collage of photos showing the center facilities

Professional Writing


Many people engage in specific types of writing, particularly non-academic and technology-based writing, that they might not even think of as “writing.” But these specific types of writing–such as emails and web-based writing–require writers to meet certain guidelines in order to be effective. This section provides resources for writing emails, writing for the web, and writing for the job search.

Also see: Writing in the Disciplines and Across the Curriculum for specific types of academic writing in Business, Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences | Conducting Research for resources on how to write a research paper | Writing with Technology for information on free online tools, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft PowerPoint.

Note for Montclair State University Students: Montclair State University’s Center for Career Services also offers assistance with writing related to career and graduate school applications. See their on-demand workshops.



Email is one of the dominant ways people communicate at home, work, and school. Even though email is used for both formal and informal communications, one needs to consider the setting and audience when composing a message. In other words, it may be appropriate to use a casual tone in an email to a friend, but that tone may be inappropriate when making a formal request of a professor. These resources address such issues involved in email etiquette.

Effective E-mail Communication (The Writing Center, UNC Chapel Hill)
Thorough guideline for writing effective, professional email that includes examples you can use.

Email Etiquette (Purdue OWL)
“Although instant and text/SMS messaging is beginning to supplant email for some groups’ primary means of Internet communication, effective and appropriate email etiquette is still important. This resource will help you to become an effective writer and reader/manager of email.”

Email Tune-up (
Posted on YouTube | April and November 2008
A series of video podcasts for ESL students who want to improve their business email writing skills. Here is a list of several of these 9-10 minute videos.

Email Writing (Texas A&M University Writing Center)
“Many of the best practices for writing an effective business letter or memo also apply to writing a business email. For instance, when sending email, it’s just as important as ever to tailor your message specifically to your recipient and keep it brief, direct, and engaging. There are, however, some special considerations for conducting business via email.”

How to Practice Email Etiquette (Tracy Goodwin,
Posted on YouTube: September 25, 2008
Series of short (1 – 1 1/2 minute) videos on email etiquette in a business environment. Here is a list of segments in this series:

3 Ways to Boost Gmail Netiquette (University of Iowa)
“Here are three tools that could save your life, give your emails a professional, unique look, and possibly save you some minor embarrassment.”


General Tutorials on Web Content, Writing for Web Sites (
“Good website writing is the key to beating these odds. Well-written content that’s optimized for the web rises to the top of search results and holds readers’ attention.”

Writing for the Web: Articles & Videos (Nielsen Norman Group)
A list of articles related to “Writing for Web.”


General Resources

Action Verbs

  • What is an action verb? (Purdue OWL)
    An explanation of why we should use action verbs when writing professionally and applying to jobs.
  • Categorized List of Action Verbs (Purdue OWL)
    This categorized list contains only a few action verbs you can use to compose concise, persuasive, reader-centered resumes, cover letters, or other types of workplace documents. The examples are illustrations that overview the uses of action verbs in professional writing.
  • List of Action Verbs for Resumes and Professional Profiles (Wake Forest University) (PDF)
    A list of action verbs categorized according to skill sets.

Career Services (State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development)
Resources including Resume Writing Guidance.

Determining Audience (Purdue OWL)
“This handout provides information on how to tailor your employment documents to a specific audience.”

Example Employment Documents (Purdue OWL) (PDF)
This PDF contains “examples of resumes, CVs, and cover letters for a variety of disciplines.” It is annotated with comments on organization, grammar, layout, language and other useful tips.

Job Interview Worksheets (The Resource Center) (PDF)
A collection of worksheets that can assist job seekers in defining their objectives, collecting information for their resumes, writing their cover letters, filling out application forms, and acing their interviews.

Job Skills Checklist (Purdue OWL)
“The following is a sample list of skills found in a cross-section of careers. Circle every skill that applies to you. Jot down examples of situations in your working life that demonstrate this skill. Then try to incorporate these skills into your resume and/or cover letter.”

Reading and Using Job Ads (Purdue OWL)
This resource discusses the organization and language used in job ads, along with strategies for critically reading and understanding ads.

Conduct a Job Search (Career Services, Montclair State University)
A variety of online resources and tools for students and alumni.

Tailoring Documents (Purdue OWL)
“This handout provides information on how to tailor your employment documents to a specific audience.”

Cover Letters

Cover Letters 1: Quick Tips (Purdue OWL Workplace Writers)
“This page provides a down-and-dirty guide to writing cover letters. Here you will find brief answers and lists of what you should include in a cover letter, how to order and format such a letter, and what to do before sending it out.”

Cover Letters 2: Preparing to Write (Purdue OWL Workplace Writers)
“Before you start to write a cover letter, you should gather information about yourself, the company, and the job. This page will help you learn what kind of information to find, where to find it, and how and why to use that information to ‘sell yourself’ in a cover letter.”

