Close reading: A job requirement

Remember, close reading isn’t just a skill for school. Close reading—and its fraternal twin, writing designed to elicit a reaction—are necessary for just about any job–even some that might surprise you. We use close reading to…



In my work as a digital strategist for a human rights organization, every word I write for a social media campaign matters because it can make the difference between someone feeling like our organization understands an issue deeply…or superficially. And that’s the difference between someone participating in driving real change—or getting bored and clicking on something else.

Mihika Sapru
Digital strategist, Breakthrough



“As the owner of a small, web-based business, I need to write correspondence that convinces decision-makers that I will take their business as seriously as they do. There is a common language among serious companies. Speaking, reading, and writing it is the only way to make sure you are trusted.”

Joanna Parson
Founder/owner, Letter Perfect Transcription



“Finance involves lots of numbers, but deep reading of important documents is also central to my job. Much of the work of a CFO is about ensuring that her organization is protected from hidden ‘gotchas.’ So I read every word of each contract, agreement, and regulatory guidance involving the finance of my company to make sure we don’t trip any wires and that we meet each requirement. The consequences of glossing over important terms could be serious.”

Judy Bornstein
Chief Financial Officer, Generate Capital



“As co-founder and executive director of a non-profit, I am constantly asking people for money. I know most people do not want to get these solicitations. So I can’t make people read through a ton of sentences. I need to get to the point immediately, before they move on to the next email cluttering their inbox. My phrasing has to be precise, engaging and economical. My team and I have been known to spend half an hour making a decision about a single word.”

D.C. Vito
Founder/ED, The Lamp



“In content marketing, every word counts because you need to strategically use the language your target audience uses. You might internally call your product a ‘chickpea puree,’ but no one will find your site because they are all searching for ‘hummus.’ When you know what words your audience uses, and use them the same way, you have a better shot at reaching and connecting with them.”

Meredith Esquivel
Digital Marketing, Whole Whale



“In my role as a marketer, I work hard to get people to get the word out about the great stuff my company is doing. One tiny tweak to a subject line could mean the difference between hundreds or even thousands of people opening my email. For instance, people like to see their own name in the subject line of an email. So even though it’s only 60 characters, I sometimes spend hours brainstorming and testing out the options.”

Julie Leary
Demand Generation Marketing Manager, Socrata



“As a lawyer litigating discrimination cases, my job is to make sure my client’s story gets told in the most compelling, most relatable way to a variety of audiences – opposing counsel, the media, and of course, the judge and jury. Avoiding legal jargon in favor of using accessible language that packs a visceral punch is most important of all.”

Civil rights lawyer



“It is extremely important for scientists to not only fully comprehend everything they read, but also to be able to analyze every detail of what is written. My job involves reviewing studies that test whether chemicals manufactured by companies are potentially dangerous for human health. I must carefully compare what is written in the description of the research to the actual numbers and other information in the study. Without carefully analyzing the details of what I am reading, it would be difficult to determine whether the test was performed correctly, or whether important information from the data was missing from the description. Reading in a detailed and rigorous way therefore ensures that the government is able to protect people from dangerous chemicals.”

Keith Jacobs
Ph.D., biologist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency



“It’s simple really. Words are the means by which most humans communicate, and therein lie all the clues. If you listen closely enough, or read closely enough, you can hear what a person wants, you can hear what means the most to them. You can discern what it is that they’re fundamentally asking for, like a sense of belonging, or purpose, or safety, or love. And once you start to hear those things, you begin to unlock the secrets of the world, and find the beautiful human emotions that connect us all.”

Sanam Petri
Creative Director, Wieden + Kennedy, The 30 most creative women in advertising 2016


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