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. You may notice that some readings are paired with more than one project—in this way, each project can be approached as a self-contained unit. However, the projects are also designed to complement each other, and approaching the course as a whole exposes students to a variety of business and professional writing situations.

After completing this course, students will have gained exposure to the following genres of business and professional writing:

  • Email
  • Business Letter (Positive News Letter, Negative News Letter, Fundraising Letter, Cover Letter)
  • Memo
  • Proposal
  • Press Release
  • Promotional Video
  • Presentation
  • Résumé
  • Report (Progress Report, Informative Report, Recommendation Report, Business Plan)

Additionally, students will gain valuable experience with research, reading and analyzing popular press business articles, issues in business ethics, and working with teams.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Analyze written and verbal communications and evaluate their usefulness, relevance, rhetorical components, and stylistic elements
  • Think critically about rhetorical choices and audience awareness
  • Compose effective and persuasive written, visual, and oral texts for diverse audiences
  • Recognize and implement the qualities associated with effective business writing, particularly the hallmarks of correctness, conciseness, coherence, and clarity
  • Design visually attractive documents with informative and eye-catching visual elements
  • Use technology to effectively present your messages
  • Conduct research using a broad range of sources, synthesizing and judging the quality of collected information
  • Communicate ethically
  • Write in a variety of workplace genres including resumes, letters, emails, memos, white papers, and reports
  • Collaborate effectively with peers 

Introductory Readings and Resources

Projects

Project 1: Letter Writing Project

To complete this project, students will write a positive letter, a negative letter, and a fundraising letter.

Context for Project

Learning to write an effective business letter is a skill that you will likely use many times. Business letters serve a number of purposes: you might write a business letter in order to request some information from a company or organization or in an attempt to raise funds for a particular project or organization. Business letters are also used to apply for jobs, as you’ll see when writing a cover letter for the Employment Project below, and to resign from a position. Additionally, business letters can be used to deliver positive news, such as appreciation for excellent service or an offer of employment, or negative news, such as a complaint about unsatisfactory service or a letter of termination.

Readings and Resources

Deliverables: Overview

  • Positive News Letter
  • Negative News Letter
  • Fundraising Letter

Deliverables: Specifications

Positive Letter

Now that you have learned about the characteristics of business letters, it’s time to practice writing a business letter that delivers positive news. You will write a positive business letter that follows the conventions of a business letter and addresses one of the following scenarios:

  1. Write a letter to a company that expresses your appreciation for consistent quality, either in service, product, or both. Be sure to provide specific information about your positive experiences.
  2. You are the dean of a college within a large university, and you have just learned that your budget has been raised by 20% for the next school year. This budget increase not only means that you can purchase some additional supplies, but that you can also give each staff member in the department a 2% raise. Write a letter that informs your staff of the budget increase, identifies the new supplies you will purchase, and explains the details of the pay raises.
  3. You are the CEO of Fortune 500 company, and after interviewing a number of qualified candidates, you have decided to extend one of the applicants an offer of employment for the position of Vice President of Sales. Write the applicant a letter that delivers the good news and clearly details the offer of employment, including information about salary, benefits, expected start date, and the deadline for acceptance.

Negative Letter

After completing the readings above, you should be familiar with some common scenarios in which a negative news letter may be necessary. You will write a negative news letter that addresses one of the following scenarios:

  1. You are the manager of a company, and you have noticed that once of your employees has been arriving to work 20 minutes late every day for the past two weeks. You have made an appointment to speak with the employee, but it is also company policy that you write a letter to the employee that identifies the infraction, explains the action necessary to correct the problem, and explains the consequences for not addressing the issue.
  2. Identify a company with which you had an unsatisfying experience as a consumer. Write a letter to the company that expresses your dissatisfaction, provides a detailed account of your experience, and suggests a possible solution for the problem.
  3. As the human resources manager for a large company, you are tasked with informing 250 of the company’s 700 employees that they are being laid off. Write a letter that clearly explains the situation to the employees but that also maintains trust and respect for the company.

Fundraising Letter

A fundraising letter is very similar to a sales message—the main difference between the two is that a sales message is intended to sell a product or service, while a fundraising letter is intended to sell the feeling of goodwill that comes from philanthropy. Identify a non-profit organization that upholds a mission you support, and write a fundraising letter that is designed to inspire people to support this organization by donating either money or items that can be resold or reused.Project 2: Rhetorical Analysis of a Popular Press Business Article

To complete this project, students will complete a rhetorical analysis of a contemporary, popular press business article. Students will submit their findings in memo format.

Context for Project

While it is certainly important to be able to read a document and determine what is being said directly, it is also important to develop the skills necessary to look deeper at a piece of writing in order to determine how persuasion and rhetoric are being used in order to craft a particular message. Training yourself to think about the author, his or her intended audience, and the way in which he or she uses the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos to deliver an intended message will enable you to better understand and critically examine a wider variety of texts.

Readings and Resources

Deliverables: Overview

  • Rhetorical Analysis

Deliverables: Specifications

Your goal for this project is to select, critically read, and analyze and business article from a popular press source that was published in the last 5 years. You will write a 1-2 page memo that presents a rhetorical analysis of your chosen article. Not only is it important to discuss the author’s use of rhetorical appeals, you must also identify the author’s intended audience and intended message, commenting on the success or failure of the author’s use of persuasion and rhetoric in achieving his or her desired result. In other words: Does the author successfully convince his or her intended audience of the message he or she is trying to convey? If so, how? If not, what went wrong?

Sources that you might use for this project include, but are not limited to:

*Please note that each of the above listed publications contain articles on a variety of topics. Please choose an article that is, in some way, related to the field of business.

