Welcome to ENGL 288A: Professional and Technical Writing!
ENGL 288A is a 5-credit writing course that focuses on professional and technical writing. In this course you will read, write, and review a wide variety of technical and professional documents, including task documents, technical reports, business emails, cover letters, and résumés. You will learn how to:
- Analyze the needs and motivations of different audiences and write for these audiences.
- Identify the rhetorical differences between concept, task, and reference information in technical documents.
- Structure information for different genres and purposes of technical and professional writing.
- Improve your writing by critiquing other documents and responding to feedback on your drafts.
- Write to a style guide and pay attention to details that affect the clarity of your writing.
In addition to being a writing course, ENGL 288A is a writing community. This is your community for sharing ideas, trying new types of writing, giving feedback and suggestions, and supporting each other. It is important that this community be supportive and welcoming of everyone in the course. If we build a strong writing community together, you will get a lot more out of this course.
Communication is critical to your success in this course--especially in an online format. I am here to help you! I want to hear what's important to you, when you need help, when you have a question, and when you want to discuss an idea. Just let me know. Don't wait until a small problem becomes a big one--communicate right away. For example, if you know ahead of time that you will need extra time for an assignment, let me know and we'll come up with a plan together.
Here are the main communication channels for this course, outside of class sessions and Canvas Discussion Boards:
- Office hours (TTh 1:00-2:00 and by appointment): You can use this time for anything that you need to discuss.
- Writing conferences: We'll meet 1:1 to discuss each of your writing projects. You can also ask other questions during conferences.
- Email (firstname.lastname@example.org): Email is my preferred form of written communication. I will reply to email within 24 hours on weekdays. If for some reason I do not, please reply to your email thread with a message like: "Just putting this back at the top of your inbox." Make sure that your email has a title with the course number in it ("ENGL 288A: [descriptive title]") and a clear description of your problem or question.
- Canvas Announcements: I will use Canvas announcements to send updates to the whole class. It is your responsibility to monitor your UW email address and Canvas on a regular basis.
Required Course Materials
We will read selected chapters from Technical Communication by Mike Markel and Stuart A. Selber. You can use either the 11th edition or the12th edition because they are not significantly different. (Reading assignments will list chapter or section titles and page numbers for the 12th edition.) You should be able to find a print copy of the 11th edition for as little as $5 online or find a PDF copy of either the 11th or 12th edition via a web search. I will also provide PDFs and links for addition readings.
See the Modules to find the readings that are due before each class session.
This is a writing course, so you will do a lot of writing! Some of the writing will be informal discussions and reflections, some will be annotations and critiques of others' writing, some will be be first drafts, and some will be more polished writing. With all of these writing assignments you'll be practicing and getting more comfortable with different writing techniques and with reading and reviewing others' writing, all of which should make you a better writer.
Listed below are the four assignments for this course. Each assignment has multiple parts, which are explained in more detail on the Assignment pages. You'll write multiple drafts for all of the assignments except for the discussion prompts, focusing on improvements from draft to draft.
- Discussion Prompts: Before most class session you will write a short response to the readings and lectures for the day. These writing assignments are informal. Instead of producing polished responses, you should use these assignments to get in the habit of writing regularly.
- In-Class Activities: Most of our class sessions will have hands-on activities that you will do in small groups, discuss with the rest of the class, and turn in on Canvas.
- Résumé and Cover Letter: You'll choose a job posting, analyze the hiring team or manager as an audience, and write a résumé and cover letter for the job posting.
- Instructions: You'll choose a task and write instructions that detail how to complete that task. In this assignment we'll focus on procedural rhetoric and writing to a style guide.
- Technical Report and Business Email: You'll write a technical report about tree canopy cover in Seattle. You will also write a business email that introduces this report to a specific audience.
There are no tests or quizzes in this course.
I have found that conventional grading often leads my students to think more about grades than about writing; to worry more about pleasing me or psyching me out than about figuring out what you really want to say or how you want to say it; to be reluctant to take risks with your writing. Grading even makes some students feel they are working against me.
- Writing Studies Scholar Peter Elbow
The goal of this course is not to determine who is a good writer and who is a less-good writer. The goal of this course is for everyone to become a better and more confident writer.
The grading policy for the course is based on rewarding work that contributes to that goal of improving your writing. If you actively engage in class sessions and activities, provide constructive and thoughtful peer feedback, and work on improving your writing with each draft, you will receive a good grade.
You will still receive critical feedback about your writing from me and from your peers, but that feedback will always be about helping you to improve your writing, not about deducting grading points. You will not be graded down for grammar issues, a document that doesn't quite flow, or trying something new that doesn't quite work--unless you do not make an effort to improve these issues.
Grading criteria are focused on how engaged you are in improving your writing and are listed in each assignment description. Assignment grades are weighted as follows:
- 10% Discussion prompts: Each prompt is worth one point. Only 10 responses will count toward your grade--your lowest score will be thrown out.
- 10% In-class activities: Each activity is worth one point. Only 10 activities will count toward your grade--your lowest score will be thrown out. You will be able to make up some activities by doing them yourself.
