Job Search Basics

Job Search Basics

When writing a cover letter, be aware that it will serve as a writing sample.

You can ensure that you are demonstrating good writing by using a very simple tool:  The 8 Word Rule.

All sorts of writers (including me) put a whole lot of introductory clauses in front of the main subject and verb.  This is what it looks like:

Whenever I write a sentence and I’m not sure exactly what I want to say – which is often when I’m writing a blog, I tend to go on and on writing as if I’m doing stream of consciousness, coming to the point of my sentence only at its end.*

Everything before that first comma is an introductory clause.

We lose our readers along the winding road of our thoughts.  They can’t follow our meaning, and either have to re-read the sentence or will simply discard the cover letter as a sample of poor writing.

I was introduced to the 8 Word Rule when I was in business school.  The 8 Word Rule means that I have to reach my main subject and verb in no more than 8 words.  In other words, my introductory clauses/phrases can only be 8 words long.  8 words is the maximum number of words people can retain without losing meaning.

So if I count 9 or more words in my intro phrase, I need to reword it.

In the previous sentence, there were 11 words in my intro phrase.  So I would reword it to say “I need to reword an intro phrase if I count 9 or more words in it.”

Check your cover letters for such run-on introductory clauses.  Then fix them.  Your writing will improve dramatically, and your cover letter will be both readable and impressive as a writing sample


*Honestly, this sentence is not worth rewriting.  But I’ll give it a go.  “When I’m writing for a blog post, I often write “stream of consciousness”-style and come to my point at the end of my sentence.”