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WRT 307: Professional Writing

Fall 2012, Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:45-2:05 p.m., Bowne Hall 110 Patrick W. Berry,, office: HBC 235 office phone: 315-443-1912 office hours: Mondays, 9:00-11:00 a.m. and by appointment

Course Overview Professional writing is about using words and images to influence others and to bring about change. But change only happens in an environment of trust. So how do we get readers to listen to us? In WRT 307: Professional Writing, we will explore a variety of rhetorical strategies used in business and professional communications. Such communications involve various contexts, documents, and media. By focusing on writing as a process (through prewriting, drafting, peer workshopping, and revising), simulating real-life contexts, and challenging conventional practices, we will experiment with a variety of rhetorical strategies and create a broad range of professional and technical documents. The course will not simply teach you the rules for formatting a piece of professional communication, but will help you understand your own writing processes, teach you to use writing to identify and solve problems, and enable you to modify your style according to your audience. Course Goals Students will: • Analyze audiences and situations. • Manage a sustained, multiple-product project. • Work collaboratively. • Design and produce text and graphics. • Conduct basic usability testing. • Develop effective oral presentations. Course Texts and Materials Course readings are available on Blackboard. Additional information is available on the course website, Assignments Almost everything we do this semester will center around three major projects. Following are brief overviews of the work sequence. Full descriptions will be available as each begins. Project #1 The Onboarding Project will introduce the fundamental principles central to the rest of the course. Employing the framing concept of the “onboarding process” that many companies use to orient new employees, this project will establish the course’s expectations of you as a writer, editor, and collaborator. It will result in a number of collaborative products and a portfolio of individual work that demonstrates your understanding of and facility with the fundamentals of professional and technical communication, rhetoric, workplace conventions, and genres.



Project #2

The Instructions Project is designed to address two issues in modern professional writing: 1. Writing to teach, to instruct, to demonstrate, or to document procedures is a prevalent form of composition in which almost all professionals engage, yet it is widely ignored as a skill to be learned and practiced. 2. Much of the professional writing you will do in the future will never be put on paper, will not be linear in design, and will require very different things of both readers and writers than traditional paper texts.

Project #3

The Feasibility/Recommendation Study will require that you work collaboratively with a team to address a particular problem. You will be asked to draw on your skills to design a series of documents, including a proposal and a report.

Here’s how the point structure breaks down: Project Onboarding Project Instructions Project Feasibility Study Total Available

Available Points 250 250 500 1000

A more specific breakdown of points within each unit will accompany each unit assignment. All three projects must be completed; failure to complete any one project will result in an F for the course. Grades: Since this is a course in professional writing, your work will be graded as though you were submitting it to your immediate manager. A A940-1000 900-939 A manager would be very impressed with your work and would remember it when a promotion was discussed. In our course, this means your final product must have excellent content, clean text, and excellent document design. Additionally, your work is thorough, coherent, well supported, and organized in a useful fashion. It demonstrates a superior understanding of audience, purpose, and rationale. A manager would be satisfied, but not particularly impressed. This means that your product meets the basic standards of writing and overall production and demonstrates a step forward in your learning process. It is sufficiently developed, organized, and supported, and you have shown a solid understanding of audience, purpose, and rationale. A manager would be disappointed and would require you to revise the document before a client saw it. Your work might have clear but undeveloped ideas, or it might not engage or affect the reader. It likely contains some errors in logic, mechanics, or grammar. A manager would be troubled by the poor quality of your work and would


880-899 840-879 800-839 780-799 740-779 700-739 600-699




599 and below

likely note this in your annual review. This level of writing skill forces the reader to work too hard to understand your ideas. The text may have incomplete information, lack clear organization and design, and have serious grammatical or mechanical issues. A manager would start looking into replacing you. In this case, your work does not fit the assignment parameters, is so underdeveloped as to demonstrate incompetence, or is mechanically and grammatically incomprehensible. The most likely root cause is a pronounced lack of concern about audience perceptions of the writer as a professional.

