Writing Samples

Some of the internship sponsors will ask you to submit a writing sample along with your résumé.  How do you choose what to send?  What kinds of writing are appropriate?

If you have done any professional writing (newspaper or magazine articles, press releases, advertising copy, web site content, etc.), you should consider sending this to give the sponsor a sense of the kinds of professional writing experiences you have had.  However, if you have done only academic writing, an essay written for a class is fine.
If the organization is involved in writing, editing, or publishing (as with newspapers, magazines, etc.), it’s a good idea to gain a sense of the typical style they employ or publish. Check out their web site, and consider writing a brief sample essay or article for your writing sample which emulates the kinds of work they value. What you submit should not be the copy the instructor has marked.  It should be a clean, manuscript copy.  It should be non-fiction prose (no poems, short stories, etc., unless they are specifically requested). 
Whatever you submit should be absolutely clear and correct.  You should know that employers are looking at your writing very differently from your professors.  First and foremost, they want to see that you can write clear, concise, correct English sentences. Your professors may forgive spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and stylistic infelicities, but an editor or an employer will not.
As far as content is concerned, try to select something that is accessible to a mature, sophisticated audience, but one that is not necessarily well versed in the more obscure areas of English literature or contemporary critical theory.  Don’t give them something that is full of “lit crit” jargon or requires an ability to read Middle English or a familiarity with Paradise Lost.  While professors value your ability to piece together complex arguments, replete with textual references, employers are generally more concerned with your ability to present information clearly and efficiently.  Use your intended audience as a rule for what’s appropriate.