The following are descriptions of your major assignments for the course. Assignments with asterisks must be submitted accompanied by a Letter of Transmittal (LOT). See instructions below.
Careers in Professional Writing Presentations*
"What are you going to do with that, teach?" Writing majors will usually hear this question at least once. And while some of our WRIT grads teach, they're relatively few. So, what jobs do they do? This is your opportunity to answer that question as well as to learn more specifically what kinds of writing these professional writers do in their daily working lives.
Each student will be assigned a job or career path for writers (and editors, page designers, trainers, etc.). Consult the library, ask Google, talk to your professors or professionals that you know, and read real job descriptions on Indeed.com. Search LinkedIn profiles. Find job titles, companies and organizations that hire for these positions, what kinds of skills, education, and experience they require, and what kinds of specific things the writers write and editors edit. You can even check websites like Comparably.com to see the range of salaries.
Once you have your information, write a handout for the class and prepare a short (5-7 minute) presentation for the class that includes visual aids. You may use PowerPoint, Prezi, Haiku Deck, or any other presentation tool you like for the presentation.
Submission: Oral presentation; LOT, handout, and presentation on Canvas.
Evaluative Criteria: Complete (see description above), informative, thorough
Effective correspondence: Emails (letters, memos, and text messages)*
Pearls of Professional Writing Wisdom: All information is divisible; "Why are you bothering me with this?" Action request; Don't Make me Think (DMMT); Readers are lazy.
Poor communication is responsible for as much as 40 percent of the cost of managing all business transactions (DuBay 2008--I'm just guessing, but it's probably an even bigger problem 10 years later) and ineffective emails are usually to blame. You will be assigned information to edit, revise, and rewrite. These emails should demonstrate the characteristics of effective correspondence such as informative subject lines, appropriate tone, clear action requests, courtesy, conciseness, logical organization, and solid mechanics.
Submission: Canvas--LOT and rewritten email
Evaluative Criteria: Complete, on-time, demonstrates characteristics listed above.
Brand, Voice, and Copy: Social media and Blog Posts
Super Collaborative Group
Pearl of Professional Writing Wisdom: A good professional/technical writer is invisible; Tone; Diction; Organizational identity; Credibility; Relationships drive voice and tone; chunking.
Social media community management is big business and organizations in every sector are hiring new college graduates to do this kind of writing because you understand it as what some researchers call "digital natives." That means you've grown up with various forms of social media and have a feel for it in the way that native speakers have for language. Successful social media writers are able to "hear" and internalize an organization's voice and reproduce it in the writing style and tone that represents that brand.
Your assignment is to write blog posts as a class--each student will be responsible for writing one, but they all must work together for the organization's brand. Your organization is the new WRIT major. The goals of the major are to use social media to create and maintain contact with anyone interested in our courses, students, faculty, projects, or information. This would include prospective, current, and former students (alumni), faculty, administration, the larger university, the city, the state, the discipline (writing and rhetoric), other universities--and the list goes on.
We will work together to create a style guide that is consistent with the St. Edward's brand, but is also unique to our particular major, audience, and purpose.
Each blog post must be submitted with a title, an image ,and a tweet to promote it
Submission: Canvas; LOT; Title, image, and twitter copy may be on the same page as the blog post
Length: Must be appropriate to Twitter and standard blog posts
Evaluative criteria: I'm really looking for your ability to write in the voice of a brand; content should appeal to and serve readers; Tweet must be eye-catching; must fulfill the goals of the organization.
Graphics and visual design: Infographics
Professional communication often uses tables, charts, images, and other graphic elements to help readers understand information. Even simple design choices that we don't think about like margins, typeface, and bullets affect usability. While this is true of all communication, it is especially noticeable in informational documents such as instructions or infographics that represent data.
Option 1: You may choose to use for content our 3-Point Editing Strategy and create an infographic poster for SEU classrooms (use Canva.com unless you are a ninja at graphic design). You may change the strategy however you think it makes sense: add more steps, rework phrasing, or choose different words.
Option 2: You may create an informational poster (brochure, or other relevant genre) for a major other than Writing and Rhetoric that explains the benefits of adding a WRIT minor. To do this, you will need to do some informal research--asking faculty in WRIT and the other majors for input--but if your "client" adopts and uses this poster, you'll have an impressive professional experience to add to your resume.
