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Professional & Technical Communication

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Title Page

The title page provides the audience with the:

  • Name of the report

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Introduction

The body of a formal report begins with an introduction. The introduction sets the stage for the report, clarifies what need(s) motivated it, and orients the reader to its structure.

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Conclusions and Recommendations

The conclusions and recommendations section conveys the key results from the analysis in the discussion of findings section. Up to this point, readers have carefully reviewed the data in the report; they are now logically prepared to read the report’s conclusions and recommendations.

Memos

A memo (or memorandum, meaning “reminder”) is normally used for communicating policies, procedures, or related official business within an organization. It is often written from a one-to-all perspective (like mass communication), broadcasting a message to an audience, rather than a one-on-one, interpersonal communication. It may also be used to update a team on activities for a given project, or to inform a specific group within a company of an event, action, or observance.

Functions and Audience

Short for “memorandum,” a memo is a type of document used to communicate with others in the same organization.  Memos (or memoranda) are typically used for fairly short messages of one page or less, but informal reports of several pages may also employ memo format.

Format

Memos are distinguished by a header that includes DATE, TO, FROM, and SUBJECT lines.  Other lines, such as CC or BCC, may be added as needed.  An RE (“Reference”) line may be used instead of SUBJECT, but this use is becoming rarer as “RE” is often mistaken as “Reply” because of its use in email.

You don’t hear things that are bad about your company unless you ask. It is easy to hear good tidings, but you have to scratch to get the bad news.-Thomas J. Watson Sr.

One day, today, is worth two tomorrows.-Anonymous

Getting Started

Introductory Exercises

  1. Write a brief description of an experience when someone shared negative news with you in person or in writing. How was it presented? How was it delivered? How did it make you feel? After all this time, how do you still feel about it? Share your response and compare with classmates.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the importance of feedback, even if it is negative.
  2. Describe and demonstrate the effective use of open- and closed-ended questions.

How do you know when you are doing a good job? How do you know when, where, and how you could do a better job? What makes the difference between business or organization that is stagnant and one that is dynamic? Often the response to all these questions involves one key, but often overlooked, company resource: feedback. Feedback is the verbal and/or nonverbal response to a message, and that message may involve a company product or service.

Learning Objective

  • Understand how to prepare a crisis communication plan.

A rumor that the CEO is ill pulls down the stock price. A plant explosion kills several workers and requires evacuating residents on several surrounding city blocks. Risk management seeks to address these many risks, including prevention as well as liability, but emergency and crisis situations happen nevertheless. In addition, people make errors in judgment that can damage the public perception of a company.

  1. List and discuss seven goals of a negative news message.
  2. Write an effective negative news message.

The negative news message delivers news that the audience does not want to hear, read, or receive. Delivering negative news is never easy. Whether you are informing someone they are being laid off or providing constructive criticism on their job performance, how you choose to deliver the message can influence its response. Some people prefer their bad news to be direct and concise. Others may prefer a less direct approach.

Learning Objectives

  1. Discuss the purpose of a press conference.
  2. Discuss how to prepare and conduct a press conference.

Holding a press conference when you are unprepared can feel like standing in front of a firing squad, where all the journalists are armed so no one will carry the guilt of the winning shot. It can make you nervous, scared, and reluctant to speak at all. It can take your fear of a misquote, or a stumble, or a misstatement replayed across the Internet thousands of times in the next twenty-four hours and make you wish for a blindfold and a cigarette, but that won’t help.

A sales message is the central persuasive message that intrigues, informs, persuades, calls to action, and closes the sale. Not every sales message will make a direct sale, but the goal remains. Whether your sales message is embedded in a letter, represented in a proposal, or broadcast across radio or television, the purpose stays the same.

Sales messages are often discussed in terms of reason versus emotion. Every message has elements of ethos, or credibility; pathos, or passion and enthusiasm; and logos, or logic and reason.

