Introduction to Professional Writing Image Block

Introduction to

Professional Writing

9:45 - 11:15, Monday - Friday, Summer 2019
Dr. Derek G. Ross

ENGL 2010 serves as the gateway course for the professional and public writing track in Auburn University’s Department of English. The track seeks to provide students with key skills for writing in various fields that place a high priority on skilled communication, whether in business or in the non-profit sector, including editing and design, education, and the law. In this course we will consider what constitutes professional and public writing, and practice various types of audience-centered communication. You will gain practice in research, editing, design, and writing for a variety of different rhetoric situations.

By the time you complete this course, you should be able to analyze specific audiences and situations; create documents and visuals that respond to specific users, including users with special needs; communicate technical material to non-expert audiences; write collaboratively; usability test a document; edit documents for completeness, accuracy, correctness, and consistency; and discuss the roles technical and professional communication and its practitioners play in organizations and in society.

Contacting me: I am available directly after class, Wednesday 1:00 - 2:45, and by appointment. I generally respond to emails within 24 hours, excluding university holidays and weekends.

Week 1:

June 24 - 28 (Schedule subject to change)

June 24

Course introduction and policies

Examples: Lockhead Martin; Pokemon; Ikea:Besta; CDC: Zika; IRS; TigerPrint

For analysis: Monroe Work Today 

June 25

Discuss Chapter 1 of B & PW, Plain Language

Monkey Wrenching Plain Language

Discuss Federal Plain Language Guidelines 

Willerton, R. (2013). Plain language as an ethical tool: Reconsidering ethics and audiences. Intercom, June: 29 - 30.

Examples:; Center for Plain Language; Write Mark

If time, start Plain Language in-class excercises (2, 3, & 4)

June 26

Discuss Chapter 2 of B & PW, Good Professional Communication

Tufte on Powerpoints involved in the Columbia disaster 

Challenger Disaster Ethics Overview 

Context: Columbia Disaster, Challenger Disaster

Plain Language excercises

Excercises from book 

In class discussion/activity: Find a site that either embodies excellent communication practices or, converely, fails miserably at communication. Analyze the site for audience, purpose, and context, then be able to explain to the class how it either works or doesn't through reference to MacRae's Seven C's of Good Communication.

June 27

Discuss Chapter 3 of B & PW, Grammar

Parts of Speech, sentences

Stephen Pinker on language, and what varying linguistic structures enable

Week 2:

July 1 - 5

July 1

Discuss Chapter 4 of B & PW, Copy-Editing




Editing Practice

July 2

Review page 100 in MacRae before class.

In-class editing worksheet

July 3

Test (in class): Plain Language, Parts of Speech, and Copy Editing (10)

July 4

No Class.

July 5

No Class.

Week 3:

July 8 - 12

July 8

Discuss Issue 1, UR, Why Rhetoric?

Ethos, Pathos, Logos, and Kairos


Letter for analysis 

Political ads for analysis: Cory Booker, Donald Trump, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden

July 9

Audience Analysis (Lecture)

Audience Analysis Worksheet

Discuss Issue 2, UR, Strategic Reading

Picturing Audiences, Examples TBD

Due: Editing Assignment (10) due in class

July 10

Audience Analysis: Online Tools Discussion





Spy Dialer

Discuss Memo Conventions and Audience Analysis Assignment

Begin workshopping Audience Analysis Assignment

July 11

Workshop Audience Analysis Assignment

July 12

Peer-review editing workshop: Bring a draft of your audience analysis to class for editing.

Week 4:

July 15 - 19

July 15

Discuss Chapter 5 of B & PW, Basic Document Design

Design Principles (Lecture)

Due: Audience Analysis Assignment (20) due by Midnight

July 16

Design Theories (Lecture)

July 17

Discuss Zines and how we will use them to work with the basics of Document Design:

What is a zine?

