policies ENGL202 Business Writing
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310 Tillinghast Hall
Bridgewater State University
Spring 2018 Office Hours:
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The question you might be asking yourself is the question I am also asking: what is business communication anyway? When I hear the title “Business Writing” I think of Don Draper on Madmen rushing out of his office to tell his secretary to take a letter. I think of corporate America, of Big Business. Capital B. Capital B. A great deal has changed since the age of Don Draper’s scotch and his memos and business letters that started “Dear Sirs.” Part of the reason for this is the changing face of the workplace in the United States. Dear Sirs just doesn’t cut it anymore. And the audience has changed. The general public is more jaded or more savvy depending on how you view it. There’s too much water under the bridge for the public to accept at face value any text that comes their way. Also, as much as it seems like a cliché, technology has changed everything. Ten years ago, you didn’t have to have website if you were a company. Now you do. Five years ago, nobody knew what it meant to be on Linkedin. Or, wait for it, Pinterest. And professional writing happens in places other than corporate offices as well. Not for profits. Start ups. Small business. Local and federal government. Everybody is writing material for readers these days because there is just so much access to it—people (readers) feel like there should always be information available to them.
When it comes down to it, the skills you’d learn in any class where you are asked to write or work in a group on a project or to revise or to publish will teach you the basic critical writing and thinking (and reading) skills necessary to write in a workplace (the writing classes of the Core, for instance). What a professional writing class lets you do is practice the kinds of genre that you’d write in a non-academic setting—genre that will seem pretty foreign to you. It will also ask you to work at a pace and in a configuration (ie group work) that is more like a workplace environment than a classroom environment. Most of all, I hope that what we will do in this class will show you how writing in the world matters. Because it does.
Thus, a professional writing class—and that is the term I prefer to use, over business communication or business writing—is a kind of transition course. It uses the skills you’ve been learning in the Core and it moves it into the setting where you’ll spend the next part of your life. In that way, I think it could be one of the most useful writing classes you could be in.
By the end of this course you will be able to:
- Identify various genre of professional writing.
- Identify the particular characteristics of different genre within professional writing.
- Demonstrate some skill in writing within these genre through the development of portfolio of professional writing samples.
- Understand the kinds of work-place writing practices, including collaboration, that produce professional writing.
I am trying to make this course a low-cost/no-cost course. I'm using materials readily accessible through Open Educational Resources--or OER. You can access this material here. For specifics on what is due when, consult the syllabus.
NOTE: I've never done this before, not had a specific book that you had to pay for. But the text books for classes like this are crazy expensive. I'm trying to do this to save you money, but I'm still sort of figuring this out. Which might mean I tinker with the syllabus or mess up. So I'm asking you to be a little patient with me. And I'm also asking you to actually do the reading. Because it will really suck if people think because there isn't an actual book that they don't really have to read.
Attendance & Participation. Attendance is expected for every class. Because this is a night class, each class meeting is, essentially, the equivalent of a full week of class during a 15 week semester. The attendance policy reflects that. More than two absences, or two full weeks of class, will lower your grade. Missing four—or the equivalent of a full month of class--or more will mean you fail the class. If you anticipate missing class for legitimate reasons, please contact me.
Work is due the day it is due as listed on the syllabus. Absence is not an excuse for late work. If you know you will not be able to be in class on a certain day that work is due, turn the work in before, not after, the deadline.
There is an additional expectation that you will come to class prepared to do the thinking, writing, and discussion work. If it becomes clear to me that you are not doing the required work, I will bring it to your attention. If your participation does not improve, it will seriously and adversely affect your final grade.
Finally, excessive late arrivals will accumulate to equal at least one absence--more than ten minutes more than three times per semester. If you are coming from a great distance and anticipate routinely being late, please talk to me so we c an work something out.
Informal In-class Writing. We will write in class everyday. I will collect it and comment on it, but it is only your thoughtfulness that will matter for informal writing. This is evidence of your attendance and your readiness to participate in class.
Top Five Documents. For every reading assignment this summer you will write a Top Five reader response. As you might guess, as the title of the assignment would indicate, you need to identify the top five ideas that you think any reader should take away from the material. Please note that there are very specific requirements for these documents. You need to adhere to those requirements in order for your work to count as acceptable, and you will need a certain number of acceptable documents per semester in order to earn a strong grade. Complete details are available here on the “Top Five Documents” page.
Formal Writing. You will have a large number of small, formal pieces of writing rather than the other way around. This is an introductory course, and it should introduce you to the wide, wide range of kinds of writing that come under the heading of professional writing. Each Assignment is described briefly here and in more detail is available by clicking on the title of the assignment and/or via the drop down menu for this course on the website.
Resume & Cover Letter. The most basic and perhaps the most essential pieces of professional writing. Producing a Resume & Cover Letter will introduce you to the writing and design involved in Professional Writing. It will serve as a document to mark your progress this summer. Finally, it will hopefully serve you beyond this class.
New Writing Minor Campaign. Last fall, the English department launched a new minor, separate from the Literary Studies Minor, that focuses on writing or the study of writing. Our task is to develop promotional materials to appeal to different populations on our own campus beyond the English Major to draw them into the new minor.
