English 229, Professional Writing

Links to:

Course Calendar

Sample Assignments: Genre Analysis, Professional Portfolio Design, Professional Taskforce Intervention Project

Syllabus: Professional Writing 229-006, Observe, Create, Intervene

English 229-006: Professional Writing

Winter 2014 Course Syllabus and Calendar

M/W 11:30-1:00pm, 2230 USB

FB: Click here to “like” course FB page

Calendar: Click here to access course Google Calendar

Website: Click here to access course blog

Instructor: Liz Homan

Office: Tisch 3027 (email me first)

Office Hours: M 1pm-3pm

in Palmer

Email: lizhoman@umich.edu

Course Description

The 21st-century workplace is constantly evolving, as are the written and visual texts that circulate within it. In this course, we will take a rhetorical approach to analyzing models of workplace and professional texts, focusing on audience, purpose, and context, and how these shape professional documents. You will then use your analyses to develop your own professional texts. You will work with classmates to analyze texts from various professions, but will focus on a profession of particular interest to you throughout the semester. In this course, we will compose in a variety of modes and genres, some of which may be familiar – such as resumes, blogs, or memos – and others of which may be new or unfamiliar to you – such as funding proposals, wikis, or visual compositions. Through engagement with professionals in your chosen field, you will identify texts that are most important to the field and develop your assignments around the analysis and production of those texts. The goal of this course is to give you experience with collaborative, multimodal, digitally-driven professional writing, which is becoming the norm in today’s workplace. As such, this course relies heavily on collaborative work, and you will work in project teams throughout the semester. In the culminating assignment for the course, you will gather your work from the semester into a digital professional portfolio, which you will have the option of publishing publicly online.

Learning Goals for English 229: Professional Writing

In this course, you will gain skills in:

  1. Collaborative writing and group projects;

  2. Writing to and for various audiences in effective and persuasive ways;

  3. The purposes, processes, and patterns of professional communication;

  4. Conveying complex information in informative, understandable ways with both words and images; and

  5. Exploring software to produce a range of documents.

By the end of the class, you will:

  1. Compose in multiple genres and media

  2. Create a portfolio containing a variety of genres

  3. Become familiar with the kinds of writing common in the workplace: understand the theories that inform professional communication, learn to write effective documents, acquire experience working collaboratively, practice delivering oral presentations.

  4. Acquire experience with electronic communication and resources.

Texts and Readings

You will need to purchase Writing that Works: How to Communicate Effectively in Business, by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson. Here is a link to the text on Amazon. All other course readings will be provided in the course Google Drive folder.

Course Design and Major Assignments

I have designed this course such that you will walk away both with your own, online professional portfolio and with collaborative writing experiences that will help you be successful in your future workplaces. The course builds as we go, from first examining genres of professional writing of interest to you to eventually the “invention” of your own business or profession and the writing involved to make that professional concept a reality. Much of your work in this course will look different from your classmates’ work, depending on your interests and the composition skills you bring with you to this course, and that’s intentional – the course is designed such that you can do much learning from one another, building your existing skills while being exposed to and perhaps experimenting with new ones along the way.


There are five response papers throughout the semester, each of which requires you to write a few pages (anywhere from 2-5+ pages) in preparation for or response to one of the larger assignments. You will receive prompts for these in advance with specific requirements to guide your writing, and we will discuss my expectations for these in class.

Blog Posts:

Our course blog can be found at http://observecreateintervene.wordpress.com/ and guidelines for blog posts can be found here. You are required to compose at least FOUR of your own posts and to engage with classmates’ posts, for a total of SEVEN blog contributions (total posts and comments). You are encouraged and welcome, however, to contribute more often – whenever you find something that pertains to digital writers or digital writing in today’s professional world. A few things to keep in mind about blogging:

  1. Engaging blog posts are short, sweet, and to the point. Be sure to make a point, but don’t belabor it!

  2. Engaging bloggers incorporate media and take advantage of the online platform. Embed videos. Include pictures. Hyperlink.

  3. Blogs are supposed to be organic, not forced. Because I’m asking you to do this for class, I’m already violating that rule (sorry). Do what you can to be you. To make it fun. To make it organic (even though it’s not).

Assignments 1-3: There are only three major assignments in this course, but they are large and multidimensional. Assignment 2 requires you to create your own website, including your resume and examples of your writing. Assignment 3 requires you to work with your classmates to either develop a new business concept or to intervene in an existing profession’s writing culture in an attempt to challenge or reshape it. We will talk more about these assignments as the semester progresses. Please feel free to come talk to me if the requirements or expectations for an assignment are unclear or troubling to you.