Project 3: Employment Project

To complete this project, students will engage in a job search, conduct company research, and produce a targeted resume and cover letter.

Context for Project

In today’s extremely competitive job market, it is important for each of you to develop the skills necessary to produce quality resumes and cover letters. Each of these documents serve different purposes: the resume should provide an overview of your qualifications, while your cover letter should provide more detailed information.

This project requires you to select a job (or internship) ad for which you are currently qualified. After you have received instructor approval on your job ad, you will complete a resume and a cover letter that are targeted to the job ad you have selected.

Readings and Resources

Deliverables: Overview

  • Résumé
  • Cover Letter

Cover Letter

You will write a cover letter that is specifically targeted to the job ad you have chosen. The cover letter should be written in the form of a traditional business letter, and you will use the job ad as well as external research about the organization to write the letter. Your cover letter should contain key words from the job ad and organizational materials while highlighting your most unique qualifications for this particular position.

Résumé

Like the cover letter, your résumé will also be targeted specifically to the job ad you have chosen. Your résumé should adhere to content, organization, and design specifications. Rather than functioning as a comprehensive list of everything you have ever done, the résumé should focus on the skills that are most relevant for this particular position.

Project 4: Formal Report

To complete this project, students will work in groups of 3-4 to produce a business plan, a website redesign, a client deliverable, an informative report, or a recommendation report. Each option requires students to conduct research, create original materials, write progress reports, write a formal report, and to create a presentation.

Context for Project

The project options below are designed to provide students with the opportunity to develop original materials while also allowing students to continue to develop their professional writing skills. Formal reports can serve a number of purposes but, in most cases, are designed to provide information to decision-makers. As a result, it is important to learn to design these documents in order to enable busy readers to quickly locate relevant information. While each option below is slightly different, they all require similar skills.

  • Option 1: The Business Plan is designed for students who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs or managers. This project option allows the student to develop a business concept and create a related business plan, while also developing associated promotional materials.
  • Option 2: The Website Redesign is intended for students with an interest and aptitude for technology. This project allows students to identify an existing website that is in need of revamping and asks students to redesign the site. In addition, students are asked to create a series of documentation addressing the redesign, including a project proposal, a progress report, and a final report.
  • Option 3: The Client Deliverable is designed for students interested in producing professional documents for a real client. The documentation might include the development of an electronic resource, creation of promotional materials, such as brochures or pamphlets, or the development of an instruction manual, just to name a few. This project allows students to create an actual product for the client while also asking them to produce a series of documentation surrounding the project, including a proposal, a progress report, and a final report.
  • Option 4: The Local Informative or Recommendation Report is designed for students who are interested in solving problems. This project option asks students to identify an issue that concerns a local organization. After researching the problem, students will complete the process of writing either an informative report, which should be used in cases in which the organization is unaware of the problem, or a recommendation report, which should be used in cases in which the organization is aware of the problem but is unsure of how to solve it. As with the other project options, this option asks students to create a series of documentation, including a proposal, progress report, and final report.

Readings and Resources

For all project options:

For all project options: Presentations

Project Specific:

Option 1:

Deliverables: Overview

Option 1: Business Plan

  • Company concept and logo
  • Website home page
  • News Release
  • PR Piece
  • Promotional video
  • Business plan
  • <>Presentation

Option 2: Website Redesign

  • Proposa
  • Recommendation Report
  • Progress Report
  • Final Report
  • Presentation

Option 3: Client Deliverable

  • Proposal
  • Progress Report
  • Client Deliverable
  • Final Report
  • Presentation

Option 4: Local Informative or Recommendation Report

  • Progress Report
  • Final Report
  • Presentation

Deliverables: Specifications

  • Option 1: Business Plan: Create a company and develop a logo, website home page, news release, PR piece, promotional video, and a business plan (including executive summary, product or service development, management team, market and competition information, marketing and sales information, and additional deliverables such as brochures, videos, podcasts, and slideshows). Be sure to use a combination of text and images when producing your materials. You will conclude this project by developing a presentation that introduces your company to the class.
  • Option 2: Website Redesign: Identify a company with an existing website that needs improvement. You’ll begin by developing a proposal for your project. Once your proposal is approved, you will develop a recommendation report for the client that provides several possible approaches for redesigning the website and recommends the solution that appears the most feasible.  Next, you will complete the website redesign and prepare a final report for the client that explains the changes and provides any necessary information regarding maintenance or use of the site. Be sure to use a combination of text and images when producing your materials. You will conclude this project by developing a presentation that introduces your website redesign to the class.
  • Option 3: Client Deliverable Project: Identify a client that has a need for a professionally written deliverable. Your client may be located within the university or in the surrounding community. After conducting research on both the client and the writing project, develop a proposal for the client that will outline your development process for the client. Once the client has approved your proposal, you will develop the deliverable for the client, along with a short report to be submitted to the client along with the deliverable. The report should explain the development process while also providing the client with any necessary information related to the use or maintenance of the deliverable. Be sure to use a combination of text and images in your materials. You will conclude this project by preparing a presentation that will introduce your deliverable to the class.
  • Option 4: Local Informative or Recommendation Report: Choose a local organization (community, campus, or local business) and identify a topic area for either an informative or a recommendation report. The topic you choose should be centered on a specific problem, and the report you develop should help the organization solve the problem you have identified. For this project, you will prepare a proposal, a progress report, and a final informative or recommendation report. Be sure to include a combination of text and images in your materials. You will conclude this project by preparing a presentation that summarizes your report for the class.