Technical Writing



2:00 - 3:15, Tuesday/Thursday

The primary purpose of ENGL 3040 Technical Writing is to teach students to read critically and communicate effectively in the genres and styles of discourse appropriate to the professional community they will join upon graduation from the university. ENGL 3040 has these major objectives for student learning: To deepen understanding of the writing situation--audience, and purpose--within the context of other professional activities. To provide practice in important types of technical communication, including memos, reports, instructions, and other workplace documents. To enable students to write accurately and thoughtfully about a subject while creating documents that solve problems and improve situations through communication, using relevant primary and secondary sources. To enable students to develop and organize well-reasoned arguments and present information clearly and concisely. To teach use of document design principles to enhance usability and overall effectiveness. To enable students to collaborate and communicate effectively and ethically with diverse audiences.

Contacting me: I am available T/R 10:00 - 11:00 and W by appointment. I will generally respond to questions and concerns via email within 24 hours, excluding weekends.

Breakout Groups

EA1: Mr. Luke Richey, Haley 3116, Office Hours: 10 - 11 T/R, Haley 9065
EA2: Ms. Molly Robinson, Haley 3143, Office Hours: 3:30 - 5:30, Haley 9065
EA3: Ms. Kathleen Franks, Haley 3130, Office Hours W 11:30 - 12:30, and R 12 - 1, Haley 2104

Week 1:

August 22 & 24 (Schedule subject to change)

Class 1: Introduction to Technical Communication.

Course Introduction and Policies

Introduction to working groups

Yellowstone Example

Class 2: Meet with your working groups.

Introductions, discuss policies, and review core components of technical communication. Using the core components, create a list of the ways the two sides of the Yellowstone example do and do not work as effective technical communication.

Week 2:

August 29 &31

Class 1: Discuss multiculturalism in class.

International domain extensions (Wikipedia)

Class 2: Read Markel Chapter 5 before class. Meet with working groups. Discuss Assignment 1, Multicultural Analysis. Look at Honda Japan, Honda Germany, and Honda USA. Compare and contrast 5 cultural dimensions in these three examples (or others).

Workshop Assignment 1.

Week 3:

September 5 & 7

Class 1: Discuss memo conventions. (See page 374 of text for basic guidelines.) Discuss audience analysis. Review Assignment 1, Multicultural Analysis.

Class 2: Quiz on multicultural concepts.

Workshop Assignment 1, Multicultural Analysis.

Week 4:

September 12 & 14

Class 1: Read Markel Chapter 15 before class. Job letter conventions, performing a self-assessment and Audience Analysis, and online research tools/cyber surveillance: PeekYou, Spokeo, Lullar, EDGAR, You Get Signal, and Spy Dialer.

Business Insider bad cover letters 

Work on self-assessment in class.


Class 2: Audience analysis and job letter workshop.

Week 5:

September 19 & 21

Class 1: Writing a Résumé; The Basics; and Chronological and Analytical approaches.

Class 2: Résumé workshop. Bring any existing résumés you have to class.

Week 6:

September 26 & 28

Class 1: Read Markel Chapter 14 before class. Discuss tone. Letter Writing. Solicitation letter in-class excercise.

Letter for Analysis.

Class 2: Peer review Job letter and résumé package. You must bring hardcopy printouts of your job letter and résumé to class to participate.

Week 7:

October 3 & 5

Class 1: Read Markel Chapter 2 before class. Overview of ethics and decisionmaking.


Class 2: Shaping information to audience: discuss/workshop part 1 of Correspondence Assignment.

HOMEWORK: Prepare a full draft of your letter of claim (just this part of the assignment) to bring to class on Tuesday.

Week 8:

October 10 & 12

Class 1: Full class peer review workshop of Assignment 3, Correspondence Assignment. Bring a printed copy of your letter of claim to class.

Class 2: Fall Break, no meeting.

Week 9:

October 17 & 19

Class 1: Read Markel Chapter 20 before class. Overview of instruction writing.


Class 2: Instructions workshop. Review sample instructions.

Week 10:

October 24 & 26

Class 1: Discuss usability testing.

Class 2: Usability test a draft of your instructions. You must bring a hardcopy of your instructions, along with any materials needed for testing, to class. At least two classmates must test your instructions and complete a usability worksheet. Copies of these worksheets must be submitted along with your assignment.

Week 11:

October 31 & November 2

Class 1: Discuss group project. Discuss proposal conventions. Review a sample proposal and complete in-class proposal assignment.