Attendance & Participation Since this course involves regular in-class tutorials, assignments, peer reviews, presentations, and workshops, regular attendance is required in order to be successful. If you miss a class, you are expected to stay current by contacting me and/or speaking with a classmate. Responses to all assignments are time-sensitive, and missed assignments cannot be made up. Coming to class unprepared, uninvolved, or more than 20 minutes late will be considered an absence. If you miss more than four classes, you will receive a reduced or failing grade. Deadlines Deadlines are crucial in professional contexts, whether for a job application, a client proposal, or a grant progress report. They are similarly important for the assignments in this course. Written assignments are due by the beginning of class or at the time specified for online submission. Major assignments (i.e., not blog posts or weekly assignments) are reduced by one letter grade per business day that they are late. All major assignments must be completed in order to pass the course. Missed in-class work cannot be made up. That said, nobody wants you to do well more than I do. If a documented emergency arises, please do not hesitate to let me know. The sooner you contact me, the sooner we can begin working together to make sure you remain on track in the class. Collaboration You will be working in groups throughout the course. This work will include drafting documents, organizing team roles, and preparing for class as well as collaborating on the production of actual texts. Relying on others and negotiating differences in working styles and tastes can be frustrating, but it is also part of the way work is done in the world. Therefore, you will be expected to conduct yourself as a professional, to complete jobs on time, and to contribute to the success of the team and the class. I expect you to be able to use your social skills to resolve your basic differences on your own. However, if you find a particular collaborative situation to be unreasonable or unresolvable, please notify me so that I can help you address it. Technology Computers and networked applications are a part of writing culture, especially in the workplace, and any professional writing course must involve current technologies. Obviously, we will be using computers as a means of communication as well as a means of production. All texts produced must be cross-platform compatible; despite what we may hear, the reality is that the working world is a mixed-platform environment. You are responsible for knowing how to save files in formats that anyone can read. In most cases, saving text files in Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx), for instance, is safe; I do not accept Microsoft Works, WordPerfect, Apple Pages,



or Microsoft Publisher files. Specific guidelines will apply to each assignment, but you should assume that all work will be submitted digitally. Much of class business will be conducted via e-mail. We will use your SU e-mail address; if you choose to use some other account, it is your responsibility to either (a) also check your SU account or (b) take care of forwarding your SU e-mail to that other account. You will be expected to check your e-mail daily and to respond promptly. All e-mail messages to me regarding this class should include "307" in the subject line. All attached files should bear names that indicate the writer and the assignment (e.g., smithproject1.doc). Student Writing All texts written in this course are generally public. You may be asked to share them with a peer, with the class, or with me during classroom activities or for homework. You will also be asked to sign a consent form requesting the use of your writing for professional development, teacher training, and classroom instruction within the Syracuse University Writing Program. The Writing Center If you need any help with your writing, the Writing Center ( is an excellent resource. Workshop consultants can help you learn how to improve your writing by offering assistance with planning, drafting, and revising. This resource is free, and I highly recommend it. You are also always welcome to utilize my office hours for help with assignments. Special Needs and Situations If you believe that you need accommodations for a disability, please contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS),, located in Room 309 of 804 University Avenue, or call 315-443-4498 for an appointment to discuss your needs and the process for requesting accommodations. ODS is responsible for coordinating disability-related accommodations and will issue students with documented disabilities Accommodation Authorization Letters as appropriate. Since accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact ODS as soon as possible if needed. Syracuse University and I are committed to your success and to supporting Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This means that in general, no individual who is otherwise qualified shall be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity solely by reason of having a disability. Academic Honesty The academic community requires ethical behavior from all of its participants. For writers, this means that the work we claim as ours must truly be ours. We are not always expected to come up with new ideas; we often build our thinking on the ideas of others. We are expected, however, to credit others with their contributions and to clearly indicate the boundaries of our own thinking. In cases where academic dishonesty is detected (the fraudulent submission of another’s work, in whole or part, as your own), you may be subject to a failing grade for the project or the course, and in the worst case to academic probation or expulsion. For a more detailed description of the guidelines for adhering to academic honesty in the College of Arts and Sciences, go to:



Religious Observance SU’s religious observances policy, found at, recognizes the diversity of faiths represented among the campus community and protects the rights of students, faculty, and staff to observe religious holy days according to their tradition. Under the policy, students are provided an opportunity to make up any examination, study, or work requirements that may be missed due to a religious observance provided they notify their instructors before the end of the second week of classes. For fall and spring semesters, an online notification process is available through MySlice/Student Services/Enrollment/My Religious Observances from the first day of class until the end of the second week of class.



