I work part-time as a writing tutor. Last Friday, I tutored a student who was a third-year business student, planning to (I believe) go for her MBA. She was a reasonably bright girl, but she was having trouble creating an outline for her paper (and having trouble documenting her sources properly, knowing nothing about either APA or MLA format–but that’s another story).
“I know I need an executive summary first, and then an introduction, but I don’t know what I should put after that,” she wailed. “And why do I need an executive summary, anyway?”
“Well,” putting on my best didactic voice, “when you write these things, you have to assume that your boss is not going to have time to read a 20-page report, so you summarize the key points at the beginning.”
“Oh, ‘executive’ as in ‘boss’. I get it.”
“Wait,” she said. “I’m supposed to pretend like I’m writing this for my boss? Like, when I get a job?”
“That’s the idea.”
“Are you kidding? I’m not going to write anything this long my whole life!”
I didn’t know what to say. On the one hand, how could I tell her she completely embodied what I had just blogged about two days earlier? Though I get paid to teach writing skills, I had to silently agree with her.
On the other hand, her assignment was only meant to be five pages long, double-spaced. I feel like she might be in for a surprise in the coming months.