Cover Letters 3: Writing Your Cover Letter (Purdue OWL Workplace Writers)
This page includes information on writing your heading, addressing your cover letter, and writing your introduction, body, and closing paragraphs.


Curriculum Vitae Guide (Marquette University Career Services Center)
Describes how a CV differs from a resume and how to compile information for your CV.

Curriculum Vitae Samples, Templates, and Writing Tips (Alison Doyle, The Balance Careers)
Here are some CV examples, formats, and templates for academic, IT, medical, and international positions, among others.

Guide: Curriculum Vitae (Writing@CSU)
A step-by-step guide to writing your CV. Use the navigation bar on the right to view different categories.

Resume Examples (NC State University Career Development Center) Includes resume examples for various industries.

Resumes and CVs (Purdue OWL)
“These OWL resources will help you compose effective résumés and Curriculum Vitae for your job search. This section includes resources on page design (which includes using white space, headings, and fonts), as well as resources on tailoring your résumé for specific employers. This section also contains links to other OWL resources geared for working class positions.”

Writing Curriculum Vitae (Alison Doyle, The Balance Careers)
Includes information on when to use a CV and how it differs from a resume.

Writing the Curriculum Vitae (Purdue OWL)
“This handout provides an overview of strategies for writing an effective curriculum vitae. This topic is particularly important for graduate students who are entering the academic job market for the first time.”


100 Potential Interview Questions (Thad Peterson,
“While there are as many different possible interview questions as there are interviewers, it always helps to be ready for anything. So we’ve prepared a list of 100 potential interview questions. Will you face them all? We pray no interviewer would be that cruel. Will you face a few? Probably. Will you be well-served by being ready even if you’re not asked these exact questions? Absolutely.”

Interview Questions (LiveCareer)
“A great interview boils down to one thing: sound preparation. With the right amount of research, practice, and persistence, you’ll be ready to give the best answers to even the toughest interview questions. To get started, have a look through our list of sample interview Q&As and professional tips. From example responses to salary negotiation guidance, we’ve given you the helpful advice you need to ace your next interview.”

Interviewing Skills Guide (Virginia Tech, Career and Professional Development)
The guide provides a comprehensive review of interview skills including the following topics: ethical issues | standards of conduct, types and locations, DOs and DONTs, employer information sessions, skills and demeanor, interview attire, typical interview questions, questions to ask the employer, practice interviews and after interviews.

References and Recommendations

Asking someone to be your reference or write you a letter of recommendation:

Applicant Request for a Reference (Purdue OWL)
Here are some suggestions for contacting people you wish to serve as references for you.

Asking for Letters of Recommendation (Stanford University)
Simple guidelines for managing your letter requests.

How to Ask for a Reference (Alison Doyle, The Balance Careers)
Here are some suggestions for asking someone to serve as a reference for you and creating your reference list.

Sample Reference Request Letter (Alison Doyle, The Balance Careers)
This is a very basic template for writing a letter/e-mail asking someone to serve as a reference for you. You might also want to describe the position you are applying for and attach your current resume to the e-mail.

Serving as a reference or recommendation:

Guidelines for Writing Letters of Recommendation (Linda Kaiser of University of Missouri, Columbia; Retrieved from Saint Mary’s College) (PDF)
A two-page handout on what to include in the opening, body, and conclusion of a letter of recommendation. The PDF also contains a sample letter.

How to Write a Recommendation Letter (Susan M. Heathfield, The Balance Careers)
Useful tips on what to include/not include in a letter of recommendation.

“If your reference says this, you’ll get a job” (Amy Levin-Epstein, CBS News)
This article explains what you can do to prepare your references to speak about you or, if you are serving as a reference for someone, what you can say to help the person sound like a top candidate.

Top 10 Sample Recommendation Letters (Karen Schweitzer, Thought Co.)
“Writing a recommendation letter for someone else is a huge responsibility and getting everything just right is important. If you are seeking inspiration, the following sample recommendation letters should help. These sample recommendations are the most popular samples on the site.”

Correspondence with Prospective Employers

Acceptance Letter (Purdue OWL)
General guidelines for what to include in a letter/e-mail when you are accepting a job offer.

Follow-Up After No Response to an Interview (Purdue OWL)
General guidelines for what to include in a follow-up letter/e-mail when you have not heard back from a company after an interview.

Follow-Up to an Interview (Purdue OWL)
General guidelines for what to include in a follow-up letter/e-mail after an interview along with a model letter.