Discuss Triggs, T. (2006). Scissors and glue: Punk fanzines and the creation of a DIY aesthetic. Journal of Design History, 19(1): 69 – 83. doi:10.1093/jdh/epk006.

Design workshop

July 18

Discuss Avery Edenfield's "Queering Consent: Design and Sexual Consent Messaging"

Design Workshop

July 19

Design Workshop

Week 5:

July 22 - 26

July 22

Discuss Usability Report project

Visitors in class: Participate in an actual usability test

Overview of usability testing

Visit LUCIA (Lab for Usability, Communication, Interaction, and Accessibility)

Due: Physical Zine (20) due in class, pdf of Zine and Memo (5) due online by Midnight

July 23

Discuss Chapters 17 & 18 of B & PW

Professional Report Writing

Practice usability testing and TAP through testing of existing instruction sets

Workshop usability test if time

July 24

Workshop usability test

July 25

Workshop usability test

July 26

Workshop usability test

Due by Midnight: Usability Report (20)

Final Exam: Wednesday, July 31, 8:00 am - 10:30 am

Texts and Technologies

Losh, E., Alexander, J., Cannon, K., & Cannon, Z. (2014). Understanding rhetoric. A graphic guide to writing. New York, NY: Bedford / St. Martin's.

Macrae, P. (2016). Business and professional writing: A basic guide for Americans. Canada: Broadview Press.

Relevant academic articles via pdf.


Grammar, Usage, and Style Assignments (10)

This first set of assignments will consist of a series of both in-class and out-of-class assignments designed to familiarize you with plain language concepts, professional communication in general, grammar, and basic editing.

Deliverable: This set of assignments will be primarily worksheet-based.

Editing Assignment (10)

You will be provided with a short article in need of copy-editing. You will use appropriate physical markup to edit the document.

Deliverable: The marked-up document.

Audience Analysis Assignment (20)

For this assignment, you will choose an online artifact (a web page, a political blog, etc.). In an 1000 - 2000 word memo, you will explain the likely target audience for your chosen artifact, including such elements as:

  • Model(s) of Analysis
  • Basic Demographics (age, educational level, income, etc.)
  • Likely levels of engagement
  • Professions
  • Interests
  • Possible audience responses to document

Zine (20) and Brief Explanatory Memo (5)

Using the principles and concepts of design covered in class, create an 8 - 16 page zine to present a visual and textual discussion about document design. The page size of your zine is up to you, but must be cleared with me first. Your zine should include relevant images, as well as informative, textual moments establishing rhetorical appeals to logic (logos), credibility (ethos), emotion (pathos), and timeliness (kairos). This project is designed to familiarize you with the basic elements of document design by asking you to, essentially, teach them to someone else through this self-published project. Your zine may be as formal as you would like, but should be designed to appeal to a specific audience, purpose and context.

Your cover memo should explain your design decisions, including who you envisioned asyour audience, and why you made the design choices you did.

Deliverables: Your zine, submitted as a physical object, and your cover memo in proper memo format.

Usability Report (20 points total)

For this final project you will conduct a semi-formal usability test of a website of your choosing. Your usability test must include physical observation and Think Aloud Protocol (TAP).

Your report should include:

  1. Title Page
  2. Table of Contents
  3. List of Figures
  4. Executive Summary
  5. Introduction: This section should describe the site you have chosen to examine, along with a basic audience analysis designed to determine who is likely to use the site and why, and what their general needs with regard to the site will be.
  6. Methods: Here you will describe how you will collect data to determine the sites usefulness and design effectiveness. You should develop at least five questions/prompts to present to your participant(s) that will ask them to accomplish various tasks on the site.
  7. Data and Analyses: Here you will present the data from which you develop your conclusions. This section will include elements such as time your participant(s) spent on tasks, their utterances, and observations you made and/or recorded during the testing phase.
  8. Conclusions
  9. Recommendations: This section should take what you have learned here and present a series of simple, easy-to-understand fixes for the site that could potentially be used by the site's designers in a revision.
  10. References: Please use APA format
  11. Appendices

Final Exam (15)

Your final in this class will be an in-class test which will draw from all of the material we have covered this semester.



