Professional Writing is an undergraduate writing course. This course goes by a variety of titles at U.S. universities and colleges, including

  • Workplace Writing
  • Writing in the Disciplines
  • 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. You need to use your university email to use Canvas.

  • [ 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 post it at the Canvas Discussion General Questions. This expedites the flow of transparent communications.

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 will hold office hours using Zoom or Teams. (This semester, I hope to learn to use Microsoft Teams and use Teams for most meetings.)

  • If your team for the Consulting Simulation chooses some other channel of communication, I’m willing to use that as well. Once the class starts, I’ll poll students to find the best times to hold office hours.
  • Attendance at office hours is optional. During office hours I will not be lecturing or making presentations. Rather, I’ll be answering your questions.

Also, I’m happy to meet individually with students or teams. To schedule a meeting, email me.


Please use your USF email to contact me.

When appropriate, please post your question to General Questions–i.e., the Discussion Forum at the class Canvas site. This way others in the class can see your question and my answer.

I’m happy to hold video conferences with you and members of your team. I’m open to a range of communication channels. We can also talk on the phone, Zoom, Skype.

This semester I hope to use Microsoft Teams for video conferences and office hours. Because this is my first time teaching online, I may need to adjust how we conduct the course. That said, I hope to stick with the schedule, as planned.

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.

At a minimum, I encourage you to

Course Topics

  • Collaborative writing and collaboration skills
  • Rhetorical strategies for writing in the workplace
  • Genres and conventions of professional communication
  • Document design and 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

General Education

  • Students will engage in meaningful critical reflection in required coursework.
  • Under professional oversight, students will utilize contextually-appropriate behaviors, tools, techniques and/or dispositions.
  • Students will integrate discipline-specific knowledge into the contextualized experience.
  • Students will synthesize discipline-appropriate learning via a culminating assignment.

Collaboration High Impact Practice

  • Students will utilize collaborative skills to plan and execute a rigorous project central to the course learning outcomes, employing flexibility, and internal conflict resolution as necessary
  • Students [sic] identify, acknowledge, and manage conflict.
  • Each student [sic] supports a constructive team climate by doing the following: Treats team members respectfully, motivates teammates, and provides assistance and/or encouragement to team members.

English-Department Specific

  •  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.
  • Learn effective document 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, letter, technical reports, proposals, and descriptions, etc.
  • Develop your writing process, style, and editing techniques
    • Develop and understand various strategies for planning, researching, drafting, and revising documents. Develop a clear, concise, and functional 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
Discussion Board
Module 1
The Document Makeover
3 original texts 3 weeks10020% 
Module 2
The Consulting Simulation
10 texts8 weeks 20035% 
Module 3
3 texts2 weeks10020% 
Module 4
Reflection on Teamwork & Professional Writing
1 text1 weeks10010%

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
Infographic Assignment
1. Rhetorical Analysis Memo
2. Infographic
3. Memo on Design Choices
Project 4
Final Reflection
1. Reflection on Teamwork & Professional Writing
2. Course Evaluation


  • 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

University Policies

Policies about disability access, religious observances, academic grievances, academic integrity and misconduct, academic continuity, food insecurity, and sexual harassment are governed by a central set of policies that apply to all classes at USF. These may be accessed at:

General Education Statement

This course is part of the University of South Florida’s Enhanced General Education Curriculum. It is certified for [list appropriate category]. Students enrolled in this course will be asked to participate in the USF General Education assessment effort. This will involve submitting copies of writing assignments for review via Canvas.

Integration of This Course into Your Academic Experience

Strong communication competencies are required for success in academic and professional contexts.

Covid-19 Procedures

All students must comply with university policies and posted signs regarding COVID-19 mitigation measures, including wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing during in-person classes. Failure to do so may result in dismissal from class, referral to the Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development, and possible removal from campus.

Additional details are available on the University’s Core Syllabus Policy Statements page:

Course Policies

Diversity Statement

This course is an inclusive classroom space. We are committed to a learning atmosphere that acknowledge [sic] and appreciate [sic] the diverse students at USF and their views on race, ethnicity, ability, gender, religion, and socio-economic status. In this class you will  have the opportunity to express and experience that cultural diversity through the varied voices of your classmates as it relates to the content of the course. The diversity that students bring to this class will be viewed as a resource, strength, and benefit, and it will enhance students’ learning needs. 


It’s easy to fall behind in an online class. Because so much of our work and learning is collaborative, it’s important that you communicate with your instructor and writing partners when you face unexpected obstacles. If you’re having a tough week, let your teammates and instructor know.

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 porsition. IOWs, a lack of professionalism yas consequences.

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

Grades of “Incomplete”

The current university policy concerning incomplete grades will be followed in this course.

For undergraduate courses: An “I” grade may be awarded to a student only when a small portion of the student’s work is incomplete and only when the student is otherwise earning a passing grade. The time limit for removing the “I” is to be set by the instructor of the course. For undergraduate students, this time limit may not exceed two academic semesters, whether or not the student is in residence, and/or graduation, whichever comes first. For graduate students, this time limit may not exceed one academic semester. “I” grades not removed by the end of the time limit will be changed to “IF” or “IU,” whichever is appropriate.

Technology and Media

At a minimum, you’ll need

  • your university email account
  • access to the internet and some sort of writing tool (e.g., laptop or desktop)
  • Office 365 and Microsoft Teams

The group you join for the Consulting Simulation is likely to require additional tools.


Excluding weekends, I’ll generally respond to an email within 24 hours


Links to the course syllabus and course assignments and projects will be provided in Canvas, USF’s learning management system (LMS), Canvas. If you need help learning how to perform various tasks related to this course or other courses being offered in Canvas, please consult the Canvas help guides. You may also contact USF’s IT department at (813) 974-1222 or

Zoom/Microsoft Teams

I’ve used Zoom in the past but anticipate using Microsoft Teams now that it has been integrated into Canvas.

Course Policies

Course Hero / Chegg Policy:

The USF Policy on Academic Integrity specifies that students may not use websites that enable cheating, such as by uploading or downloading material for this purpose. This does apply specifically to and – any use of these websites (including uploading proprietary materials) constitutes a violation of the academic integrity policy.

End of Semester Student Evaluations

All classes at USF make use of an online system for students to provide feedback to the University regarding the course. These surveys will be made available at the end of the semester, and the University will notify you by email when the response window opens. Your participation is highly encouraged and valued.

Learning Support and Campus Offices

Writing Studio

The Writing Studio is a free resource for USF undergraduate and graduate students. At the Writing Studio, a trained writing consultant will work individually with you, at any point in the writing process from brainstorming to editing. Appointments are recommended, but not required. For more information or to make an appointment, email

Digital Studio

The USF Digital Media Commons. is also available for student use. The DMC is an excellent and recently expanded “multimedia production area which provides equipment, instruction, space, and assistance” for students to use design equipment and software.

Counseling Center

Example: The Counseling Center promotes the wellbeing of the campus community by providing culturally sensitive counseling, consultation, prevention, and training that enhances student academic and personal success. Contact information is available online.

Center for Victim Advocacy

Example: The Center for Victim Advocacy empowers survivors of crime, violence, or abuse by promoting the restoration of decision making, by advocating for their rights, and by offering support and resources. Contact information is available online.

Important Contacts and Resources

Student Accessibility Services

Contact SAS at 974-4309 or

Sexual Misconduct/Sexual Harassment Reporting

Contact the USF Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention: (813) 974-5757.

Students of Concern Assistance Team (SOCAT)

SOCAT offers supportive intervention and guidance to any USF student who is struggling. If you or someone you know needs assistance, see