Interest Letters (Luciana Paulise, Forbes)
“A well-crafted letter of interest can set you apart from the competition in today’s cut-throat job market. Whether you’re seeking a new opportunity, changing your career path, or simply striving to make a lasting impression, mastering the art of writing a captivating letter of interest can be a game-changer.

Inquiry about Cover Letter and Resume (Purdue OWL)
General guidelines for what to include in an inquiry letter/e-mail when you have not received a response to your job application. This site also provides a model letter.

Letter of Interest Samples (Alison Doyle, The Balance Careers)
An example of a letter/e-mail you would write to a company that has not advertised specific openings. This letter allows you to inquire about potential openings, emphasize your interest in the company, and highlight your skill set.

Letter When You Receive a Rejection (Purdue OWL)
“Consider writing a letter even when you receive a rejection. Sometime later when you have had additional experience or training, you may want to apply to the firm once more. The letter shows that you were extremely interested in working for the particular company and states your interest in applying for another position at a later date.” This site offers suggestions about what to include in this letter/e-mail.

Model for Writing a Request for Further Negotiations (Purdue OWL)
An example of how to professionally and politely discuss a job offer you would like to negotiate.

Rejection of Job Offer (Purdue OWL)
General guidelines for what to include in a letter/e-mail when you are not accepting a job offer.

Phone Skills (Virginia Tech, Career and Professional Development)
“In your search for an internship or job, your resume and cover letter alone are not the only tools to success. Employers will be evaluating you on all forms of communication and how you handle and present yourself. Be a pro on the phone.”

The “Write” Way To Engage Future Employers (Michael Sachs, Major Lindsey Africa)
An article about how to converse with prospective employers that includes three key tips: use formal language, pay attention to your tone, and think about how you’re representing yourself.

Writing Professional Letters (University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Career Services) (PDF)
This document discusses the structure and content of different correspondence between you and your prospective employer. Some topics include an interview confirmation letter, a post-interview thank you letter, and job offer acceptance/declination/clarification letters. Sample letters are located at the end of the document.



On the Art of Writing Proposals (Adam Prezeworski and Frank Saloman, Claremont Graduate University Writing Center)
“Some Candid Suggestions for Applicants to Social Science Research Council Competitions.”

Planning and Organizing Proposals and Technical Reports (Richard Johnson-Sheehan, Sponsored by Indiana DOT) (PDF)
An extensive guide to planning for a proposal, from identifying your purpose and audience to drafting your conclusion. This resource includes charts you can fill in while you’re preparing to write. The second half of the PDF (p. 18-end) provides tips for writing a technical report.

Resources for Proposal Writers (University of Wisconsin – Madison, The Writing Center)
“This page lists some useful books and websites for graduate students working on research proposals.”

Sample Academic Proposals from the Purdue OWL (Purdue OWL) (PDF)
Includes sample proposals for conferences, articles and book chapters..

Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles and Books (Purdue OWL)
A guide to writing conference proposals.


4 Editing and Proofreading Techniques for Your Novel (Courtney Carpenter, Writer’s Digest)
“Joseph Bates, author of The Nighttime Novelist, shares tips for editing and proofreading a novel or book.”

The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter (Brian A. Klems, Writer’s Digest)
“While query letters vary a little depending on who the agent is (and their guidelines) and what type of book you’re writing (novel, nonfiction, poetry, etc.), there are many elements that remain the same. That’s why I’ve developed this list of dos and don’ts to help you navigate what’s really important to include in your pitch and, also, what should be avoided at all costs. By sticking to these 10 specific dos and don’ts of writing a query letter, you’ll give yourself the best opportunity to find success and land an agent.”

10 Proofreading Tips for Self-Publishers (Anna Lewis, MediaShift)
“No matter how many times you’ve read through your work, it’s amazing how often errors can sneak through to the final stages. The problem: You’re so familiar with the text that you see what you think you have written rather than what you actually wrote. For this reason, at the very least, it’s good to ask a few friends to help you proofread. Don’t forget to carefully proofread the cover, copyright, and title pages as well as any indices, tables of contents, and dedications — mistakes in these areas happen surprisingly often. So, short of hiring a professional proofreader, what else can you do to make sure your book is as close to perfect as possible? Here are some tips.”

Anatomy of a Query Letter: A Step-by-Step Guide (Writer’s Relief Staff, Huffington Post)
“When submitting book queries, your letter has precious little time to grab the attention of the literary agent reading it. If you don’t get to the meat of the book right away, your query might end up in the recycling bin. The following guidelines will help you compose a letter that will keep agents’ attention long enough to give your manuscript a fighting chance.”

Author’s Permission Guidelines (The University of Chicago Press)
Most of the information regarding permissions on this site is not particular to The University of Chicago Press. This page can help any writer who wants to know more about copyright, fair use, public domain, and when permission is needed for previously published materials.