You will fail the class if you do not attempt and submit ALL major assignments. Late assignments will receive a grade of zero (0).

Grades on assignments will be determined according to the following criteria:

A (90-99%) The document is superior. It exceeds all the objectives of the assignment. The presentation and discussion is ethical, sophisticated, thorough, thoughtful, and ideally suited for the audience. The style is clear and appropriate to the subject, purpose, and audience. The organization and design of the document make the information understandable, accessible, and usable. The mechanics and grammar are correct. Typography and design elements are sophisticated, ethical, and appropriate to audience and purpose. Outside information is cited appropriately.

B (80-89%) The document is good. It meets all of the objectives of the assignment, but requires minor improvements or contains only easily correctable errors in organization, style, design, grammar, or mechanics. Presentation and discussion are good, but could be addressed in more depth. Typography and design elements are good, ethical, and appropriate to audience and purpose. Outside information is mostly cited appropriately.

C (70-79%) The document is adequate. It omits useful information or requires significant improvement in organization, style, design, grammar, or mechanics. Presentation and discussion are superficial in places.Typography and design elements are not entirely suited to audience and purpose, have questionable ethics, and/or require significant improvement in order to function for their intended purpose. Some outside information is cited appropriately.

D (60-69%) The document is disappointing. It meets some of the objectives of the assignment but ignores others; the discussion is inadequately developed, omits important information, or displays numerous or major errors in organization, style, design, grammar, or mechanics. Typography and design elements are poorly suited to audience and purpose, lack awareness of ethics, and/or largely fail in their intended purpose. Most outside information is not cited appropriately.

F (0-59%) The document is unsatisfactory. It omits critical information, does something other than the assignment required, or displays major or excessive errors in organization, style, design, grammar, or mechanics. Typography and design elements fail to accomplish desired goals and/or lack ethical awareness. Outside information is not cited.

Projects submitted more than 7 days after the due date will not be accepted for a grade (they will receive a zero), though I will be happy to look over the project and offer constructive commentary.

Team Assignments

Team assignments receive grades based on group and individual work. It is possible that unsatisfactory participation in team assignments will result in a lower participation grade or a lower grade on the team assignment itself. You may be called upon to evaluate your own or your team members' performance on group assignments.


You are allowed 2 unexcused absences from this class. Each unexcused absence beyond the 2 allowed will result in the loss of 1 point from your point total for each absence.

Do not show up late to class. If a participation grade or quiz is given during the first 15 minutes and a you arrive late, a grade of zero (0) will be received for that assignment.

You will be excused from attending classes or other required activities, including examinations, for documented University-approved functions (such as competing in an athletic event), or the observance of a religious holy day and the time necessary to travel for this observance. You will not be penalized for the absence and will be permitted to take an exam or complete an assignment missed during the excused absence. The policy applies only to the documented University-approved events and official holy days of tax-exempt religious institutions. No prior notification of the instructor is required, though is requested. Other than exceptions related to university-related events and religious circumstances, only a note from a doctor or death notice for an immediate family member will result in an absence being excused. Personal circumstances are not considered acceptable for excusing an absence. Please see Auburn University's policies for additional materials relating to what constitutes an "excused" absence.

Dropping the Course

If you drop the course, you must do so in person at the Office of the Registrar. I cannot drop you from the course. It is your responsibility to make yourself aware of the drop dates.

Due Dates and Submission Technology

You will fail the class if you do not attempt and submit ALL major assignments. Late assignments will receive a grade of zero (0). It is your responsibility to turn in your work on time. Computer-related excuses will not be accepted. In the event of difficulties with our course management system (i.e., Canvas), you may email me your work to get it in on time, though you will still be responsible for submitting it through the appropriate channels when the difficulties are resolved. If you believe you have a legitimate excuse for submitting late work you may submit to me a formal appeal. I reserve the right to reject your appeal.