Class 2: Read Markel Chapter 4 before class. Form groups for group proposal project.  Review timeline. Review proposal components, and begin work on group project.

Week 12:

November 7 & 9

Class 1: Read Markel Chapter 6 before class. Discuss the basics of research as it relates to proposal writing.


Class 2: Workshop group project

Week 13:

November 14 & 16

Week 14:

November 21 & 23

Thanksgiving Break, no classes.

Week 15:

November 28 & 30

Class 1: Combined workshop

Class 2: Group project presentations. FINAL FORMAL RESEARCH PROPOSAL DUE BY MIDNIGHT.

Week 16:

December 5 & 7

Class 1: Review class and discuss final portfolio project.

Class 2: Workshop final portfolio.

Final Exam Day:

Thursday, December 14, 4:00 - 6:30 PM

Portfolio projects are due by end of final exam time.


Our course readings will include the following:

Markel, M. (2015).Technical Communication, 11th ed. New York: NY. Bedford St. Martin's.


Assignment 1 (10 points)

Multicultural Audience Analysis Memo

The purpose of this project is to develop a sensitivity to multicultural issues in a diverse environment. Over your working lifetime, you will almost certainly encounter multicultural situations in the workplace. Therefore, it is critically important that you become familiar with the basics of multiculturalism as it relates to technical communication.

For this project, you will be comparing two websites of your choice. The first website that you examine should be a site designed to market a product (or products) to a US market. The second site that you examine should be the foreign counterpart to the first. So, for example, you could examine a Honda site designed for US audiences, then look at a Honda site designed for Japanese audiences. You will need to do a bit of research on the target culture that you choose in order to write an effective memo that explains why designers made the choices that they did. This project will not only expose you elements of multicultural communication, but also begin to show you how different elements of design function in technical communication.


You will turn in a 500-800 word memo that describes the profile of your audience and major differences between the sites that you choose. In your memo, you should:

  • Introduce the product and briefly describe the purpose of the web pages (advertising, promotion, to forward a political or religious agenda, etc.)
  • Analyze and describe the audience for each of the pages you examine
  • Analyze and describe one or two major differences (or similarities) in the sites you examine and explain how those aspects you describe motivate an audience to action

You should include information gathered during any interview with a member of the target culture and any written resources (the class textbook, web sites, etc.). Don't forget to provide the site URL's and citations! Cite any references in a "References" section on your memo using APA style citations.

Assignment 2 (10 points)

Job Letter and Résumé Assignment

You will submit a job letter and a résumé for a job for which you can realistically apply. Ideally, this should be something along the lines of your intended career plans (internships are acceptable too). You should look at this as an opportunity to start preparing actual job materials. Think of the class assignment as a way to research and design your letter and résumé in an environment where you can receive feedback before actually submitting it to the potential employer. Job Letters and résumés are marketing tools. It is your opportunity to sell yourself professionally, in writing.

Deliverable (Please submit all elements as a single file)

  • A one-page reflective memo: Summarize your process of researching the job, noting any surprises or difficulties you encountered (one paragraph). Summarize your analysis of your potential audience for your letter and resumé (one paragraph). Much of this will come from the in-class worksheets. Describe your editing process (using insights gained from our peer-review session) and which of the course goals you feel you encountered in completing this assignment (one-two paragraphs).
  • A copy of the advertisement for the job
  • Your Self-Assessment
  • The Audience Analysis Sheet
  • Job Letter (one page)
  • Résumé (one page unless you have more than 10-years experience or are applying for an advanced job)

Assignment 3 (15 points)

Correspondence Assignment

Part 1: Presentation of complex information to non-experts

In class you will pick a topic from one of these informational page sets (or your instructor will assign you one):

1. World Hunger (World Food Programme)
2. Sustainable Agriculture (Foundation for Ecological Development)
3. Deforestation (National Resources Defence Council)

You will be assigned a specific audience and will need to determine what information is most important for that audience, and how to communicate it. Audiences (determined by your instructor) may include: High school students gathered in their auditorium; Middle school students gathered in their auditorium; Auburn University students gathered at an outdoor venue; Auburn citizens gathered at an outdoor concert series; Local businessmen/women gathered at a club (i.e. Rotary Club) setting; and others.

As you work, consider how the audience you have neccessitates a change of tone, ways to present the information, and more.

