A writing portfolio is a collection of samples to demonstrate a writer's range, areas of expertise, and skill. There are a number of settings where a writing portfolio may be necessary, including applications and college courses. There may be specific standards a writer should follow in the assembly of a portfolio so it matches professional standards and practices or meets grading requirements.
Applications for writing jobs often require a writing portfolio to demonstrate that the applicant is a competent writer and can cover the kind of topics that may come up in his work. Freelance writers and journalists may maintain a public portfolio that anyone can access in the hope of attracting commissioning editors who may see their work and want to hire them. In nonfiction book proposals, a writing portfolio may be requested by an agent or editor. Journalists seeking work need clips, evidence of past work they can present to a managing editor.
Some college, university, and scholarship applications require a writing portfolio. This is usually the case for creative writing programs and scholarships based on writing and journalism. The applicant may not have very many professional publications if she is just entering school, but she should have samples of writing from sources like student newspapers, academic papers, and so forth. For creative writing, the portfolio may include fiction and poetry.
In college and university settings, some instructors require a writing portfolio as part of the class, especially in writing classes. Over the course of the semester, the students assemble portfolios of their best work for presentation. They may also create a brief personal statement to talk about the work and their experiences over the semester. This collection of materials will be graded by the instructor at the end of the term and may make up an important part of the grade.
To assemble a writing portfolio, a writer should think about how it will be used and check for any formatting, style, and content guidelines. The material should be the writer's best work, and should be formatted in a consistent way, whether presented online or in a physical binder. Writers can include a list of additional publications and other resources at the end of a writing portfolio to demonstrate that the portfolio does not contain their entire body of work, just a sampling of the finest pieces. In some settings, including a resume may be necessary or advisable.