If you are absent the day a physical assignment is due, I will not accept the work via email. You must make arrangements with me to submit work before the deadline or put your work in my department mailbox. If extenuating circumstances apply (see below), your work will be due the day after your return from your athletic event or the day after you attend the emergency appointment or funeral.

Electronic documents must be saved in the following format: lastname_firstinitial_assignmentname.

Documents saved in the .docx format are generally compatible across systems. However, formatting is a major aspect of this class. To that end, you may wish to save your file as a .pdf to insure that all formatting appears exactly as you intended. There are several free options available to you, beyond those offered by most office software suites, including bullzip,pdfill, and cutepdf, among others. The excuse "it didn't look like that on my computer" will not be accepted.

I may give quizzes at any time during the class. These quizzes cover the specified readings, but they may also cover material introduced in previous classes/chapters. I do not offer make-up quizzes for any reason other than absences for university business (and only with proper university documentation), documented illness (a clinic must document the episode of illness if you have a chronic illness), or the death of an immediate family member. Additionally, late homework exercises will not be accepted under any circumstances.

Basic Technology Requirements


You are expected to be familiar with the day-to-day operation of computers including email (and sending attachments) and standard software. If you are not familiar with basic computing skills, speak to me as soon as possible, so that I can familiarize you with basic procedures.

You are also expected to have regular access to computing technology whether it be your computer at home or the computers provided by the university. The statement, "I don't have access to a computer" is not acceptable.

Hardware and Disk Media Requirements

It is your responsibility to ensure that the computer(s) and disk(s) you use are functional and that you have, in the case of technological failure, backed up your data. Bring a USB drive to class, or use the cloud, keep your work on it, and keep your work updated.

Email Requirement

You are required to have a viable email account. When sending email please ensure the subject line is formatted as: RE: ENGL 4150- [Your Last Name]

Identifying emails from students is difficult, especially when sent from accounts outside of the university. If you do not include a valid subject line it may go straight to junk mail, or I may delete your email myself.


Plagiarism includes any use of words or ideas of another writer that would allow readers unfamiliar with the source to assume that the words or ideas originated with you. THIS INCLUDES USE OF IMAGES. Policy does not allow me to judge whether an instance of plagiarism is accidental or deliberate. If I find in your work 1) another writer's work inserted without quotation marks or acknowledgment, 2) a close, unacknowledged paraphrase of someone else's writing, or 3) another writer's research or analysis presented without acknowledgment, then I will treat it like a plagiarized assignment and deal with it appropriately. Sanctions range from failing the assignment to expulsion from the university. I take the issue of plagiarism very seriously, and will enforce the university's plagiarism policies to their full extent.

Please see Auburn University's policies relating to plagiarism and penalties.

Special Needs

Auburn University makes reasonable accommodations for people with documented disabilities. I will adapt methods, materials, or testing for equitable participation. Students who need accommodations are asked to electronically submit their approved accommodations through AU Access and to make an individual appointment with the instructor during the first week of classes – or as soon as possible if accommodations are needed immediately. If you have not established accommodations through the Office of Accessibility, but need accommodations, make an appointment with the Office of Accessibility, 1228 Haley Center, 844-2096 (V/TT).

Religious Holidays

Students requiring to miss class due to the observance of an officially recognized religious holy day are asked to consult with me in advance so I can schedule missed work accordingly.

Diversity Statement

This classroom is a safe space for all students, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, physical ability, nationality, age, religion, sexual identification, economic status, and veteran status. As Auburn's Office of Inclusion and Diversity notes, "These and other socially and historically important attributes reflect the complexity of our increasingly diverse student body, local community, and national population." I will not tolerate any language or action which diminishes those around you, and encourage you to speak to me, or the Office of Inclusion of Diversity, if you have questions or concerns regarding the treatment of others.