If you’re looking for an internship in an industry that involves writing in any significant capacity, you may need to submit a writing sample as part of your application.
Picking out or preparing a writing sample can be daunting, especially if it’s not something you’ve had to do before. Depending on your experience with writing-based internships, you might not even have a clear idea of what a writing sample is.
If that’s the case, don’t panic! We’re going to explain what a writing sample is in the context of an internship application. We’ll also walk you through the process of choosing a pre-written sample, if you have any, or preparing an original sample if necessary.
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What Is A Writing Sample?
A writing sample for an internship is a piece of writing that is meant to showcase your writing skills for a potential employer.
Employers who are offering internships will often ask for a writing sample where it is relevant to the job description so that they can assess your skills.
Sometimes, employers will leave the guidelines for submitting writing samples very open-ended, which means that you have the option of submitting a piece that you’ve already written.
For example, if you have your heart set on a career that involves a lot of writing, you may already have prepared a portfolio of writing samples to send out with your applications.
Other times, employers have a specific idea of what kind of sample they’re looking for.
This will usually be the case where the type of writing required for the job involves following briefs and instructions carefully because the employer will want to test how well you can stick to guidelines while writing.
In this situation, you’ll need to write an original piece from scratch before a given deadline according to the requirements set out in the job posting.
If all this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. Read on for some simple steps pertaining to choosing or preparing a writing sample for your internship.
How To Choose A Writing Sample For An Internship
If the internship that you’re applying for doesn’t have strict guidelines regarding what kind of sample you can submit, and you already have some samples lined up, you may be able to choose a pre-written sample to send in.
Please note that even though the subject matter of your sample might not be strictly regulated, there may still be rough guidelines regarding things like word count and style (i.e. academic or sales-oriented).
Make sure to read through the job posting and any additional instructions from the employer before you start making your selection.
Even if you can submit a pre-written sample, most employers have rules in place against submitting samples that have previously been published online, in books, or in journals.
The first step to choosing an existing piece of writing for your sample is to pick a piece that you’re proud of. If you’re submitting an academic paper, make sure it’s one for which you received a good grade.
Alternatively, you can always revise a paper for which your grade was slightly lower than you might have liked, based on your professor’s grading and comments. You should provide a clean copy without any notes or grades, though.
Academic papers can be quite long, so unless you’ve been told otherwise, you should also try to submit one that isn’t much longer than 5 pages.
Try not to choose a collaborative piece for your writing sample, but if you must, make sure to indicate that other people’s work also features in the piece. If you can, make an effort to specify which areas of the piece are entirely your own.
In this vein, if you’ve cited the work of others in your submission, double-check that your footnotes and bibliography are attached.
It’s also a good idea to provide a bit of context to explain why the paper was written. For example, attach a note indicating which college class the paper was originally written for as well as any other relevant information that the employer might want to know.
How To Prepare A Writing Sample In An Internship
When preparing a writing sample from scratch, the first thing you should do is read through the guidelines. In fact, read them twice.
Pay attention to the specific word count, the preferred style, and any type of structure called for by the job posting.
Don’t be tempted to stray from these guidelines – remember, they’re in place to help the employer to judge how well you follow instructions and how suited your writing is to the demands of the role.
Once you’re aware of the deadline, put a plan in place to make sure that you have time to write the piece before the due date. Ideally, you should leave yourself plenty of time for proofreading and editing.
We recommend proofreading your finished piece at least twice. Reading it aloud may help you to read at a slow and careful pace, meaning that you’ll be less likely to accidentally skim over errors.
It’s also important to have an automatic spell checker installed on your computer since machines can usually catch minor errors that human eyes are likely to miss.
Make any necessary corrections based on your spellcheck and proofreading, but ensure that the corrections you have made don’t take your word count too far over or under the specified word count.
If possible, it’s a good idea to submit the sample slightly early. It doesn’t have to be days in advance, but if the job posting specifies a deadline of 00:00 a.m. on Tuesday, try to avoid submitting the piece at 23:53 on Monday.
Leaving yourself at least a few hours will not only make you appear more prepared and professional, but it will also allow you time to deal with any unexpected technical issues.
A writing sample is a piece of writing that you submit along with your internship application to help showcase your writing skills.
The most important thing is that you carefully read and closely follow any instructions provided by your potential employer.
Even if instructions are minimal, there are some pretty universal guidelines for most internship writing samples, such as choosing a 3 to 5-page paper or crediting any collaborators, that you should adhere to if you want to succeed.
Once you have written your sample, proofread thoroughly and submit it in plenty of time.