Guest lecture: John Lewis (School of Planning), PLAN 675 - July 10, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Michael Seasons
School of Planning, University of Waterloo

Our final meeting of PLAN 675 was brought to a close with a guest lecture led by Professor John Lewis, School of Planning, speaking on the nature of writing for political and private sector audiences. Drawing on his experiences both in government and as a consultant, Lewis spoke to the need to understand your audience and what they want out of your writing. This point was driven home with the notion that there is often a real divide between the way in which we are taught to write in an academic setting, and the way in which we may be asked to write when producing outputs like policy briefs or consulting reports.

One of Lewis’ best takeaway points was the reminder that, in most any context, your written work will almost always be sent back to you for revisions – and in many cases, multiple times. At the same time, it was noted that there is a real skill in being able to send a message with your writing but in such a way that the political masters can actually run with it. Again, we come back to the previously discussed matters of writing for your audience and knowing what will work and what won’t.

Lewis’ lecture was a good way to cap off what has been a meaningful learning experience for all involved. Throughout our regular sessions and guest lectures, we have touched on the relationship between academic writing and storytelling, the finer points of publishing, and the realities of why and who we’re writing for in the first place.

Students listening attentively.

John Lewis explaining his thoughts.

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