- 25% Résumé and Cover Letter: This assignment has a first draft, peer review, second draft and conference questions, final draft, and reflection.
- 25% Instructions: This assignment has a doc plan, first draft, peer reviews, second draft and conference questions, and reflection.
- 30% Technical Report and Business Email: This assignment has a first draft, peer reviews, second draft and conference questions, business email, and reflection.
Your grade for the course overall is calculated based on the following mapping. You can view your calculated grade in Canvas.
|Grade on 4.0 Scale||Percentage Cut-off|
Late assignments are accepted, but will receive a reduced grade in line with how late the assignment is and any mitigating factors. Please write an explanation with any late submission.
You may ask for clarification about or contest any assignment grade that you receive. Questions about grades must be submitted via email no sooner than 24 hours and no later than one week after the grade is released in Canvas.
As with anything that you do, the more that you put into this course, the more you will get out of it. Your responsibility is not to be a great writer. Your responsibility is to put in the work to become a better writer.
That work includes:
- Responding thoughtfully to the discussion prompts.
- Attending class regularly and being as mentally present as you can be.
- Letting me know if you need extra help, extra time, or an extra explanation of a difficult concept. I'm here to help, but I can't do that if you don't let me know what you need.
- Critiquing your classmates' writing honestly, respectfully, and with the goal of helping to improve their writing.
- Reading and annotating documents--both your own and others'--to better understand what makes a document work.
- Supporting your classmates and helping to make this class a safe and comfortable place.
- Trusting that you can improve your writing through practice and study.
If you do this work while treating yourself and the rest of the class with respect, you will do well.
A number of challenges from a variety of directions can affect your ability to bring your optimal attention and energy to this course. This Student Resources document is a set of links to campus resources that UW makes available to students to help you deal with some of these challenges.
Because this is a writing course, you should be particularly aware of writing resources that are available to you:
- The Odegaard Writing & Research Center (OWRC) offers free, one-to-one, 45-minute tutoring sessions for undergraduate, graduate, and professional writers in all fields at the UW. They will work with writers on any writing or research project, as well as personal projects such as applications or personal statements. Their tutors and librarians collaborate with writers at any stage of the writing and research process, from brainstorming and identifying sources to drafting and making final revisions. For more information or to schedule an appointment, see their website.
- The CLUE Writing Center helps undergraduates start, draft, revise, research, and polish their writing. The CLUE Writing Center believes that writing is a process and has one goal in mind: to help you become a better writer.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is an online resource with a wealth of information about writing, from writing process to grammar to standards for citing your work. You'll find many websites with answers to your writing questions, but I've found that this site is consistently one of the best places to look.
I encourage everyone to use the writing centers. They are a great resource for improving your documents and for making you a better writer.
The University of Washington takes academic integrity very seriously. Behaving with integrity is part of your responsibility to the shared learning community. If you’re uncertain about if something is academic misconduct, ask me. I am willing to discuss any questions that you might have.
The type of academic misconduct that is most relevant to this course is plagiarism. Plagiarism is particularly discouraged in this course because our goal is to improve your writing. Plagiarism can take multiple forms:
- Presenting someone else's work as your own. For example, buying an assignment online or from another student or using an article that you find online as your own. This form of plagiarism is antithetical to the goals of the course and, frankly, unproductive because you will not be graded on how polished your assignment is but how engaged you are in the process of improving it.
- Presenting part of someone's work as your own without properly quoting and citing. You can quote directly from these sources or summarize their ideas, but you must cite them properly and not present the writing as your own.
- Patchwriting or failing to write in your own words. Patchwriting is similar to paraphrasing or summarizing, but the writing that you present as your own is too similar to the original document. Patchwriting is often unintentional and is common for students learning to write in a new genre.
You will receive feedback and suggestions from your classmates on your writing projects and make changes based on their input. This type of collaboration is encouraged. You do not need to cite your peer reviewers as co-authors for your assignments, but it is good practice to note their contributions when you write your reflection
Assignments will have SimCheck plagiarism detection enabled. Concerns about plagiarism or other behaviors prohibited by the Student Conduct Code may be referred for investigation and adjudication. Students found to have engaged in academic misconduct may receive a zero on the assignment (or other possible outcome).
The IWP & Anti-Racist Pedagogy
The Interdisciplinary Writing Program (IWP) is committed to engaging with anti-racist pedagogies. These pedagogies may take various forms, such as curricular attention to voices, communities, and perspectives that have been historically marginalized inside and beyond academic disciplines; inclusive classroom practices; discussions of racism; and consideration of other forms of prejudice and exclusion. We believe that countering the cultures and practices of racism in an academic institution is fundamental to developing a vibrant intellectual community. The IWP is happy to talk with you about your questions as well as to support student-led initiatives around anti-racist work, and we invite you to contact IWP faculty member Rush Daniel at email@example.com or IWP Program Director Carrie Matthews at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re interested in how teachers of English as a professional community have taken up anti-racist work, check out the National Council of Teachers of English Statement on Anti-Racism to Support Teaching and Learning.
Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.