WRD 522: Writing in the Professions (Online), Spring 2017

Course Description

WRD 522 introduces concepts important to professional writing and provides opportunities for you to practice creating professional texts. We will spend much of our time crafting and revising persuasive documents—such as emails, memos, proposals, web-appropriate content, and reports—so that your own professional writing grows more rhetorically appropriate in its content, structure, style, and design. To build conceptual foundations and critical awareness that will make you a savvy writer across professional situations, we will also read and discuss classic and contemporary workplace writing research, and investigate the genres and practices associated with particular professions. WRD 522 is a fully online course: there will be twice-weekly deadlines for engaging in asynchronous discussions, as well as occasional videoconferences, scheduled according to student availability.

By the end of this course, you should be better prepared to:

  • Write in standard forms typically used in professional settings, including emails, memos, proposals, and reports.
  • Write with the plain style, brevity, ‘frontloaded’ organization, and visual design elements characteristic of professional documents.
  • Use the concepts and specialized language of workplace writing research to describe the importance and complexity of writing in workplaces and professions.
  • Effectively review the writing of your professional colleagues.


Beaufort, A. (1999). The institutional site of composing: Converging and overlapping discourse communities. In Writing in the real world: Making the transition from school to work (pp. 30–61). New York: Teachers College Press.

Brandt, D. (2015). The rise of writing: Redefining mass literacy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP.

Canavor, N. (2011). E-mail: Your everyday chance to build a professional image. In Business writing in the digital age (pp. 113-134). Los Angeles: Sage.

Faber, B. D. (2002). Narratives and organizational change: Stories from academe. In Community action and organizational change: Image, narrative, identity (pp. 69–107). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Federal Plain Language Guidelines. (2011, March). Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/guidelines/FederalPLGuidelines/TOC.cfm

Hart-Davidson, W. (2010). Content management: Beyond single-sourcing. In R. Spilka (Ed.), Digital literacy for technical communication: 21st century theory and practice (pp. 129–143). New York: Routledge.

Merriam, S.B. (2009). Conducting effective interviews. In Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation (4th ed.) (pp. 89-111). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Oliu, W.E., Brusaw, C.T., & Alred, G.J. (2013). Writing that works: Communicating effectively on the job (11th ed.). Boston/New York: Bedford.

Paré, Anthony (2002). “Genre and identity: Individuals, institutions, and ideology.” In R. Coe, L. Lingard, and T. Teslenko, The rhetoric and ideology of genre: Strategies for stability and change (pp. 57-71). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Pigg, S. (2014). Coordinating constant invention: Social media’s role in distributed work. Technical Communication Quarterly, 23(2), 69-87.

Schriver, K. (2012). What we know about expertise in professional communication. In V.W. Berninger, (Ed.), Past, present, and future contributions of cognitive writing research to cognitive psychology, (pp. 275-312). New York: Psychology Press.

Weber, R. (2013). Constrained agency in corporate social media policy. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 43(3), 289-315.


  1. Professional Writing Packet: To practice those conventions and forms generally understood to apply across professions, you will create a packet of texts written in typical professional forms, including the following: 1) a short (<3-page), informal report in memo format, 2) a process description or instructions, and, 3) two ‘bad’ emails, analyzed and revised. Items 1 and 2 will be created in response to scenarios that you design, and should be accompanied by scenario descriptions.
  2. Online Discussions: Online discussion is a vital component of the course. The discussions provide opportunities to process the readings, advance your understanding of ideas in discussion with others, and demonstrate to me that you’re meeting course objectives. We will have seven discussions over the term: six to discuss course readings and one to discuss your interviews and final project ideas.
  3. Remediation of a Long Report: Because so much professional writing today is circulated via the web, this project asks you to practice the particular writing strategies used to synthesize and highlight ideas that are embedded in long (and often unread) reports. You will identify a long report in your academic or professional field, read it closely to distill its key points, and transform it into a graphically designed fact sheet or a post on the online platform Medium. The aim is to synthesize the important ideas into a format that is more likely to be read and/or circulated by key audiences.
  4. Report on Writing in a Workplace or Profession: To better understand how the theoretical concepts that we’ve learned apply in the real world, you will conduct your own study of workplace or professional writing. You will gather approximately 60 minutes of interview data from a workplace writer or writers and collect at least three samples of workplace writing, which together help you to explore a research question of your choice. This research question should be of interest to a specific professional audience, for whom you will prepare a 4000-word preliminary recommendation report that summarizes your research and its implications.