The Reading

1. Don’t regurgitate the reading. You never need to waste space including definitions from the

reading. Write as if your audience not only has read the assigned materials but also knows

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them well. When necessary, cite a concept as briefly as possible. The fact that you’ve done

the reading should be revealed to us by your thinking, NOT by some quotation.

2. Start quickly and end abruptly. For these short write-ups, introductions, background, and

conclusions are entirely unnecessary. Even worse, they take away space that is better used in

other ways. We don’t expect these things to read like English essays. Nor are we strangers to

why you’re writing in the first place. Treat it like an email to a colleague and jump right in.

3. Choose specific over abstract. Precision is good. It’s good for communication, and it’s good

for sharpening thinking. When you feel yourself getting fuzzy, think to yourself: I need an

example. We love examples. Make it real.

4. Be realistic. There is nothing more irritating than a cute suggestion (for example, of how an

organization might mitigate a particular bias) that works theoretically but is utterly infeasible

in the real world. Perhaps the best criterion is to ask yourself if you’d be willing to sit in a

manager’s office advocating his or her use of your recommendation.

5. Less is more. Believe it or not, a common mistake is to include too many ideas — not

because too many ideas itself is bad, but because these ideas, as intriguing, tantalizing, and,

yes, right as they might be, are often too poorly developed. Don’t make this mistake! We’re

not impressed with laundry lists. It’s much better to write about a few things really well.

Oh, and have fun! This is an opportunity to be creative (the risk-reward tradeoff for creativity is

very attractive). A student who is thoughtful and having fun when writing these is generally going

to do pretty well


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