Written Professional Communication (WPC)
ENGCMP 0400 (11386), Spring 2013
Office: CL 517-R
Mailbox: CL 501
Office hours: M 12-2, W 12-2, other times by appointment
This course is an opportunity for you to practice both written and verbal professional communication skills; you will be expected to not only write effective and professional documents both on and offline, but also work in groups to solve writing problems and share your knowledge with the class. Since the professional world is increasingly enmeshed in digital communications, I put a special emphasis on developing an online presence in this class. This portion of the course will be mainly DIY and self-guided.
This course is writing intensive and students are expected to engage with the topics discussed in a critical, professional manner.
These are some of the questions we will be considering in WPC:
- Who is a professional?
- What does it mean to act or be “professional”? To write “effectively”?
- How might I represent myself differently in professional, personal, and digital realms?
- What kinds of workplace documents are important to me and how do I best create them?
- In what ways does professional writing differ from academic writing?
- Who is my audience and how can I best write to them?
- What format best suits my message?
Attendance and expectations
Because this is a seminar (read: discussion-based course), you are expected to attend each class session and participate in class conversations and activities. You may miss three (3) classes without penalty: missing four (4) or more classes without a serious and legitimate excuse as determined by me is grounds for failure. Arriving late to class will cost you a 1/3 absence, meaning three (3) late arrivals will total a full absence. Punctuality is important in the workplace and therefore important here.
If you are going to miss a class, you MUST hand in any work due that day BEFORE class. You can email it to me, drop it off in my mailbox or office, give it to a classmate to hand in—whatever it takes. If I don’t have it on deadline day, it will be counted late. Please do not email me asking about work you missed—ask a peer (everyone’s email is available in CourseWeb).
While in class, you are expected to meaningfully contribute to any discussions we have, meaning your participation grade is based on you talking at least once each day. If you don’t speak in class, you can’t get an A.
Writing that Works, Olium, Brusaw, Alred, eleventh edition.
Readings posted in CourseWeb
Readings not otherwise listed, but assigned by instructor discretion
Optional: HTML/CSS introductory guides (see me for suggestions)
I expect you to arrive on time. Every class, you should come with your textbook in hand, the week’s reading read, and a notebook and writing utensil for the day. I expect you to speak at least once each class and to respectfully listen to me and your classmates during discussions. Your phones will be off. It might help you to think of this as a casual business meeting where you’re hoping to network with colleagues and impress your boss. I reserve the right to mark you absent if you don’t follow these guidelines.
We will occasionally workshop student writing in class. This is a time to be helpful and critical—to make the writer’s document better. Personal attacks, mean remarks, or otherwise hurtful comments will not be tolerated, but neither will timid fawning or overly kind praise. Workshops are a good time to practice discussing difficult topics.
You are expected to hand in all work on time, following any guidelines set for the assignment. Late, sloppy or incomplete work will result in negative consequences to your final grade. Writing assignments are generally due Fridays.
Please follow format and style guidelines set for each assignment. These change depending on the document, so pay close attention. You will be penalized for improper formatting.
You will receive a grade on each of your major projects and a provisional grade at midterms. If you would like more frequent grade updates, you need to schedule a conference with me. Know that your grade is based primarily on your written work in conjunction with your in-class participation. I don’t use point systems.
A = superior work, above and beyond all expectations
B = above average, clearly considerate and praiseworthy work
C = follows all guidelines and expectations
D = doesn’t follow guidelines, sloppy, inadequate
F = failure, plagiarism, see me
**YOU MUST TURN IN ALL ASSIGNMENTS TO PASS THIS CLASS.
If you don’t hand in an assignment, you won’t pass—period. Late work must be handed in by the next class period in order to receive comments from me. Late work will adversely affect your final grade. A late project or assignment will drop you final grade by a third (e.g. from a B to a B-). Subsequent late work will drop your final grade an entire letter (e.g. from a B to a C). If you have extenuating circumstances affecting your ability to meet a deadline, contact me BEFORE the due date.