Conferences and Office Hours


You will meet with me to discuss your writing throughout the semester. You are required to attend at least two 15-20 minute conferences with me. One of these will be individual and one of these will be with your final project group members to discuss your proposals for the project. Conferences are required in order to receive full credit in the course; each missed conference will reduce a student’s final grade in the course by 5%, or half of one letter grade.

Office Hours

I encourage you to attend office hours regularly to discuss any concerns you might have about the class or your papers, to brainstorm ideas, to get help finding sources for your papers, etc. While my office hours are on Mondays from 1-3 in Palmer Commons, feel free to request another time if this time does not work for you – I will do my best to be available to answer questions. I am also available via email and will do my best to answer your questions promptly. My times may vary – if I need to move office hours, I will let you know prior to the start of the week.

Late Work and Revision Option

You must hand in drafts and compositions to Google Drive on the day they are due BEFORE CLASS BEGINS.  At times I will ask you to print out copies of your work to bring to class, as well.  I will not accept work via email.  No late compositions will be accepted.  Unusual circumstances and emergencies must be discussed with me in the privacy of my office.  You are also permitted one revision option during the term, which must be re-submitted within 7 days of receiving feedback.  If you are using your revision option, you must notify me in advance and turn in the revision along with all previous drafts within 7 days.  Revisions will be accepted for any assignment except the final project and final reflection.

Laptops and Cell Phones

Please keep cell phones on silent (not vibrate) during class time and refrain from checking messages, etc. Even if I don’t mention it to you during class, I often make note of students using cell phones, and this could impact students’ participation grades at the end of the semester. Laptops, I am more lenient about, since many students like to mark up papers and readings on their computers. You may have your laptop with you in class, but if we are discussing something that does not require it, I ask that you put it away. I also reserve the right to revoke students’ laptop privileges if they are abusing them.

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

The University of Michigan defines plagiarism as “Submitting a piece of work (for example, an essay, research paper, work of art, assignment, laboratory report) which in part or in whole is not entirely the student’s own work without attributing those same portions to their correct source.” Plagiarism is when you knowingly or unknowingly submit someone else’s ideas or words as your own. Please see the University’s plagiarism policy at: (http://www.lsa.umich.edu/english/undergraduate/advising/plagNote.asp)

If you commit an act of academic dishonesty in this course by either plagiarizing someone’s work or allowing your own work to be misused by another, you will fail the assignment and possibly the course. In addition, I will report the incident to both the English Department and the LS&A academic dean. Please also note that if you submit work already completed for one course as original work for another course, you are violating university policies and will fail the assignment and possibly the course.

Attendance Policy

It is exceedingly important that you be in class every day since class time will be used to workshop and peer review papers; it is my preference that all students be present for every class period. However, I understand that illness or other circumstances may necessitate an absence, so students are allowed to miss two class sessions without penalty. These should be used wisely, since each subsequent absence after the two “free” absences will result in a 5%, or one half of a letter grade, deduction of a student’s final grade for the course, and five absences will result in automatic failure of the course. Also, students should keep in mind that even though missing a single day may not result in a final grade penalty, our class is largely based on participation and peer review; if a day is missed during which we do class activities or peer reviews, these points cannot easily be made up, and so a student may lose points in the course by not being present. Any students who will be absent due to a legitimate extracurricular conflict should inform me as soon as possible (at the start of the semester) and arrange for work that will be missed. Students should also be on time to class; if a student is ten or more minutes late to class, he or she may be marked absent, which could potentially result in a loss of credit.

Sweetland Writing Center

Free, professional help with writing and revision is available M-F at the Sweetland Writing Center, 734-764-0429, 1310 North Quad or at the walk-in Peer Tutoring Center in G219 Angell Hall.  Call, walk in, or go online to make an appointment.  For more information, see http://www.lsa.umich.edu/sweetland

Course Evaluation

Your final grade in this course will be based upon your fulfillment of a course contract. If you fulfill all requirements of the contract, you will receive at least a B in the course. As you review the contract, you will notice that earning a B in the course requires much more than “the bare minimum.” The contract requirements are rigorous, and I believe that the professionalism, effort, critical reflection, engagement with the writing process, and production of texts necessary to successfully fulfill them warrants a B.  Not fulfilling all contract requirements will result in a grade lower than a B.  Writing and reflection of exemplary quality specific to the criteria for the individual projects will result in a grade higher than a B.

