Monthly Archives: January 2013

Letter/Email Suggestions

The point of this assignment is to practice these formats in a setting outside the classroom. You should write about something you’re passionate about, or at least have marginal interest in. Pick a particular issue, a specific bit of praise, a detailed response to a news article. Keep in mind our discussion and critiques about the Amnesty International letter as you draft.


  • Complaint/praise to a company (check the label for “suggestions” or “complaints” information or google them and find contact info on their website)
  • Letter about a pet issue to the governor, senators, president, mayor or other public official (here’s one database with more options)
  • Write to a soldier (one site that aids in this)
  • Letter to the editor at the Post-Gazette or other newspaper of your choice
  • Fan letter to your favorite author, artist, actor, etc. (most have fan sites or contact information easily findable)

Let’s say a word count of around 500 words. Your letter or email should follow proper formatting and conventions set forth in your textbook. You’ll turn in a hardcopy draft to me in class on Friday (2/1), and I’ll add my comments. By the following Wednesday (2/6), you must revise your draft and mail (give me the addressed, sealed, stamped envelope in class) or email (bcc me) it to get credit for the assignment.

If you get a response or get published, do let the class know!


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Filed under Correspondence

Citing Sources

As your textbook mentions, there are lots of ways to indicate where information comes from in your writing. The main academic ways are APA and MLA style.

Let’s use one example to highlight the differences. Thomas Friedman recently wrote an op-ed about online education in universities. What if we wanted to use information from his article in an academic paper?


Used mostly in the sciences. Emphasis is on author and date (Smith, 2007, p. 34) in text. On the References page, the source looks like this:

Friedman, T. (2013, January 26). Revolution hits the universities. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Note: your References page would use hanging indents for the source (where the first line “sticks out” and the rest of the lines are tabbed in. WordPress doesn’t easily allow for this concept to be represented). Likewise for MLA.


Used mostly in the humanities. Emphasis in text put on author and page number (Smith 34) in text. On the Works Cited page, the source looks like this:

Friedman, Thomas L. “Revolution Hits the Universities.” The New York Times, 27 Jan. 2013. Web. 28 Jan. 2013.

Notice the differences: capitalization differs, order differs, use of italics differs. Online citation generators, while useful, won’t necessarily catch these mistakes, so make sure you double-check your citations.

Non-Academic Styles

There are also other ways to cite a source, especially when we’re considering online writing.

You can use links in-text (like I did above as well):

According to a recent article, Friedman says he “can see a day soon where you’ll create your own college degree by taking the best online courses from the best professors from around the world.”

You can use a “Sources” list at the end:

[Main Text]


You can use footnotes + a source list:

[Main Text with reference to source.(1)]



Or, you can do a kind of hybrid academic-casual citation system where you write as usual in APA or MLA and provide a Works Cited or References section at the end to maintain a more “academic” feel to your text:

APA: The author says he “can see a day soon where you’ll create your own college degree by taking the best online courses from the best professors from around the world” (Friedman, 2013).


Friedman, T. (2013, January 26). Revolution hits the universities. The New York Times. Retrieved from

MLA: The author says he “can see a day soon where you’ll create your own college degree by taking the best online courses from the best professors from around the world” (Friedman).

Works Cited:

Friedman, Thomas L. “Revolution Hits the Universities.” The New York Times, 27 Jan. 2013. Web. 28 Jan. 2013.

Of course, some websites don’t cite their sources at all. Bad idea! You gain reader trust, and often better comments, if you allow your audience to see where you’re getting your information. The way you choose to display your sources can subtly alter reader perceptions of you and your site.

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Filed under Sources

Commenting Troubleshooting

If you’re having trouble seeing comments on your blog, go into your dashboard and look for the “comments” menu on the left sidebar. There, you can approve or reject pending comments and spam. Some design themes automatically send all comments to pending for approval, so check to make sure this isn’t the case.

Please also make sure that you have comments enabled, since that is an integral part to the class.

The blogs look lovely, by the way! Nice work.

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Filed under Blogging Basics

1/25 Class CANCELED

Due to instructor illness, there will be no class today. Please make sure you email me your blog URL if you haven’t done so already. I’ve been adding the links to our main blog site so you can access your group members’ blogs. Remember that your first comments are due by 9 pm today and responses due by 9 am Monday.

If you’re looking ahead to next week’s assignment, you’ll notice there’s a letter or email to a public official due. Start thinking about who you might want to contact – a politician? provost? newspaper?

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Filed under Uncategorized

In Class Activity

Interviewing – and being interviewed – is a key skill to develop for professional situations. Based on the advice in your reading for this week (particularly p. 157-158), work with a classmate on one of the following mock interview scenarios.

Option 1: Suppose you want to know your partner’s views on media representations of 20-somethings in the workplace. What specific movies, books or other media does s/he think best show young adults’ struggles and experiences?

Option 2: How does being either a commuter or resident student affect one’s college experience?

Once you’ve decided which topic you’ll discuss, each of you should separately develop a list of 5-10 questions to ask each other. There should be some mix between open-ended and yes/no, between basic and follow-up. Once you have your questions ready, start the interview. Try to make it as natural as possible, with small talk and unscripted follow-up questions. Take notes as you chat.

When you feel you have a good idea of your partner’s views, do a short write-up of the conversation. Imagine this will be published in Pitt News – make it interesting and relevant to that audience. Also be sure to describe your partner and use quotations.

If you have extra time: Develop a list of potential secondary sources you could include in your write-up. What kinds of additional contextualizing information might be useful? Who else might you interview? Consider the checklist on p. 166 for ideas.

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Filed under Job Shadow

Cover Letter Making Media Rounds

One job applicant’s cover letter is getting attention for its humble tone. An excerpt:

I am writing to inquire about a possible summer internship in your office. I am aware it is highly unusual for undergraduates from average universities like (BLOCKED) to intern at (BLOCKED), but nevertheless I was hoping you might make an exception. I am extremely interested in investment banking and would love nothing more than to learn under your tutelage. I have no qualms about fetching coffee, shining shoes or picking up laundry, and will work for next to nothing. In all honesty, I just want to be around professionals in the industry and gain as much knowledge as I can.

However, here’s one banker’s reaction: “The letter is well written and makes you have great sympathy for the applicant. However, it also feels as a call for charity.”

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Filed under Cover Letters

Interviewing Tips, How to Google

Interviewing Advice

Perhaps the most important tip to take from this article is:

Open conversation. Unlike simple yes-or-no questions, open-ended questions invite the respondent to talk — and enable you to gather much more information. “What do you like best about this company?” is likely to generate more valuable information than “Do you like this company?” Another tactic is to ask a question in the declarative format — “Tell me about that.” People who won’t answer questions sometimes respond better to a direct order.

How to Google

Think you know everything about searching the internet? Think again.

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Filed under Job Shadow, Uncategorized