Plagiarism & academic integrity
Plagiarism, cheating or other forms of dishonesty will not be tolerated in this class. Students suspected of violating the University of Pittsburgh Policy on Academic Integrity will face severe consequences and possible referral to the Dean’s office. A good rule of thumb: if it feels wrong, it probably is. When in doubt, cite your source.
We will spend time discussing plagiarism and honesty in class, but if you have questions that are not explicitly answered, talk to me, a Writing Center consultant or visit this website: http://www.english.pitt.edu/undergraduate/plagiarism.php
Summary of major projects
More details on these as they approach, but here is a quick summary of our major writing assignments for the semester.
Job shadow project and revision. For this paper, you will arrange a meeting with a professional in your field (or desired field), interview him/her, research the company and position, and write an essay based on the experience. You will also be required to revise this assignment after a conference with me. The revision will mandate following up with your contact, additional research, and substantial changes to your first draft.
Building a professional blog. Throughout the semester, you will be designing and writing on a blogging website that you create. This is an ongoing project that will be evaluated by your peers at midterms and by me at the end of the term as the bulk of your final. You will post weekly about topics related to your profession.
An evaluation of your classmates’ blogs. At midterms, you will be assigned other classmates’ blogs to critique, and you will write an evaluative document to them offering suggestions about their site.
Several drafts of a resume and cover letter. The building blocks of your career, these documents will play an important role in the course.
A Linkedin profile. Some employers won’t even consider your application without a profile on this site. We’ll discuss its use and best practices.
Professional presentations. More on this later, as you have an opportunity to shape this assignment.
Final informal report. This, in conjunction with your blog site, will be your final project. You will select a topic related to your profession and link it to ideas and skills we discussed throughout the course. Think of it as a practical application of the semester.
I strive to make this a practical, helpful course. If throughout the term you feel something isn’t working or a project isn’t serving a useful purpose for your professional future, let me know. I can’t guarantee I will bend to your opinion, but I will do my best to consider your needs.
Resources for this course can be found online at the university’s Blackboard website, where you can log in using your university computer account username and password; then click on the link to this course. If you have trouble with this or any other aspect of the course website, call the help desk at (412) 624-HELP.
Blackboard automatically uses your Pitt email account. If you use another account as well (e.g., Yahoo, Gmail, etc.), be sure to check your Pitt account at least once a day, since I will occasionally send emails to the class via the course website. I’m also fond of the “announcements” feature of Blackboard, so watch for those, too.
You are always welcome, and are indeed encouraged, to visit me before or after class and during office hours. Ask questions at any time, no matter how small or specific.
The Writing Center:
Located at 317B O’Hara Street Student Center. Their services are free; you can schedule an appointment online or by calling (412) 624-6556. As a former writing center tutor, I enthusiastically suggest you use their services, even if you are a “good” writer.
Be advised that they will not proofread or “fix” your papers—what they will do is help you become a better writer by giving you advice on your own writing style and habits. They might help you with “patterns of error” such as incorrect comma usage, they might help you adjust your diction to your audience, or they can work with you on a topic of your choice—just to name a few examples. A tutorial is what you make of it.
Purdue’s OWL website:
Punctuation rules, MLA guidelines, all-around writing resource. Bookmark it, use it, love it. We will read sections of the website for class, but there’s much more to explore.
I’m serious. Part of being a digital citizen is being good at finding information. Can’t figure out how to add page numbers to your document? Google it. (Or use your search engine of choice.) There are scores of video tutorials, how-to blogs, and other helpful sites online for just about any question you’ve ever had. Be proactive, be curious.
Pitt offers a number of services to help students who are struggling either academically or personally. If you are a student with a disability, you may wish to contact Disability Resources and Services in 216 William Pitt Union or at 412-648-7890. Pitt also offers free counseling at the Counseling Center, located in 334 William Pitt Union (412-648-7930), for students who are experiencing personal or emotional difficulties.
Public and Professional Writing Certificate
This course counts toward the Public & Professional Writing (PPW) Certificate. If you are taking this class as part of your work for the PPW Certificate, please remember that you must get a B or higher (not a B-) for the course to count toward the certificate. For information about the PPW Certificate, visit http://www.pitt.edu/~ppw.