Professional Writing Syllabus*, Spring 2021

Professional Writing is a three-hour undergraduate writing course on business writing. Professional Writing
  • aims to help students improve your ability to communicate effectively in workplace contexts.
  • introduces the techniques and types of professional writing, including correspondence and reports.
  • help strengthen skills of effective business and professional communication in both oral and written modes. This is a 3-credit hour course.
Spring 2021’s version of Professional writing
  • uses asynchronous teaching methods over a 15-week semester. Students work through three learning modules, including numerous minor and major assignments. The assignment sequence follows a reiterative process, with students working through revisions of documents over a twelve-week period.
  • explores the interrelationships between composition, rhetoric, and entrepreneurship.
For a week-by-week review of required readings and assignments, see Schedule for Professional Writing, Spring 2021.

Dear Students,

Now that so much of life has moved online, strong communication skills, particularly digital literacies, are even more important in the digital workplace.

[ Why Does Literacy Matter? | NCAE Report on Career Readiness ]

My goal as your instructor is to help you develop your cognitive, intrapersonal competencies, and interpersonal competencies so that you can accomplish your professional goals. Additionally, this semester I’ve embraced the theme of rhetoric and entrepreneurship to frame our work product. My hope with this revision is to produce a more engaging course for students with business-related majors.

Office hours are online and by appointment. I’m typically online in the afternoons, Monday through Friday, from 1 to 5. When working, I’ll keep logged on to my university email account as well as Teams. Note I won’t be staring at those apps so you may need to give me a loud shout out on a chat channel at Teams. Or, shoot me and email with a proposed time. In your note to me, please let me know what your question is. We can connect via phone, Zoom, Teams.

Course Goals

Students completing this course will develop the following skills and abilities:

  • Rhetorical strategies for writing in the workplace
  • Genres and conventions of technical and professional communication 
  • Collaborative writing and project management
  • Document design and writing technologies
  • Ethics, accessibility, and inclusion in the workplace.

Student Learning Outcomes

By completing course readings and assignments, students will obtain

  • Rhetorical Knowledge
    • Analyze and write in a specific rhetorical context defined by purpose and audience
    • Analyze professional cultures, social contexts, and audiences to determine how they shape the various purposes and forms of writing, such as persuasion, organizational communication, and public discourse.
  • Design Knowledge
    • Learn to argue with visual data, understanding and implementing various principles of format, layout, and design of documents that meet multiple user/reader needs.
  • Genre Knowledge
    • Learn and practice writing in various genres of professional discourse like the memo, infographic, letter, technical reports, proposals, and descriptions, etc.
  • Process Knowledge
    • Develop and understand strategies for planning, researching, drafting, and revising documents.
      • Collaboration
        • Learn and apply strategies for successful collaboration, such as working and communicating online with colleagues, setting and achieving project goals, and responding constructively to peers’ work.
  • Style Knowledge

Required Texts/Course Materials

Please see the schedule to access assigned readings (e.g., websites, articles, podcasts, videos, and tools. All required resources are available for free online. You are neither required nor encouraged to purchase any software for this course. Rather, you can rely on freemium models, open-source tools, or tools your school provides.

As you know, the Web is a dynamic place: urls come and go. If you come across a broken link that is assigned or recommended below, please be a good citizen: report the error using the webform at the bottom of this page.

Technology and Media

At a minimum, you’ll need

  • your university email and Canvas account
    • Use Canvas, the course Learning Management System (LMS) to view course assignments, upload assignments, contribute to discussion posts, and communicate with the instructor. Your questions regarding Canvas should be directed to USF’s IT department at (813) 974-1222 or
  • access to the internet via a laptop or desktop
  • Office 365 and Microsoft Teams. For help understanding how to use Teams, see Microsoft Teams video training. Your questions regarding Teams should be directed to USF’s IT department at (813) 974-1222 or

Course Design

This version of Professional Writing is delivered asynchronously. Here, the term asynchronous refers to how we meet in order to engage in conversation, learning, and critical thinking.

  • Asynchronous Communication (aka Asynchronous Learning) is when people use tools like email, social media, wikis, blogs to engage in conversation, teaching, and learning. When people use asynchronous channels of communication, they do not meet concurrently.
  • Synchronous Communication (aka Synchronous Learning) occurs when people communicate with others at the same time. Examples of Synchronous Communication would be face-to-face meetings on video chats.

Please note that a course based on asynchronous communication is not equivalent to a correspondence course where you complete all of your assignments individually and at your own pace. Instead, Professional Writing is an interactive course. It requires multiple interactions on your part with your fellow classmates as well as your instructor.


A+ (97–100) 4.00A (94–96.9) 4.00A– (90–93.9) 3.67
B+ (87–89.9) 3.33B (84–86.9) 3.00B– (80–83.9) 2.67
C+ (77–79.9) 2.33C (74–76.9) 2.00C– (70–73.9) 1.67
D+ (67–69.9) 1.33D (64–66.9) 1.00D– (60–63.9) 0.67

 *Note: Students may not take this course S/U (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory).

Grade Categories & Weights
Note: The categories & weights are subject to change. Each module includes a variety of memos, presentations, and related texts.