Course Schedule for Project 1: The Onboarding Unit Date
WEEK 1 Monday, Aug. 27

In class
What is professional writing? What is rhetoric, and why does it matter in the workplace? Introduction to the Onboarding Unit and strategies for developing your bio Professional Identities: Writing Our Story Writing Memos Establish groups for memo assignment

At home (due the following class)
Read “The Seven Steps to Writing a Professional Bio” Write a bio of approximately 150 words and bring in a hard copy (to be collected) along with a print out of a photo (a head shot) that will accompany it. Your copy can be in black and white.

Wed., Aug. 29

Revise your bio and photo, if necessary, and send both to me by email by Friday, August 31 at 6 p.m. By Sunday, September 2, I will post your bios to our class website. Read Markel’s “Writing Letters, Memos, and E-mails.” Evaluate your classmate’s bios (all of them). Write a memo (approximately 600 words) that makes recommendation for improvement. Send to me by email before class meets on September 5. Groups: #1: Elia, Nicholas, Scott, Bryan #2: Richard, Ryan, Stephen, Ed #3: Rachael, John F., Nicole, Amy #4: Christopher, Daniel, Melissa, Kyle #5: Samantha, Danielle, Jacqueline, Sam

WEEK 2 Monday, Sept. 3 Wed., Sept. 5

No classes (Labor Day) Reporting Findings Application Letters Read Alred, Brusaw, and Oliu’s “Application Letters.” Draft application letter and send to me by email before class meets. Also, please bring in a hard copy for peer review. Read chapters 1 of The Subversive Copy Editor and read selection on “Grammar and Usage” from Rude’s Technical Editing. Bring copy of Rude reading to class. Complete exercise 5 at the end of Rude’s chapter. Write the sentences without track changes and make your edits using track changes. Email me and bring hard copy to class.

WEEK 3 Monday, Sept. 10

Audience Analysis and tips for revising your letter

Wed., Sept. 12 WEEK 4 Monday, Sept. 17

Editing, Clarity, and Diplomacy Review cover letters using student example Discuss presentations assignment and proposals

Complete editing test and post to Blackboard. Read Bound by Law: Write a short e-mail about how your might organize your proposal. Send to me before class.

Wed., Sept. 19

Visual Design and developing effective

Read Parker’s “Absolute PowerPoint”:



presentations Review Lessig’s presentation style WEEK 5 Monday, Sept. 24 Wed., Sept. 26 Workshop presentations and scripts Presentations by Elia, Rachael, Ryan, Stephen, Nicole, Kyle, and Sam Presentations by Nick, Richard, Scott, John, Chris, Melissa, Danielle, Amy, Bryan, Daniel, Eddie, Samantha, and Jacqueline

Prepare five-minute presentation. Send PowerPoint presentations and draft of your “script” to me by email. Come to class prepared to share your presentation.

Continue working on your final portfolios. Presenters should submit final PowerPoint presentations and script to me by email by 10 a.m. on the day that they’re presenting. Continue working on your final portfolios. Presenters should submit final PowerPoint presentations and script to me by email.

WEEK 6 Monday, Oct. 1

Submit your final portfolio for unit 1 to Blackboard by Wednesday, October 3. Your final portfolio will include your cover letter, revised bio and revised application letter.



Course Schedule for Project 2: Instructions Project Date
WEEK 6 Wed., Oct. 3

In class
Review grammar test Introduction to the Instructions Project and to Recipe Assignment

At home (due the following class)
Complete recipe assignment (available on Blackboard). Bring print copy to class and submit to Blackboard.

WEEK 7 Monday, Oct. 8

Strategies for writing instructions; Review 4 principles of Design; Prepare for “Creative Commons” instruction project Effective Communication and Visual Design Workshop instructions

Read Jerz’s “How to Write Guides for Busy, Grouchy People” (link available on Blackboard)

Wed., Oct. 10

Write a set of instructions on how to search for images on Creative Commons that you can use for non-commercial purposes. You will more than likely need to pick one type of search engine. Your instructions should be no more than one page. You should incorporate images. Post to Blackboard and bring a black and white printout to class. This 20 point assignment will be graded on your ability to produce clear instructions following the guidelines we discussed in class as well as those put forth by Jerz, and your ability to produce a strong design, following Williams’ four principles. Post project proposal in Blackboard before 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday, October 17.

WEEK 8 Monday, Oct. 15 Meet in HBC 227

Introduction to main project Brainstorm ideas for creating proposals No Class Meeting

Wed., Oct. 17 WEEK 9 Monday, Oct. 22 Wed, Oct. 24 Meet in HBC 227 WEEK 10 Monday, Oct. 29 Meet in HBC 227 Wed., Oct. 31

Read Anderson’s “Writing Reader-Centered Instructions.”