Option 3: I am open to other ideas for infographics as long as they satisfy the following criteria:
solve a real-life communication problem
address a clear audience, purpose, and occasion
provide useful information (not just tips, hacks, or advice)
support readers' ACTION
Submission: Canvas; upload a PDF of your poster; LOT
Evaluative Criteria: Content must make sense; clear consideration of audience, purpose, and occasion; reader-centered; thoughtful use of design principles
Individual or Group Project
Now that you know more about the kinds of jobs that are available for writers, you can choose a document genre that is specific to an area that interests you. If you are interested in public relations, you might want to write a press release. If you want to go into scientific writing, you might want to write a white paper or research abstract. Look at the writing samples you currently have for your portfolio and consider what it might need to better showcase your skills.
Specifications will be dictated by the individual documents. Must include LOT on Canvas.
Freelance, Contract, and Portfolios
As a professional writer, you will regularly be asked to provide samples of your work. This is especially true for freelance and contract writers. Freelance writers usually work from home and write things like magazine articles or website content. They pitch their ideas to publications with "query letters" (almost always emails these days). Contract writers and editors work for short and/or specified periods of time for organizations or publishers that need help on specific projects. A technical writer might be hired for a six-month contract to work on a new users' manual, or the City of Austin might hire a team of researchers, writers, and editors to produce a progress report on a government initiative regarding job creation,public transportation, or clean air standards.
These writers must be skilled in selling their ideas, skills, experience, and qualifications to the organizations that hire them. This requires two documents: the query and the electronic portfolio (sometimes called a "clip file.") For this assignment, you will create an online portfolio that showcases the documents that you have written and edited in this class. Your portfolio must contain the following elements.
User-friendly landing page
Brand, voice, and copy assignment (Social Media)
Custom genre document
Editing sample (any marked up document for which you can show before, marked-up, and revised versions)
In addition to serving you as a professional writer, your portfolio is the only assignment that gets a numeric grade. At this point in the semester, you have submitted your assignments and received feedback from me, from your peers, and from your clients. You have also (at least theoretically) improved your professional writing, editing, and design skills. Your portfolio is your chance to present all of your earlier work in its latest, most polished, revised version.
Use wix or another easy-to-use free website generator to create your electronic portfolio. You may upgrade to buy the domain name if you really want to use it, but you don't have to.
Submission: LOT and link to website on Canvas
Evaluative criteria: See above
Letters of Transmittal
Each of the assignments indicated with an asterisk above must be submitted with a Letter of Transmittal (which I usually abbreviate as LOT just to save the typing--they aren't called that). A LOT is simply a letter from you to me introducing your document, explaining your process and rhetorical choices, and calling my attention to anything you'd especially like me to see. These are very common in professional writing situations and typically accompany longer documents such as annual reports--the LOTs for these are called Executive Summary Letters--grant proposals, or legal documents. They are a combination of social courtesy and device for setting readers' expectations; think of introducing a friend to your grandmother .
These should be written according to business letter conventions (see OWL or any number of other web resources) and should be no longer than one page using 1.5 spacing and normal or narrow margins. A macro structure breaking it down into paragraphs follows.
Dear Professor Eakman,
I am pleased to present to you my [name of document]. I chose [topic] because [explanation].
[Process. For example: "To research this project, I used the search terms writer, writing, and editing on Indeed.com for Austin, Seattle, and New York City, which resulted in 200 job descriptions. Of that number, 20 were X, 20 were Y, 20 were Z, and the rest were ?. I also searched professional writers' LinkedIn profiles, used the library database, and interviewed X, Y, and Z]
[Choices. For example: "I chose to write this assignment as a memo because X (audience, purpose, and occasion). Etc.]
[Call attention to areas where you think you did a good job or you need help. For example: "I am very happy with the way my introduction turned out after I rewrote it with a clearer first sentence. On the other hand, I'm still not sure what the best way to design the list of alternatives is."]
I have enjoyed/hated/experienced intense self-loathing working on this project and I look forward to hearing your feedback.