Module 1
The Business Model Canvas
Module 2
The Customer Discovery Process, Design Thinking, Venture Design
Module 3
The Pitch for the State of Florida’s Frank and Ellen Daveler Entrepreneurship Program
Module 4
Visual Rhetoric, Information Design, & the Evolution of Professional Writing Conventions in the Modern Workplace

Grading Criteria
Given this is a sophomore/junior level course on business writing, this is a class where we expect the work meets the baseline for acceptable workplace writing, and your score increases as you develop proficiency and exhibit mastery.

  • Because this is a professional writing class, you’re aiming – and I am expecting to see – the most polished and professional final product you are capable of producing by the time you turn the assignment in for grading. Works that lack Rhetorical Context*, Rhetorical Reasoning*, a deductive structure, Organizational Schema & Logical Reasoning will not receive a passing grade.
  • For major project deliverables, you’ll have had plenty of opportunity to develop your work, draft, revise, and get feedback from other writers and from me before you turn your work in for grading. Once the project has been submitted, there is no further opportunity to revise.
  • For all documents, I expect to see rigorous application of the document design and editing principles introduced in technical writing prose style*.

At a minimum, prior to submitting work to your peers and instructor, you want to ensure you have engaged in rhetorical analysis and produced a text that is reader-based rather than writer-based. As much as possible, you want to adopt a you-centered business style, which you can best achieve by employing the conventions of technical and professional writing.

The Writer’s Guide to Writing Commons provides more specific guidelines for doing well in this course. In terms of helping you manage writing projects, you may also find it useful to review Faith in the Writing Process | Growth Mindset | Intellectual Openness | Metacognition & Self Regulation |Professionalism & Work Ethic | Research on Mindset & Intrapersonal Competencies | Resilience | Self-Regulation.

For a more concise discussion of style from the lens of business, see A Plain English Handbook: How to create clear SEC disclosure documents.

Standards for Grading Discussion Board Posts

A grade of 3 will be assigned when your posts demonstrate

  1. you have read and thought about assigned readings
  2. you post evidences the conventions of professional writing.

A grade of 2 will be assigned when your post demonstrates

  1. you have at least partially read and thought about the readings
  2. your prose is difficulty to comprehend.

A grade of 0 will be assigned when you have not submitted a discussion post or your post is submitted late. The deadlines for Discussion Board Posts are final. Late discussion board posts will not be reviewed, excluding exceptional circumstances as discussed below.

You may find it useful to write your posts in Word or Google Docs. That way you can use spell check your posts. You may also want to use Grammarly’s free tools to grammar-check your work. At the very least, before submitting your work, you should carefully proofread it.

Late Work Policy

In the workplace meeting deadlines are vital. Missing a deadline can scuttle a project, cost money, and threaten the security of your position.

To receive the most possible credit and keep your projects on track, complete your coursework on time. There are no make-ups for discussion board posts or other smaller assignments. Major Projects turned in late will be assessed a penalty: a full-letter grade for each day it is one day late. No coursework will be accepted if overdue by more than seven days.

Documenting Exceptional Circumstances

The late work penalty will be waived in exceptional circumstances. You must contact your instructor as soon as such circumstances arise. You will be asked to verify your excuse. When exceptional circumstances arise before a deadline, write your writing partners and instructor:

  • what still needs to be completed
  • how you plan to go about completing the assignment
  • a realistic re-submission date

Instructor Expectations

  • Attendance/participation: You will be marked absent if you do not complete the first discussion board post, which is due 1/11. If you do not complete this assignment, you will be dropped from the course per university policy. Your instructor will be unable to add you back to the course if you miss this assignment.
  • Professionalism & Work Ethic
    This culture of this class aims to reflect the culture of a business environment. Your professionalism is shown
    • through your use of an appropriate professional tone and diction in online discussions and communications
    • by your ability to listen before you speak, to engage in empathy when weighing arguments and truth claims, to to practice rhetorical reasoning. When writing or speaking with your colleagues, please adopt a tone appropriate to a professional setting. Remember: words have consequences. with classmates and your professor, meeting deadlines, and being proactive in your learning.
  • Respect, Empathy, Patience, Citizenship
    In order to accomplish course goals, writers in this class collaborate with one another. During these collaborative efforts, I ask that you engage with your colleagues in a respectful manner. Each member of the team is assigned specific roles and responsibilities for the project. Individual team members may receive a higher or lower score(s) based on the quality of their participation and contributions to the project. All members of the team submit individual project evaluations at the end of the project and those evaluations inform grading.
  • Peer Review
    Giving, getting, and making effective use of feedback from collaborators and reviewers is an important professional skill. When you collaborate on the group project or conduct reviews of others’ work, you are expected to provide thoughtful, professional, critical, useful feedback on your partner’s drafts during formal peer review sessions.

How to Succeed in this Course

In the tradition of U.S. higher education, academic credit is a measure of the time commitment required of a student to complete course readings and assignments. According to this framework, for each hour you spend in a traditional face-to-face class, you are assumed to spend two additional hours of class doing assigned readings, complete homework assignments, and so on. Thus, a 3 credit course is assumed to require nine hours of work each week.

In reality, however, this course could take more or less time depending on your background and competencies as a communicator.

Works Cited

Moxley, Joseph. (Ed.). Writing Commons, 4th Edition: