school’s in session

I’ll write more about my other classes soon, but for now here is the free writing assignment I turned in for the “about me and my writing experience” for my business writing class:

My name is Elizabeth Downing…
and I’m an English Major

My first “real job” was at a promotional marketing firm that specialized in “swag”. Logoed items and apparel were the products we dealt in most, so aside from the usual business emails and communications that go along with any job, I also wrote descriptions of our logoed offerings for different clients’ brand websites and company stores. To entertain one of my co-workers, I would write at least three J Peterman-style descriptions of mundane plastic, screenprinted objects and other promotional items. To entertain myself, I will give you an example:

“After a week on the rain-swept streets of Paris, Captain John’s luggage turned up in a seedy wine bar. Over the bawdy singing of one slightly intoxicated, just-past-her prime cabaret performer, the Good Captain struggled with his broken French to obtain his meager parcel. Finally, after many glasses of mid-grade Merlo, he spotted it – a handsome imitation leather briefcase with his company’s logo (nay, the masthead!) tastefully embossed over the mP3 pouch. Even though he was miles from home, in that moment Captain John was no longer lonely.”

After 4 years of being underpaid and grossly underappreciated, and weary from working a side job to supplement my income, I started applying for jobs elsewhere. Because it took me that long to realize that it was possible to get a job somewhere else. Life is about options, after all.

I landed a job as an administrative assistant to an EVP at my current company. At first the writing required for this position was minimal – emails, the occasional event invitation, etc.

It is important to interject here that as a younger woman I was quite prolific. Not good, mind you, but I wrote often. It tapered off, as youthful obsessions often do, and email writing was OK with me. I even blogged now and again, but I wasn’t writing every day.

Back to the new job. It didn’t take very long for me to figure out that my boss was, without a doubt, the most frustrating and difficult man in the universe. He was infuriating. He was a know-it-all. I made it my personal mission to share my pain with all 500 of my myspace friends. Little did I know at the time that he would be solely responsible for the majority of my work ethic and professional development, and that I would miss him a bunch when he left the company. Hindsight and all that…

A word about blogging about work, from work. DON’T. On February 8, 2006 I came into the office and my boss was particularly chilly and snippy to me. I asked him how his weekend was. “Not very good”, he replied.

“Why not?”

“I had an integrity issue with one of my employees”

“Really? Who”


I could not, for the life of me, figure out what he was talking about. Then I saw it, on his desk, highlighted and underlined with things circled in red pen. My myspace blog. My entire myspace page, in fact, there on his desk with notes in the margin. He was angry. He threatened to fire me. He told me he couldn’t believe that I would write such things about him.

I said, in a very tiny voice, “but it was all true”. I was sure I was a goner. I went and erased every single blog that ever pertained to him. I went back into his office ready to beg for my job. After all, he was a big jerk sometimes, but the pay was nice and the benefits were outstanding. Lucky for me, reason overcame shame and shock. He didn’t fire me. We slowly got over it.

Lesson learned, and magically myspace was no longer accessible from work. After some time he left the company and I was adopted by the Corporate Communications department, where I write human interest stories for the intranet, a weekly newsletter for the Richmond-area employees, and the occasional article for company-wide publications.

I guess it’s a muscle-memory kind of thing, because I’ve been doing a lot more writing personally because of all this. I maintain a blog, have just started another (but I won’t tell you what it’s about because I’m afraid you’ll laugh at me) and I write lists for a top ten website…that pays me real money.

I’m taking this class to improve my skills, get some feedback from you, and strengthen my ability for business writing, because that will prove valuable for my company. Also, I would like to avoid disciplinary action in the future, as the blog incident wasn’t the last time I got in trouble. But that’s another story for another time.

I hope this was not an assignment that will turn out to take merit away for:

a conversational tone
the use of contractions
the use of ellipses, quotation marks when a quotation isn’t occurring, and etc.

I’m a 31 year-old senior who is back after a 7-year hiatus. I’m doing much better this time around, thank you. I discovered that you take your studies a lot more seriously when you have to pay for them yourself. I’m married, no kids, but with a very demanding cat. I’m enthusiastic, a hard worker, and I have a completely inappropriate sense of humor. I look forward to working with you and learning from you.

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