Part 2: Claim letter/solicitation letter 

The purpose of this assignment is to give you practice in writing ethically and rhetorically sound letters, in this case, written public comments that take the form of a claim or solicitation letter and response. The rhetorical approaches explored through the situation of claim and response are approaches likely to be useful to you outside of the classroom.

Keep in mind your audience and purpose when you establish the tone of your letters. While neither of the letters need be over 500 words in length, your design considerations should reflect not only your desire to complete the assignment, but appropriate, ethically sound communication strategies based on viable outside research, your understanding of the course goals, your reading of the textbook, and your understanding of in-class examples.

Deliverables (Please submit all elements as a single .pdf or .docx)

1. 500-1000 word reflective memo 

In your memo, you should:

  • Explain why you chose your particular problem and how you chose your decision-maker
  • Summarize your process of analyzing your audience and purpose for both the claim letter and response letter
  • Discuss the ethical dilemma(s) associated with each piece of correspondence-- who is affected in each situation, and how does your response take ethics into consideration? (Think back to our exploration of the Heinz dilemma in class.)
  • Discuss your use of logos, ethos, pathos, and kairos in each letter you write
  • Describe which of the course goals you feel you encountered in completing this assignment

2. Claim Letter (~500 words)

Choose a problem related to your earlier classroom discussion (hunger, agriculture, etc.) and write a public comment, in the form of a claim letter, which you could feasibly send to your Congressperson, or another suitable decision-maker. Make sure that you clearly introduce the problem, why it is important, and what you wish them to do as a result of your letter of claim.

You may find the following web sites to be of use:

United States House of Representatives: This will help you find information about your representative. is a search portal to the Federal Register which can help you identify topics of interest, find ongoing calls for public comment, and allow you access to previously submitted comments.

3. Response to Claim Letter (~500 words)

For the second part, write a response to your letter of claim as if you were the decision-maker to whom you wrote your first letter. Be realistic and detailed in your response, and make sure that you are actually responding to the content and tone of your first letter. You may choose to either agree or disagree with your original letter, but, either way, you should support your stance with outside research.

4. Peer review sheets 

Do not forget to submit the two peer review sheets we filled out in class along with your finished assignment! If you were not in class for the peer review, you are still responsible for these components.

In both of these letters you will need to draw upon valid outside source material. While your letter does not need a reference sheet attached, you still need to show your audience that you have done research and you need to provide them access to your source material. To do this, simply incorporate your citation into your sentences. For example, if I would like to claim that the construction of sand berms to stop the initial spread of oil from Deepwater Horizon was ineffective, I could write, "According to Stokstad's 2010 article, 'Politics buried science in Louisiana Sand Berms,' in the journal Science, money spent on the construction of sand berms to stop the spread of oil was wasted, as these measures ultimately proved inneffective."

Assignment 4 (10 points)

Instructions Assignment

Write a set of instructions for a simple, easily-conducted-in-the-classroom process. You may look at existing instruction sets online, but must, in the end, write your own instructions. You will usability test your instructions in the classroom before revising and submitting them.

The main purpose of this assignment is to give you practice in evaluating instructional writing, one of the kinds of technical communication you will do often in the workplace. Whether you work with office staff, technicians, managers, or executives, you will frequently be called on to write instructions. Some common occasions for instructional writing include writing specifications for technical activities, describing office procedures, preparing training manuals, and explaining how to perform operations on a computer system. An important aspect of instructional writing is the use of graphics and design: good instructions contain graphics and are designed to be easy to read and understand. Therefore, another important purpose of this assignment is to improve your skills in the visual dimension of technical communication.

Deliverable (Please submit all elements as a single file)

1. One Page Reflective Memo

  • Summarize your process of developing/researching/assembling your materials for your instructions (one paragraph).
  • Summarize who your audience analysis and purpose for your instructions (one paragraph).
  • Describe your process of testing the usability of your document (one paragraph).
  • Describe which of the course goals you feel you encountered in completing this assignment (one paragraph)

2. Printed Instructions Document

A complete instructions set will include:

  • An introduction, cautions, safety notices, etc.
  • A step-by-step description of the process
  • Graphics/photos where appropriate: Graphics for this assignment MAY NOT come from outside sources. Graphics for this assignment MUST be designed, drawn, photographed, or otherwise created BY YOU.

3. Usability Worksheets

This worksheet will be filled out in class the class period before the final draft is due. These will be turned in on the day the assignment is due in hardcopy (the rest of the assignment is to be submitted electronically as a SINGLE .pdf or .doc/.docx).