How to Write the Perfect Query Letter (Mary Kole, Writer’s Digest)
Here you’ll find an example of a successful query letter, followed by an agent’s comments.

Preparing Articles for Publication in Peer-Reviewed Journals (Siobhan Bowler, Academic Publications Writer) (PDF)
“This paper focuses on preparing articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Four areas of article preparation are covered: (1) what you should be thinking about when selecting a journal for your paper and at what stage you should start thinking of journals; (2) style guides and the most important things you need to follow in journal style guides; (3) simple ways in which you can improve clarity when writing papers; [and] (4) what happens to your paper once you send it to the journal and the various types of responses you can expect to receive.”

Preparing Manuscripts for Publication in Psychology Journals: A Guide for New Authors (American Psychological Association) (PDF)
“This guide provides an overview of the process of preparing and submitting a scholarly manuscript for publication in a psychology journal. Drawing on the experiences of authors of scholarly writings, peer reviewers, and journal editors, we seek to demystify the publication process and to offer advice designed to improve a manuscript’s prospects of publication. To exemplify the process, we describe specific publication procedures for journals of the American Psychological Association.”


Abstracts (UNC at Chapel Hill, The Writing Center)
“This handout provides definitions and examples of the two main types of abstracts: descriptive and informative. It also provides guidelines for constructing an abstract and general tips for you to keep in mind when drafting. Finally, it includes a few examples of abstracts broken down into their component parts.”

How to Write an Abstract: Tips and Samples (Leah Carroll, University of California Berkeley) (PDF)
This resource provides “the basic components of an abstract in any discipline” along with abstract samples from history, the humanities, biological sciences, and engineering.

What Exactly is an Abstract? (University of Michigan)
“An abstract is a short summary of your completed research. It is intended to describe your work without going into great detail. Abstracts should be self-contained and concise, explaining your work as briefly and clearly as possible. Different disciplines call for slightly different approaches to abstracts . . . so it would be wise to study some abstracts from your own field before you begin to write one.”

Writing Abstracts (Indiana University Bloomington, Writing Tutorial Services)
This site includes tips for writing and polishing your abstract and describes the components of informative and indicative abstracts.

Writing an Abstract (George Mason University, The Writing Center)
This guide provides the definition of an abstract and the structure of an abstract for papers in the social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering sciences.

Writing Report Abstracts (Purdue OWL)
“This handout discusses how to write good abstracts for reports. It covers informational and descriptive abstracts and gives pointers for success.”


About Grants (National Institutes of Health (NIH) Central Resource for Grants and Funding Information)
“Read on for an orientation to NIH funding, grant programs, how the grants process works,and how to apply.”

All About Grants Podcasts (NIH Central Resource for Grants and Funding Information)
“The Office of Extramural Research (OER) talks to NIH staff members about the ins and outs of NIH funding. Designed for investigators, fellows, students, research administrators, and others just curious about the application and award process, we provide insights on grant topics from those who live and breathe the information. Episodes are available as mp3s for download here or via RSS feed.”

“We connect people who want to change the world with the resources they need to do it.”

Candid Learning
“Candid Learning is your destination for all of Candid’s live and on-demand trainings, webinars, and other resources designed to improve your fundraising, overall sustainability, grantmaking, and transparency.”

Grant Basics (NIH Central Resource for Grants and Funding Information)
“Before getting started, learn why it is important to understand the structure of NIH and how we approach grant funding, what types of organizations and people are eligible to apply, what we look for in a research project, and the types of grant programs we offer.”

Grants and Funding: Grants Process Overview (NIH Central Resource for Grants and Funding Information)
“Any successful project requires planning, development, implementation and follow-through. Obtaining NIH funding for your research idea is no exception. The Grants Process Overview below provides an overview of the steps required for an application to proceed from application planning and submission through award and close out. Look to the related resources on each page for special guidance from NIH experts that can help maximize your understanding of the grants process and help you submit a successful grant application.”
Search for federal grants and learn about the process of applying for federal grants.

Grant Writing (Purdue OWL)
“This resource provides a general introduction to grant writing and provides information on how to ensure clarity in grant proposals.”

Grant Writing in the Sciences (Purdue OWL)
“This resource provides general guidelines for grant writing in general and in the scientific disciplines. While grant proposals are almost always overseen by a faculty member serving as the primary investigator (PI), this resource is intended primarily for graduate students and junior faculty seeking to learn more about grant writing in their fields.”

Grantwriter FAQs (Puget Sound Grantwriters Association)
Responds to many frequently asked questions about grant writing, from how to become a freelance grantwriter to how to find corporate and government grants.

What is in a Grant Proposal? (Grant Writing Resource, Inc.)
Outlines the standard components of a grant proposal.