Personal Website. You will learn Weebly and sign up for you own personal web page. You’ll design a page that serves a professional and/or personal use you determine for it. You’ll learn the software, collect and write the material to go on it, and launch it. This is connected to your resume & cover letter assignment as well.
Grant Writing. You will work in a small team to write to a Call for Proposals (COP). You’ll need to demonstrate an understanding of proposal writing and put into practice what we’ve been learning about research and audience as it pertains to Professional Writing.
How To/Why for Pecha Kucha. Pecha Kucha is a unique use of Powerpoint software to make short, narrated presentations that does not require the speaker to be present. You will work in teams of two to produce a "how to" or a "why for" presentation. We'll work in class to determine a best topic and each team will give it their best Powerpoint shot.
Final Campaign. The final assignment for the semester is to meet with a local business or not-for-profit and develop the materials you think will meet the needs of the client. This final project will bring together all of your thinking and developing expertise from the semester.
Portfolios. This class will use a portfolio system of evaluation. Portfolios are the way writers and artists collect work, and it is a very effective way of evaluating student writing. You will have a midterm and a final portfolio. Complete details are available for both on the Portfolios page for this class.
You will not receive letter grades on individual drafts and assignments in this class. This will make some of you nuts. It allows me the chance to give you credit for the things that grading individual papers will not let you do: this system, a portfolio system, allows me to count effort and revision and improvement. It allows me to consider your performance in class on a class-to-class basis. It will allow me to consider how your work improves over time, your contributions to group work, your effort on informal writing (like the top five documents), as well as your performance on the more high stakes assignments. I think a system like that is particularly beneficial in a course like this because writing like this will be a new experience for many of you. A system like this makes room for you to develop as a writer—it makes room for failures and eventual successes.
Even though you will not be getting letter grades on everything you turn in, you will receive extensive comments on your writing that should both give you a sense of the quality of your work as well as a way to begin to revise and improve your writing.
Top Five Documents must meet the requirements outlined in the assignment in order to receive an "acceptable." See the assignment for details on the requirements by clicking here. You must earn a certain number of "acceptable" Top Fives in order to receive full credit and a strong grade for that part of the class.
Formal writing will receive a draft letter that outlines what is successful in the document and what still needs work. You'll use that information to help you revised, when required, for the midterm or final portfolio. I will discuss samples of this feedback in class before the first formal assignment is due. If you want to read actual sample letters written to actual past students--names changed--click here.
At the midterm and at the end of the semester, you will turn in a portfolio of revised work and a cover letter reflecting on your progress and learning so far. You will receive a "grade-so-far" letter and a "final grade" letter respectively. That letter will outline your entire performance in the class: Top Five Documents, class performance, work on formal assignments, performance in groups, any revision required of you, and how you write about that reflection in the portfolio cover letter. These two letter grades will be based on the following criteria:
- Meeting all of the requirements described above;
- The quality of your written work, including how successful your revision work is;
- The quality of your effort in the class, in workshops, in class discussion, in your groups, in conferences, and in general;
- Your demonstration of a willingness to try new things, think in new ways, and explore different perspectives as both a reader and a writer.
You can read samples of these grade letters (actual students, names changed) here. From my comments you should have a clear understanding of your progress in this class; if there is ever a time where you are not sure, come see me. If I have some worry that you are both not doing well in the course and do not seem to know that you are not doing well, I will make sure to tell you what your situation in the class is in time for you to do something about it.
Breakdown of assessment percentages. Different assignments require different amounts of effort. The percentages that accompany each of the requirements in this class should give you an indication of the time and energy that each should take up in your student life.
Top Five Documents 15%
Resume & Cover Letter 10%
Minor Campaign material 10%
Personal Website 10%
Midterm Portfolio 15%
Pecha Kucha 10%
Final Campaign & Final Portfolio 20%
Plagiarism. Plagiarism is taking other peoples words and ideas and claiming them for your own without giving the people who did the writing and the thinking the credit they have earned. It is dishonest and unethical. If you are caught plagiarizing in this class, you will fail that project without possibility of making it up; you’ll be sent before the disciplinary board of the college, and you will fail the class.
Students with learning disabilities. Students who need special accommodations due to a documented learning disability must come to see me with written documentation of the specific disability and suggested accommodations. We can discuss specific accommodations at that time.
Electronics Policy. I don't like competing with your phone for your attention. If we are using our computers, please use them for what we are supposed to be using them for--and you are welcome to use them for in-class writings; it will be necessary to use them for a great deal of the work we do in our class. You don't need to turn your phone off, but, should you get a call, be thoughtful about whether or not you should really answer it. Also, no texting in class. The first time I catch you using technology inappropriately, I will make fun of you. The second time I catch you, I'll count it as an absence.
The Writing Studio. Located in the Academic Achievement Center, on the bottom floor of the Library, the Writing Studio is available to any and all students at whatever level of expertise you might be at.
Other Resources on Campus. There are a wide variety of services available on our campus that you might want to know about but also might just be too inundated with information to remember you have access to, so I'm including links to a variety of places on campus that I think you might want to know about. First and foremost is probably the counseling center and the wellness center. Other places you can go if you want to connect with folks: the Center for Multicultural Affairs, the Pride Center, the campus food bank, and Commuter Services. Making a connection to this campus is the number one way you'll get from day one to graduation.