career. They lead to raises and promotions and new, better jobs. Why?

In most organizations, you’re more likely to write reports than essays. However, what you do in an essay in college is what you’ll do when you sit with two or three of the employees you supervise and persuade them to buy into your bosses’ bosses’ strategy or plan, which you may or may not personally agree with. What distinguishes an essay from a report is what you’ll do when you show your employees how to think about what they’re going to do next.

business team busy at a meeting


As this example shows, much of the “leadership” in organizations involves the boss getting the employees to buy into a strategy or plan. This happens for the organization as a whole, but it also happens at every level in the chain of command, somewhere in which you will be expected to exert these “leadership” skills.

I will go so far as to say that to produce the kind of thinking and interpersonal communication you need to succeed in your career, the writing courses are the most important ones you will take at Medaille in terms of the opportunity to further develop skills that will serve you well throughout your career.

How many jobs do I expect you to have in your career? Dozens. And that’s a good thing. At any given time in your career, what the company you happen to be working for makes or does is analogous to the content of your essays. What you take with you from job to job and keep developing is analogous to the essay-writing process itself.

You are going to have so many jobs that in addition to learning how to communicate well, the next best thing you can do during the next four years to make yourself employable both short and long term is to spend a semester (or year or even summer) living and studying in a foreign country.

Because we’re all in this together for the next three months, it makes a lot of sense to have you all research and write about the same general topic, something broad enough that you can all find your individual path within it. On the other hand, you all have different interests, and you probably write more effectively about a topic you’re at least interested in. So ….