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Dr. Mary McCleary Speaks at Cedar Wood on Professional Writing

Kiran Kottapalli '18, Staff Writer

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On Wednesday, May 31 Mary McCleary visited Cedar Wood to deliver an inspiring talk about professional development. However, before I get into all of that, let’s get to know Mrs. McCleary a little bit.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, she has explored numerous areas of study throughout her life. She received degrees in political science, music conservatory, English literature, and editorial studies. According to her, the reason for her wide variety of interests is simple: “I prefer the Renaissance model over the utilitarian approach to education – and to life!”

Her former professional positions include editor-at-large at the New Boston Post, vice president of an investment management firm, president of the International Resource Information Foundation, and executive officer of Daughters of the American Revolution. She is also a member of Colonial Dames.

To add to her rather impressive bio, she is a married mother of three.

During her visit, she shared inspiring insights regarding professional writing. She began by outlining the essential qualities of a good journalist: tenacity, thoroughness, resourcefulness, flexibility, and toughness. She said that as a journalist, “you need to approach [your piece] like a treasure hunt. Think Sherlock.” She added that she admires anyone who “elbows their way through a crowd in the name of justice or whatever it may be.” So if you are passionate about something, go after it!

One quote of hers that really resonated with me was when she said, “The key to being a good writer is being a good reader.” It is incredible that you can learn as much from reading other people’s works as you can from reading your own. Dr. McCleary had great advice for editing as well. She said one of the most important habits to adopt is to “give things a rest.” Taking a break from writing and coming back with a fresh attitude is more beneficial than you may think. Another tip she gave was to edit backwards. “Things will jump out at you that way.”

She discussed the importance of professionalism. Your demeanor in interviews is just as important as your writing itself. So be on time! People lose interest when you make them wait. And your appearance matters — If you look sloppy, people will think you are sloppy. If you put effort into your appearance, however, people will take you more seriously. Finally, be “sympathetic rather than confrontational.” People are more likely to open up to you if you are considerate and understanding. Even if you disagree with or simply dislike the person, remember to maintain a professional attitude.

Dr. McCleary ended the evening with one of the greatest pieces of advice, something that we can apply to our lives beyond just writing, “Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Admit [them].” But this does not mean we can just sit back and drop our standards. She made it very clear that as humbling and illuminating as errors might be, maintaining high standards is just as significant. If you want to be a credible and respected public informant, never compromise your integrity.

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Dr. Mary McCleary Speaks at Cedar Wood on Professional Writing