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Master of Arts in Professional and Technical Writing

Creating a Folio

Pulling together a folio is the first step in creating a professional writing portfolio (PWP). It is the foundation of any PWP. The folio is a collection of any and all materials a writer might ever want to put in her/his PWP. The folio philosophy is SAVE EVERYTHING! The more material collected in the folio, the broader the selection and greater the flexibility you will have when putting a PWP together. In the end, not everything saved will be appropriate for a PWP. This section describes how to select folio material and how to keep up with it.

Selecting folio material

At first, selecting folio material may seem like an overwhelming task, especially if you are starting from scratch. The truth is most writers have a plethora of folio materials right under their noses. The materials need only to be rediscovered. Listed below are some potential places to begin looking for folio material:

  • Course work from any class, not just writing courses. Hanging on to class notebooks and assignments is really beneficial.
  • End-of-the-semester portfolios. These are great because they usually contain the writer’s “best” work and include self-analysis essays regarding strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
  • Journals and personal writing. Unconstrained writing reveals a lot about a writer’s style and preferred voice.
  • On-the-job writing. Check with employers first to avoid complications over proprietary information or client confidentiality rights.

Do I have to ask my employer for permission to use my on-the-job writing? YES! You must check with employers first to avoid complications over proprietary information or client confidentiality rights.

While the folio philosophy is to save everything, you need not feel pressured to hoard every scrap of writing. Instead, a light screening of folio materials should be conducted to prevent an unmanageable collection of samples from forming. Listed below are some criteria for selecting folio material:

  • Select materials that clearly demonstrate your abilities. Some samples of your work say more about you than others. Think about demonstrating audience analysis, grammar, clarity, conciseness, technical information, instructions, page layout and design, organization, group or independent work, diversity and variety, etc.
  • Select materials based on quality.
  • Select materials that demonstrate learning. For instance, if a particular piece demonstrates your understanding of persuasive methods, include it.
  • Select materials that will have long-term value and usefulness.

As you are selecting these materials, attach a note (it does not have to be elaborate) to each piece that explains why you believe it is above average, what qualities it demonstrates about you, or what you learned by writing the piece. This preliminary measure will come in handy when you get to Step Three.

Storing materials

Storing and organizing the folio material can be chaotic. There are many storage/organizing products for you to choose from. For example, expandable folders work nicely for grouping material because they come in varying sizes and can accommodate odd-sized documents. Another organizing option is three-ring binders. If you use a three-ring binder, consider using plastic sheet protectors to store pages; it’s better to avoid punching holes in your work if possible. Some people keep folio materials in a file drawer and organize the materials in files. You could also use milk crates or boxes. Keeping work on disk is another option. Whatever works best for you. Just put the folio collection somewhere where it will be safe from damage or loss.

Note: The safest and most dependable way to store your materials is both on hard copy and on disk.

Regardless of how they are stored, it is best to keep at least three copies (including originals) of all folio materials. Over time, materials can become damaged or misplaced, so it pays to have back ups. If possible, clearly identify originals and store them carefully. If more copies are ever needed, it is better to make them from originals only. Nothing is less impressive than a poorly copied writing sample!

Updated 11.8.2008