Assignment 5 (15 Points for the Proposal, 5 for the Progress Report, 10 for the Presentation)

Group Proposal Project, Progress Report, and Presentation

Proposal Project

Working as a group, write a proposal for a research project based either in your formal field of study, or in an academic area you are interested in exploring. The purpose of this research proposal is to solicit your reader (someone who has the power to help you) to permit you to carry out research and to provide resources for it. As with all technical communication, this will be much easier if your group first identifies the following: What problem do you want to solve/research?? Who is your reader? What are your criteria for suitable possible solutions? What research/investigative methods will you use to gather information about the problem?


1. A cover memo discussing your research and how your group dealt with the project

2. A formal research proposal including the following sections:

  • Title page
  • Executive summary
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Project Description
  • Qualifications
  • Budget
  • Timeline
  • Refences (APA)

Group Progress Report (5 points, group)

Your progress memo should be no more than one single-spaced page in length and follow the conventions outlined in your text. Keep in mind the following suggestions: Use an appropriate format for this informal report. This assignment calls for a memo format. Explain what has happened on the project and how these happenings will affect the overall project. Provide a clear and complete account of your activities and forecast the next stage of the project. Account for both the good and bad news. Report your progress honestly. Organize the progress memo using either a time pattern or a task pattern. In a conclusion, evaluate how the project is proceeding. If the news is good, convey your optimism but avoid overstatement. If the news is bad, don't panic. Just do your best to explain unanticipated problems and the status of the project.

Group Presentation 

Your group will give a 10 minute long presentation to the class covering all of the key components of your proposal project. The deliverable for this assignment is tha act of your presentation and the visual aids used to enhance your presentation. Your work will be assessed at the time of your presentation using an Oral Presentation Evaluation Form.

Final Portfolio (15 points)

Your final assignment in this class will be a writing portfolio that represents your understanding of workplace communication. Your portfolio will be submitted to me as a single pdf. The key components of this portfolio will be a holistic examination of your work in the class and what you have learned, your major assignments edited based on my comments and your increased understanding of the technical communication process, each assignment's original reflexive memo edited to show your increased understanding of the technical communication process and also detailing what changes you have made to the final project since you originally submitted it, and a reflection on the group assignment.

Keep in mind that the portfolio is a genre in and of itself, so while each assignment is important, the project as a whole is equally important. Your portfolio will be constructed as a SINGLE .pdf file with the file name: lastname_firstinitial_3040portfolio.


  • Title Page
  • Abstract (see textbook for description)
  • Table of contents
  • Two page holistic memo considering your work in relation to the course goals and what you have learned throughout the course
  • Individual reflection on Group Assignment: In a roughly 2-page memo, honestly and fairly assess the productivity of your team. Discuss your perceptions of the group dynamic and how your team worked together to produce a deliverable. You may approach this any way you like, but you may wish to consider: How you worked with others; How others worked with you; How leadership was assigned, appropriated, or negotiated between group members; If you felt that certain group members did more, or less, than their “fair share,” and how you have come to this conclusion (including how you designate “fair” in relation to work assignments, etc.); How your group managed time, both individually and collectively; and How group dynamics affected the quality of the deliverable. Reflect on how this experience will color your perceptions of, and effectiveness in, future group projects.
  • Each assignment and its reflexive memo edited to show your increased understanding of technical writing, our course goals, and how (and why) you have edited the project since you originally turned it in. A new heading "Edits for Portfolio" is one of the more effective ways to do this.

Your portfolios will be assessed against the standard rubric. As the audience for this document, I am looking for a presentation of your best work (all of your work edited to show your increased understanding of our course goals), accompanied by detailed reflections of each and every assignment, including an obvious section (for each memo) detailing what changes you made (if any) to each the documents prior to their presentation in this portfolio.

Quizzes, Homework, and Participation (10 Points)



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 in this class. All unexcused absences beyond 2 will result in a loss of 1 point from your final semester's point total for each absence.

The 2 absences that do not deduct points from your grade are not considered "allowed," "free," or "permitted"-- they only result in no points being deducted from your grade. Any quizzes or participation grades given on a day when you are absent without documentation will result in a grade of zero (0) for that quiz/participation assignment and may not be made up.

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

A student 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. The student 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 to me 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 we 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 to me, your instructor, or to your classmates, please ensure the subject line is formatted as: RE: ENGL 7030- [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 we can schedule missed work accordingly.