Student Accommodations

In accordance with the University of Michigan policy, I am happy to provide accommodations for students with learning disabilities, and I will protect the confidentiality of students’ individual learning needs. I work closely with the Office for Students with Disabilities (SSD), and if you need accommodations and have not already contacted them, I encourage you to do so. Please email me by the second week of the term if you would like to show me your letter from SSD describing approved accommodations. I will set up a confidential appointment with you to discuss these accommodations.

Course Contract, Winter 2014

English 229: Professional Writing

Contract Requirements

  1. Attend class and arrive on time.  You may miss two class sessions without penalty.  It is wise to reserve these two absences for illness or emergencies. Each absence beyond two may result in up to a 1/3 of a letter grade deduction to your final grade.  If you miss a conference or small group workshop, it counts as an absence.  If a class session conflicts with your religious holidays, please notify me in advance so we can make alternative arrangements.

  2. Meet all due dates and assignment criteria for all projects. Because much of our work in this course is collaborative, it is especially important to turn work in on time. Members of your workshop group will be counting on you in order to stay on schedule.  We will establish evaluation criteria for each assignment, and you fulfill the contract requirements when your work meets these criteria.

  3. Complete a minimum of 5 blog posts, in addition to occasionally commenting on classmates’ posts, and meaningfully engage at least 10 times with the course blog. In this course we are writing to learn, as well as learning to write, and completion of the writing process blog assignments is essential to helping you develop an awareness of your own learning and writing processes. Our focus is on more than just the submission of final products.

  4. Complete all readings, and come prepared to actively participate during all class meetings. Successful participation includes regularly contributing to class discussion by posing questions and responding to others, sharing the floor with others, and using technologies such as cell phones and laptops at appropriate times.  While participation will inevitably be different for each student, your contributions are both solicited and necessary to maximize learning in this course. Challenge yourself to participate in ways that might, at first, make you uneasy. Ideally, this course will become a place where we can interact and work to become more thoughtful and careful readers, writers, and thinkers.  In short, we should notice and miss you if you’re not in class!

  5. Provide quality feedback to your peers during workshop. This entails thoughtfully preparing for workshop before class and consistently using workshop time as directed.

  6. Sustain effort and investment throughout all phases of a project and throughout the course as a whole, and show improvement as the course progresses.  Subsequent drafts of each assignment should show sustained effort and improvement.  Students who exceed the contract requirements will show improvement in their work as the course progresses, as well.

  7. Make substantive revisions when the task is to revise by extending or changing the project’s content, organization, and/or research. Carefully edit and proofread when the task is to polish drafts for submission. Revision means “to see again,” which often requires making significant changes. Editing for careless errors adds professionalism to your writing and allows readers to focus on your ideas.

  8. Adhere to a citation system for a project when appropriate. Citation highlights the collaborative nature of writing and learning. We will be analyzing and discussing the purpose and performance of citation systems, but in all cases the goal is to provide a map for readers to locate, evaluate, and interact directly with the sources you use.

  9. Attend and prepare for conferences with the instructor. One-on-one instruction and feedback supports and complements what we do in class. These are important times for us to discuss your writing, learning goals, and progress in the course.

  10. Complete all assignments, and submit a final critical reflection essay.

To honor my role in this contract, I promise to:

  1. Return feedback in a timely manner, within two weeks and before the next assignment is due.

  2. Respond to your concerns about the class and hear your anonymous feedback in a mid-term course evaluation.

  3. Respond to emailed questions within 48 hours.

  4. Be available for drop-in and scheduled meetings, both in office hours and at other requested times.

  5. Provide a summary of your overall  progress in the course as part of my feedback for each major assignment.

  6. Start class on time and release you on time for every class session.

 This contract is adapted from one outlined by Jane Danielewicz and Peter Elbow. For a more thorough discussion of the theory and rationale behind this form of evaluation, as well as their original contract, please see: Danielewicz, Jane and Peter Elbow. “A Unilateral Grading Contract to Improve Learning and Teaching.” College Composition and Communication. 61.2 (2009): 244-268. Print.

I agree to enter into this course contract.  I understand that fulfilling all the requirements of the contract will result in a grade of at least a B in the course, that not fulfilling all the requirements will result in a grade lower than a B, and that composing writing and reflection of exemplary quality specific to the criteria for the individual projects will result in a grade higher than a B.

Signed:                              Date:

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