Instruction Manuals

Many people associate instruction manuals with appliances, computer accessories, and products that require assembly (e.g., furniture). Because we don’t find ourselves using them regularly or we come to expect them only in certain contexts, it is easy to forget how important they are. The quality of a well-designed instruction manual may go unnoticed. Yet, when we encounter frustration with putting together a bookshelf or toy, or with trying to figure out how to change or activate a particular appliance setting, the significance of a well-designed instruction manual becomes clear.

"How is this done? How can I do this?"-- These questions guide authors as they describe processes. Learn how to write instructions and processes so that readers know how to do something or understand how something is done. By viewing sample process texts, note the focus on the objective voice, numbered steps, visual rhetoric, and clever animations or video. Write a descriptive or prescriptive process report.

There are three types of process texts:

  1. Descriptive processes answer "How is this done?" These texts describe how a process occurs so that readers can understand it better.
  2. Prescriptive processes are instructions; they explain "How can I do this?" In other words, they prescribe how something should be done so that readers can do it.

Course Description

This course offers an introduction to the techniques and types of professional writing, including correspondence and reports. It is designed to help strengthen skills of effective business and professional communication in both oral and written modes. After successful completion of this course, students will have the skills necessary to communicate effectively in a variety of professional situations.

Each project in the course is paired with a selection of readings and resources in order to provide the information necessary to complete the tasks required in each project.

How do we become experts? I will ask you to draft and revise a critical review to an article about expertise by Daniel Coyle. You will draw on your selected area of expertise to respond to Coyle's arguments. Specifically, we will focus on how to:

Note from Writing Commons: Below we have included helpful content links related to each major section of Project 1. You can also navigate suggested content using the tabs on the right.

What does expertise look like? How do we define it? I will ask you to select a visual image depicting your selected area of expertise and then explicate that image in order to make an argument about what expertise looks like and how it can be defined. Specifically, we will continue to work with the elements we learned in Project 1, as well as build on them by focusing on how to:

Note from Writing Commons: Below we have included helpful content links related to each major section of Project 1. You can also navigate suggested content using the tabs on the right.

What can we learn about expertise in a particular area? What does it take to succeed? I will ask you to research a particular example of expert achievement in your selected area and, drawing on multiple resources, make an argument about expertise. Specifically, we will continue to work with the elements we learned in Projects 1 and 2, as well as build on them by focusing on how to: 

Note from Writing Commons: Below we have included helpful content links related to each major section of Project 1. You can also navigate suggested content using the tabs on the right.

What do you think people need to know about expertise in your selected area? In this fourth and final unit, we will turn to a more public form of writing as I ask you to write an op-ed (opposite the editorial page) about your selected area of expertise for a publication of your choosing (you do not actually have to submit it to that publication). We'll also be working together to collaboratively crowdsource a bibliography of potential resources. Specifically, we will continue to work with the elements we learned in Projects 1,2, and 3, as well as build on them by focusing on how to:

Note from Writing Commons: Below we have included helpful content links related to each major section of Project 1. You can also navigate suggested content using the tabs on the right.

Focus, Organization, Evidence, Style, and Format: these are important rhetorical and contextual concerns for academic writers.  Without attending to these matters, writers cannot successfully communicate.  When teachers respond to student writing, they often address these concerns.  Likewise, when students conduct peer reviews, they also address these concerns in their feedback. In addition to its document markup capabilities, common comments, and endnote features, My Reviewers enables users to comment on student texts with these five review criteria in mind: Focus, Organization, Evidence, Style, and Format. It also provides articles, videos, and sample marked up texts to help students understand how these criteria are used to evaluate texts. Presently, instructors may choose between two rubrics:

Why Use Common Comments?

For Peer Reviews: Provide helpful critiques by pasting the Common Comments (see navigation bar to your right) on your peer's drafts.

For Teacher Feedback: Paste these helpful comments on students' papers, and they can follow the hyperlinks to learn more about your comments and even take quizzes to help them better understand core concepts.