French: Writing in French

Why writing matters

You are no doubt aware that knowing how to write well will be an important skill as you move into the professional world.  Employers tell us that being able to write clearly, persuasively, and gracefully is crucial to professional success.

We asked graduate Carrie Parrott Monahan, who majored in French and IECA, to tell us about how she uses writing in her job.  Carrie works in the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in Washington, D.C.  The MCC is an international economic development agency, assisting developing nations in projects that will boost their economies in meaningful and sustainable ways.  Carrie is a liaison between the D.C. office and the program directors “in the field”—in her case, program directors who work in Morocco and Burkina Faso.

Carrie uses both French and English every day in her job.  Here’s what she said about her writing skills:

What do I write?

Carrie writes: “My job with the government requires a great deal of concise, conscious writing.  Most individuals reading the documents I write do not want to spend a great deal of time reading them, so I need to get the point across quickly and efficiently.  I write a lot of emails (at least 50 a day—some more formal than others), as well as many memos, letters to foreign government officials, and reports on our projects.  I often have to write talking points and briefers for meetings for managers or our senior leadership, which summarize a situation and provide background information and are written to steer a meeting in a certain direction.  These require summarizing both factual information as well as diplomatic talking points.

When I write for my job, do I pay attention to my audience—that is, the people who’ll be reading what I’ve written?

Carrie writes: “While most of my writing is quite formal, with the exception of emails, the audience I’m addressing certainly influences my writing style and organization.  Writing a letter to a foreign official requires using a certain diplomatic style and a great deal of strategy to ensure the right message is communicated, whereas internal reports will communicate different information and might try to influence people within my own organization or simply update them on the status of something.  I think it’s very important to always be conscious of your audience and change your writing style appropriately.”