Usability Testing

Read Anderson’s “Planning for Usability,” available on Blackboard. Begin drafting your project. Come to class ready to work on project in HBC 227.


Post complete draft of your project to Blackboard. A complete draft means that you have produced a piece that meets all the requirements of the assignment and is ready to be tested. Complete usability evaluation.

No Class Meeting (because of storm)

No Class Meeting

Submit final projects via Blackboard. Also submit an evaluation memo (approximately 300-500 words) on your project. Evaluate the strengths (and weaknesses) of your instructions. Keep in mind the feedback you received from the usability testing. Read Markel selection on writing feasibility reports (on Blackboard).

WEEK 11 Monday, Nov. 5

Feasibility Reports



Course Schedule for Project 3: Feasibility Study (subject to change) Date
WEEK 11 Wed., Nov. 7 WEEK 12 Monday, Nov. 12

In class
Introduce Project and Intertext

At home (due the following class)
Draft complete proposal by Sunday, Nov. 11, at 8 p.m. Send to me by email. Describe form, methods, components, and include questions. If you have more than one idea, sketch out both as completely as possible.

Group Conferencing at HBC 235 (no formal class meeting) Feasibility Reports II Thanksgiving break Send sophisticated progress report or/and draft by Friday, Nov. 15, at 8 p.m. This component is worth 50 points. Full credit will be given to those projects that demonstrate sufficient progress toward a coherent project.

Wed., Nov. 14 WEEK 13 Monday, Nov. 19 Wed., Nov. 21 WEEK 14 Monday, Nov. 26 Wed, Nov. 28

Thanksgiving break

Presenting powerful presentations (project criteria) Workshop 15-minute presentations begin. Each member of the group must present. Remember to practice your presentation before coming to class. While you should draw on what you’ve learned through your presentation of Lessig’s work, your presentation does not need to be Lessig-like. Grading for this component will be based on effective delivery of the material.

WEEK 15 Monday, Dec. 3

Presentations #1: Stephen, Bryan, Rachael, Richard #2: Eddie, Danielle, Nicholas, Kyle Presentations #3: Nicki, Sam, Ryan, Melissa #4: John F., Elia, Samantha, Christopher #5: Jacqueline, Daniel, Amy, Scott Post final project and individual evaluation to Blackboard by Friday, December 7. Your individual reflection should consist of five paragraphs that address the following three questions: 1) Rank the four presentations (1-4) not counting your own. 2) Reflect on your experiences with your own group. 3) What projects/components for the course did you find most useful and why?

Wed., Dec. 5



WRT 307: Professional Writing
Fall 2012, Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:45-2:05 p.m., Bowne Hall 110 Patrick W. Berry,, office: HBC 235 office phone: 315-443-1912 office hours: Mondays, 9:00-11:00 a.m. and by appointment

The Onboarding Project
Project Date Range: August 29-October 1 Deadlines: Groups and Individual Points: 250 When most companies or other institutions hire new employees, they provide some sort of orientation that helps those new people to acclimate to their environment. This process allows the employer to articulate policies and procedures as well as establish expectations under fairly distraction-free conditions. In some places, this amounts to a brief slideshow and encouragement to ask questions; in others, it is an elaborate and carefully structured boot camp in which new employees complete tax forms and sign nondisclosure agreements, listen to presentations on topics as varied as hazardous materials, sexual harassment, computer use policies, sick and vacation days, copier use, the organizational hierarchy and culture, ethics, appropriate dress, e-mail etiquette, reporting structures, and expense account reconciliation as well as undergo batteries of aptitude and problem-solving tests. The human resources professionals who design and execute these processes call this "onboarding." In this class, we’re going to employ this framework as a means of introducing a number of fundamental concepts, establishing this course’s expectations of you, and familiarizing you with the day-to-day functioning of the course. We’ve already begun this process; the syllabus articulates a number of the policies and procedures you as new “employees” of 307 need to know about, and we’ll revisit some of those. Next, we're going to roll back the calendar a little and examine how you can successfully get a “job” in 307. You'll begin that process with an introductory bio and a letter of application before proceeding into basic professional communication genres. We’ll consider the ways in which these forms of writing are very different from academic writing and work together to construct the class as a pseudo workplace setting. At the end of this sequence, you will submit a well-written, well-designed, well-considered portfolio of your work to date. A note on drafts: Most of the components will involve some form of drafting. Your grade for each component will be based on your successfully meeting all deadlines and producing complete first drafts. Products/Deliverables: Assignment Introductory Bio Recommendation Memo (group) Application Letter Editing Test Visual Design (PowerPoint presentation) Portfolio Cover Memo Total Points 30 50 50 35 50 35 250



