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Introduction to Writing

Writing includes: text writing and writing in documents, such as filling in forms; and, non-paper-based writing, such as word processing on a computer. Writing tasks are rated on a five-level scale of complexity. The higher the rating, the more complex the task.

This rating scale takes into account:

  • length and purpose of writing
  • style and structure
  • content of the writing

Each level of the scale is defined with reference to all of these dimensions. The complexity rating assigned to a task is the best summary description of its level of complexity.

Writing - Illustrative Examples

Here are some examples of the various levels of the Writing complexity rating scale. You may find these examples helpful as you look at the ratings given to the authentic workplace materials provided in this Collection.


Level 1

  • Enter short comments into journals and log books.
  • Write a reminder note to the operator on the next shift.
  • Complete forms requiring only brief written entries.

Level 2

  • Write single-issue letters to suppliers, customers or agencies involved in company business.
  • Write a routine memo advising the superior of the budgeted purchase of new equipment.
  • Write an E-Mail request to the foreperson asking for more paint.

Level 3

  • Write non-routine memos to supervisor or other company office holder (e.g., a memo to the Human Resources Director describing a disciplinary situation).
  • Write a letter of understanding which touches on several issues for the caterer of a large wedding.
  • Write an article for the company newsletter covering the introduction of new computers in the accounting department.

Level 4

  • Write several sections of gas plant operations manual covering startup and shutdown procedures for cryogenic turbo-expanders and related equipment.
  • Write an annual operating report for the Sand, Gravel and Asphalt Divisions of a combined construction-materials operation.

Level 5

  • Write background documents for municipal transportation policy.
  • Write a marketing plan for a national campaign.
  • Weave historic fact into a dramatic monologue for an actor at a heritage interpretation site.


Writing - Formal Definitions

Here are some basic descriptions as to the context of the various levels of the Writing complexity rating scale items.


Dimension: 1. Length and Purpose of the Writing

Level 1

  • Less than a paragraph
  • Intended to organize, remind or inform

Level 2

  • Brief text that is a paragraph or longer intended to serve a variety of purposes

Level 3

  • Either long or shorter pieces of writing intended to inform, explain, request information, express opinions or give directions

Level 4

  • Longer pieces of writing which present considerable information and which may feature a comparison or analysis.
  • Writing task may involve the making of recommendations

Level 5

  • Longer pieces of writing which present an evaluation or critique usually accompanied by recommendations
  • Writing tasks of any length which demand originality and effectiveness.

Dimension: 2. Style and Structure

Level 1

  • Informal writing for small familiar audiences - usually co-workers
  • Writing which uses pre-set formats or writing for which the format is unimportant

Level 2

  • Writing with a more formal style for an audience other than co-workers
  • The writing sets a tone which is appropriate for the occasion - e.g. - friendly, respectful, authoritative, etc.
  • Standard spelling and grammar (syntax) expected

  • Writing tasks for which templates or models exist such as memos and letters in set formats

Level 3

  • Writing task has an established format. Such as a contract, lease, financial report or job description
  • Writing format may call for structural elements such as headings, a table of contents, footnotes, etc.

Level 4

  • Conscious organization of writing for a given purpose
  • Writing may require modification of an existing format, such as a proposal or a report, to fit the given information
  • Consideration of the audience may be an important part of the writing task at this level

Level 5

  • Appropriate tone and mood may be as important as the content.
  • Writing may display complex multi-part organization to accommodate varied content

Dimension: 3. Content of the Writing

Level 1

  • Concrete, day-to-day matters of fairly immediate concern

Level 2

  • Content of writing is routine with little variation from one instance to the next

Level 3

  • Non-routine writing tasks
  • The content of the writing may be extensive but it is readily available from established sources

Level 4

  • Writing task may involve the gathering and selection of information.
  • Abstract or technical content may demand the use of specialized vocabulary.
  • Re-write or transform written information for a specific audience - e.g. rewrite technical material for a non-specialist audience

Level 5

  • The content must be created or it may be synthesized using information from multiple sources