Wharton's Writing for Work Challenge winners discuss business writing

Maximilian Lamb and Allison Millner won awards for giving the best "reviews."

· April 30, 2014, 8:47 pm   ·  Updated May 1, 2014, 2:45 am

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On Wednesday, the Wharton Communication Program announced the winner of Wharton’s Writing for Work Challenge, an online writing competition for Wharton undergraduates.

Wharton senior Nikita Anand won best writer. Wharton and Engineering senior Maximilian Lamb and Wharton sophomore Allison Millner won awards for giving the best “reviews” or feedback to other writers.

There are two components in the competition — a networking email and a persuasive memo. For the persuasive memo, participants chose a prompt, such as convincing people to invest in a company, or convincing a reader to choose one bank over another as an underwriter in a deal.

“It’s really a nice challenge, because you are able to personalize what you want to write about as it pertains to you,” Anand said. “I am going into investment banking … [and] I wrote … an email to my superior as to which bank might be a better partner for [a] certain deal.”

When signing up for the competition, Anand and other participants indicated the industry that interested them. They paired up with second-year MBA student mentors who were familiar with that industry.

Adamah Cole, a judge for the competition and a teaching assistant in Wharton MBA communication classes pointed out that the style of writing differs by industry.

The average length of emails he got from education nonprofits would be three paragraphs long, whereas emails from clients in the business industry usually include “no more than two paragraphs, each [comprised of] max three sentences,” said Cole, who is a second-year graduate student pursuing a dual degree at Wharton and the Lauder Institute.

The winners mentioned that, despite their heavily quantitative course load, they have always loved writing and have had writing experience outside of class.

Lamb, the best reviewer, has worked as a writing tutor at the Writing Center for two and a half years. He also wrote a blog two years ago in the summer.

“Ever since high school, I [have] loved writing a lot,” Lamb said. “But I don’t necessary get the opportunity to do it that much outside of class.”

Anand contributed to the Wharton spotlight blog on Wharton Spike, where students book GSRs and learn about news and events. She also gained a lot of writing experience as a longtime Management 100 TA.

Writing was also important in her previous investment banking internship. “Everybody thinks that you are going to be using Excel, but you probably use way more PowerPoint than you use Excel,” Anand said. “It is a lot about trying to convey things as efficiently as possible.

“Being able to have a quick turnaround time, which is to craft emails, is really important,” she added. “You really don’t want to answer follow-up questions all the time … to cover up your past mistakes or ambiguity. ”

Cole was very impressed with the level of the participants’ writing. “There wasn’t a large difference for the most part between the level of writing I can expect from the MBA [students] and from the undergraduates,” said Cole. “The biggest difference is understanding the real-world business perspectives that they will get in the next two to three years."

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