Professional Writing is an undergraduate writing course. The syllabus below is being used at two large state universities, one in the swamp and another on the coast.

[FYI: Professional Writing may be taught under a range of titles at U.S. universities and colleges, including Workplace Writing; Writing in the Disciplines; and Technical Writing.]


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

[ Why Does Literacy Matter? ]

Professional Writing is an undergraduate writing course in Workplace Writing. The goal of this course is to help students improve their ability to communicate effectively in workplace contexts.

This version of Professional Writing is designed to be an online, asynchronous class. This means there won’t be any required real-time lectures or scheduled class meetings. However, this doesn’t mean this class runs like a correspondence course where you complete all of the assignments at your own pace.

Below is a summary of the course schedule, readings, discussion posts, exercises, and projects. You may also access this information via Canvas— the University’s course management tool.

  • [ If there’s ever a disparity between a date listed below and a date on Canvas, go with the Canvas version. ]

I’ll use the Announcements feature at Canvas to update you about coursework, provide tips and advice, and so on. You should expect at least one announcement and/or video lecture from me at the beginning of each week. Please check in regularly to see what’s new at the Announcements tab.


Whenever you have a question about the course, please email me.

Like most instructors I’m not consistently available on the weekend, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve reviewed the week’s material and received answers to any questions you might have before midday on Friday.

Office Hours

I’m available to meet with you individually or with your Team. To schedule a meeting, email me. I’m typically available every afternoon, from 1 to 5 p.m. We can meet via phone, Zoom or Teams.

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 typical student in a specific course. According to this framework, the anticipated time commitment for this course is 3 hours of work per week for each credit hour (a minimum of 9 hours per week).

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

Learning to write well takes practice and effort. People aren’t born writers. People improve their cognitive, intrapersonal competencies, and interpersonal competencies by engaging in sustained practice. Students evolve as writers in school contexts by learning how to write for different teachers and for different subjects.

You can improve your writing

Course Topics

  • Collaborative writing and collaboration skills
  • Rhetorical strategies for writing in the workplace
  • Genres and conventions of professional communication
  • Design
  • Writing technologies
  • Ethics, accessibility, and inclusion in the workplace

Course Goals

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

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

Student Learning Outcomes

  •  Learn Rhetorical Knowledge
  • Learn design
    • Learn to argue with visual data, understanding and implementing various principles of format, layout, and design of documents that meet multiple user/reader needs.
  • Write within a genre
    • Learn and practice writing in various genres of professional discourse like the memo, infographic, letter, technical reports, proposals, and descriptions, etc.
  • Develop your writing process, style, and editing competencies
    • Develop and understand various strategies for planning, researching, drafting, and revising documents.
    • Adopt a professional writing style
    • Develop techniques to become an effective critic and editor.
  • Practice 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.

Course Specific

  • Affirm your potential as a researcher, thinker, communicator.

Course Materials

Required Texts

  1. Writing Commons, 4th edition.


Grading Scale

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.

AssignmentDeliverablesTime on Task Points Percent of Overall Grade
Module 1
The Document Makeover
3 original texts 3 weeks10020% 
Module 2
The Consulting Simulation
10 texts8 weeks 20040% 
Module 3
The Infographics Project
3 texts4 weeks10040% 

Course Projects

Students will complete three major projects along with a final course reflection. These projects include collaborative work, peer editing, and several multi-part assignments.

Project OverviewDeliverables
Project 1,
Document Makeover

1. A copy of the syllabus you are revising (PDF or screenshots).
2. Rhetorical Analysis Memo
3. Review Professional Writing Guidelines for the Document Makeover and then revise, edit, redesign the syllabus
4. A Project Completion Memo
Project 2,
Group Project: Consulting Simulation
1. Problem Definition Assignment
2. Pitch Assignment
3. Team Charter Exercise
4. Team Workplace Guidelines
5. Research Summaries Exercise
6. Empirical Research Exercise

Major Projects
7. Research Proposal Assignment
8. Progress Report & Presentation
9. Recommendation Report Assignment
10. Team Evaluation Memo
Project 3
The Infographic Project
1. Video Pitch
2. Review of Two Peers’ Infographics
3. gDoc link for Project 3, Infographics
3. Original Infographic (The Infographic Project)
4. Memo on Design Choices


  • Attendance/participation: Because this class has no synchronous meetings or lectures, there isn’t a traditional attendance policy. Writers in this class rely on conversations with and feedback from other writers in order to get the work done, so your regular participation is very important. You need to log in at least once each week to maintain active standing in the class, but to do well you should strive to check in daily or every other day at least.
  • Group work: Each member of the team is assigned specific roles and responsibilities for the project. Individual team members may receive a higher or lower score 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. You are expected to provide thoughtful, professional, critical, useful feedback on your partner’s drafts during formal peer review sessions.
  • Professionalism: This class and expectations mirror those found in the professional world. Consequently, you are expected to be responsible and engaged in the “job”, be a creative thinker, and work to meet the expectations of coworkers as well as your supervisor/employer (i.e. instructor). Also, make sure you conduct yourself appropriately for a professional setting. That means be respectful of your coworkers, your supervisor/employer, and the time each person has set aside for this class and their learning. Such respect and professionalism is shown through professional tone and language in online discussions and communication with classmates and your professor, meeting deadlines, and being proactive in your learning.
  • Writing quality: This is not a class where your score on an assignment starts at 100% perfect and then you lose points. 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.
    • For major project deliverables (usually the final big document you turn in at the end of a module), 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 minor documents, I expect to see rigorous application of the document design and editing principles introduced in Module 1.
    • On informal writing tasks, like reading responses, I’m looking for real engagement and thinking, not polished writing, so you can be more relaxed.


See Schedule for completing coursework. This plan may be changed at the discretion of the professor.

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