Writing in the Workplace: Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze, Lecturer at MIT

at tales of professionRebecca Thorndike-Breeze received a BA in Communication and Media at Youngstown State University before earning an MA in English from Kent State in 2004. She entered the PhD program in English at Northeatern University, where she studied 19th and 20th century British literature and earned her doctorate in 2012. Dr. Thorndike-Breeze teaches writing and communication at MIT.

What media do you rely on for writing? What genres or types of writing do you do at work?

I rely on a wide range of media: I use a lightweight laptop (mine) and an iMac at work; Word and Scrivener for writing, Zotero for keeping track of research; I also email and text myself random ideas. Plus notebooks, pencil, pen, paper, scissors, tape…

The genres range widely, too: email, lesson plans, engaging power points, handouts; workshop, panel, and paper proposals, conference presentations, lit crit essays…

Who do you write for, or what is your audience? What are your goals when you write at work?

Audiences at MIT include my supervisors, professors of communication intensive classes, administrators across the institute, my colleagues and my students. Scholarship audiences range widely in both writing studies and literature. Quite a wide range. No matter what, my goal is to communicate clearly, with my main message right out in front. The audience and genre dictate the moves.

me in north endWhat is your writing process like?

First I think about audience and genre; I figure out what is expected and where I have flexibility. Then, it really depends. Emails are easy. Lesson plans require attention to learning goals and timing. With literary criticism, after I have an idea for a rhetorical target, I have to chip away, freewrite impressions on research, note what material can serve what purpose, and freewrite close readings, way more than I’ll ever use. In other words, chaos.

Can you share a memorable writing experience, at work, school, or elsewhere?

Every new literary criticism essay feels like jumping off a cliff.

What makes you a better writer or helps you reach a better final product?

Do it every day. Have my own projects, always.



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