WRT 307: Professional Writing
Fall 2012, Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:45-2:05 p.m., Bowne Hall 110 Patrick W. Berry,, office: HBC 235 office phone: 315-443-1912 office hours: Mondays, 9:00-11:00 a.m. and by appointment

The Instructions Project
Project Date Range: October 3-November 5 Points: 250 This project will require that you create a product that meets two primary criteria: (1) teaches a user how to accomplish a task and (2) focuses on giving a user options in finding his or her way through it. To perform the first of these, we'll work on how to write clear and effective instructions, how to illuminate a process for someone for whom it is unfamiliar. Readings will be provided for this unit, and we’ll engage in two brief exercises along the way (the “Recipe” assignment and “Writing Creative Commons” instructions). The second of these criteria—giving user options—may be met in a number of ways. One would be to actually create non-linear documents (webpages, etc.) if you already have those skills. Another would be to write in a more traditional way (word processing) but to provide structures and navigational tips along the way that allow users to skip steps, retrace their paths, enter in alternative ways, etc. I'll provide some more examples of options, but I also encourage you to think creatively and to propose methods. To determine your project’s success at addressing these two issues, you will conduct usability testing and write a usability report. Your ultimate task will be to prepare instructions on how to create a PowerPoint presentation in the style of Lawrence Lessig. His presentation that we looked at in class is available on Blackboard. You can create these instructions using a wide range of media (from a web page to a video to a well-designed, visually-enhanced document). You’ll need to figure out what media works best to make your points. You’ll also need to figure out how to merge your knowledge of Lessig’s presentation with clear instructions on using PowerPoint. Your instructions must have a defined beginning, middle, and end, and a clear desired outcome. In other words, you are guiding users on how to produce something that is replicable. It should be a process that can be completed in a reasonable length of time (approximately an hour). Products/Deliverables: Assignment Recipe Assignment Creative Commons Instructions Proposal Project Draft Usability Report Final Project Evaluation/Reflection Memo Total Points 10 20 20 30 20 130 20 250



WRT 307: Professional Writing
Fall 2012, Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:45-2:05 p.m., Bowne Hall 110 Patrick W. Berry,, office: HBC 235 office phone: 315-443-1912 office hours: Mondays, 9:00-11:00 a.m. and by appointment

The Feasibility/Recommendation Study
Project Date Range: November 7-December 5 Points: 500 For the rest of the semester, you will be working on an extended project related to a real-life business issue. The Feasibility/Recommendation Study will require that you work collaboratively with a team to address a particular problem. You will be asked to draw on your skills to design a series of documents, including a proposal and a report. Each of you will be assigned to one of five groups: #1: Stephen, Bryan, Rachael, Richard; #2: Eddie, Danielle, Nicholas, Kyle #3: Nicki, Sam, Ryan, Melissa; #4: John F., Elia, Samantha, Christopher #5: Jacqueline, Daniel, Amy, Scott The focal point of your project is Intertext, a publication showcasing the best undergraduate writing from the Syracuse University Writing Program. It exemplifies the power of writing and collaboration to inform and inspire. An online version of the publication is available at You will need to identify a problem and explore possible solutions. Some topics that you might use as a starting point: How might the publication increase its visibility on campus? What might be an effective way to market the journal? How does this publication compare with other publications on campus? What can we learn from other models? How might the publication enhance its online presence? This project could explore the financials of producing the publication. It might consider possibilities for raising money. The grading for this project will follow the criteria listed on the syllabus. In terms of pages, I can’t imagine this project being successful without at least five pages of content. However, there is no minimum or maximum page count. The success of the project will be based on your careful analysis and your producing a study that is potentially useful. You will receive feedback from me two times: once during our group conference and once in the form of a response to your progress report/draft. Products/Deliverables: Assignment Group Project Proposal + Conference Sophisticated Progress Report/Draft Group Presentation (15 minutes) Final Group Project Individual Reflection Total Points 30 50 50 350 20 500