ENC2210: Technical Writing


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Instructor: Cathlena Martin
Section: 1743
Times: MWF 5 (11:45-12:35)
Classroom: Turlington 2354
Email: cathlena@ufl.edu
Office: Turlington 4413 or Image Lab on the 5th Floor of Rolfs
Office Hours: Directly after class or by appointment
Mailbox: Turlington 4th floor
Class Website: www.clas.ufl.edu/users/cmartin
Class Gradebook: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/~cmartin/gradebook/
Class Listserv email: s05-1743@clas.ufl.edu

sign up on the class listserv by emailing s05-1743-request@clas.ufl.edu with "subscribe" in the body text

Technical Communication (seventh edition) by Mike Markell (at Goering’s)
Custom textbook (at Goering’s)
Writing handbook (Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams)

The aim of this course is to prepare you for writing and designing documents in technical and professional discourse communities. You will produce a number of technical genres—correspondence, reports, a proposal, and instructions—for various technical and lay audiences. Some of these assignments are taken from cases based on real-world situations and present you with a set of rhetorical considerations and constraints. Other assignments ask you to help identify actual situations to which you will respond. In both cases we will approach technical writing rhetorically, discussing such topics as organizational conventions, visual design, and style in the context of specific rhetorical situations.

Class will usually take place in a discussion or workshop format in which you will at different times discuss assigned readings, complete in-class writing and other exercises, critique sample documents, critique peers’ documents, and even lead discussions. Come to class prepared to interact. Because technical writing in the workplace is often collaborative, you will write the last three assignments in small teams.

This course satisfies the requirements of the Gordon Rule if all assigned work is completed.

Course Objectives
• Understand some of the features and processes of technical and professional discourse communities.
• Specify and adapt to the constraints of specific rhetorical situations, including audiences, purposes, and uses.
• Develop strategies for accommodating multiple audiences in one document and for accommodating both technical and lay audiences.
• Learn strategies for making documents accessible and user-centered. These include setting the context and creating pathways through a document.
• Learn to strategically orchestrate elements of document design, including type, spacing, and color.
• Design and integrate tables and figures in a user-centered way.
• Develop individual and collaborative writing processes appropriate for technical documents.
• Learn superstructures and conventions for common technical documents such as correspondence, reports, proposals, and instructions.
• Refine writing style for more strategic clarity, concision, coherence, cohesion, and emphasis.
• Critique and revise your own documents to insure that they fulfill their purposes.
• Form a community of writers with your peers in which you provide one another with extensive written and oral feedback.

Major Assignments
Assignments 2 and 3 come out of cases developed from actual workplace situations. Each case presents in narrative form a problem that needs to be solved, positions you as an employee and technical/professional communicator, and presents you with specific writing tasks that address the problem. Each case narrative provides all the necessary technical and rhetorical information.

1. Job Application Package
For this assignment you will design a cover letter and two versions of a resume—one print and one electronic—for a job or internship in which you’re interested. I encourage you to actually send your application materials. The cover letter, directed to your initial contact in the organization, should be 1-2 pages, and the print resume should be a page. In addition, you will write a 2-3 page memo to me describing the job, analyzing your audience, and explaining how you accommodated your audience in your application materials.

We’ll use this assignment to start thinking about document design and different considerations for print and electronic texts. Stylistically, we’ll emphasize concreteness when writing the resume and concision when writing the letter.

2. Four Oaks Case
This assignment comes from a case titled “Four Oaks Pavilion: Solving More than Noise Problems,” appearing in a special issue of the journal Business Communication Quarterly. In the case you work for the firm of Kramer Associates, which manages and maintains the Four Oaks Pavilion entertainment amphitheater. Your firm must respond to reported noise problems and related public relations problems that have caught the attention of the City Council. Your assigned task is to write an informal report to the City Council recommending solutions to both sets of problems. The report should be in letter form and should be about 3-4 pages long.

In addition to learning about report structures and conventions, we’ll learn how to set the context and otherwise create accessibility in a technical document. We’ll practice writing problem statements, something we’ll also do in the next assignment. This assignment also presents the challenge of accommodating multiple external, non-technical readers with differing agendas.

3. Heated Sidewalk Case
The “Heated Sidewalk Problem” case is taken from Scenarios for Technical Communication by Teresa C. Kynell and Wendy Krieg Stone. In this scenario you are a newly hired technical writer at the engineering and architectural firm of Michaels and Greenwall Associates. You’re faced with the task of writing a sales letter to a potential buyer about the features and benefits of the Hot Blocks sidewalk heating product. You also face an ethical problem when asked to misrepresent the testing data about the product’s efficacy and safety. Your choices are to write the letter to the client as asked, write a different, more honest letter to the client, and/or to write a memo to someone in the company expressing your ethical concerns. In addition, you’ll write me a cover memo that explains the ethical principles guiding your decision and document(s).

We’ll use this assignment to discuss the ethics of technical communication and to learn strategies for improving the clarity of our writing.

4. Proposal
This assignment is the first of three related, collaborative assignments. You will work in a group of three or four to propose an approach to the next assignment. Your group will identify a problem—in this case a task (from your job, course work, daily life) that requires instructions or needs better instructions—and then propose a solution—in this case a set of print or online instructions that would make the task easier and safer to perform. Your proposal of 3-5 pages will also involve explaining how the problem and solution fit the requirements of the instructions assignment and explaining (in a management section) how your group will actually produce the solution.

This assignment will, of course, expose you more thoroughly to the genre of the proposal. In addition to learning proposal superstructures and conventions, we’ll work on creating a more cohesive, coherent arrangement and style. We’ll also continue working with visual aids, including an organizational chart and timeline.

5. Instructions
Now your group will actually carry out what you proposed in the last assignment (provided I approved your proposal). The instructions will be around 5-8 pages long and include visuals including figures showing the task being performed. Your audience should have little to no experience performing the task. Our invention for the instructions will include a task analysis for the step-by-step section. As with the job application package, we’ll emphasize document design, including the integration of visuals; to that end the invention process will also include designing thumbnail sketches and document grids. In terms of style, our focus will once again be on clarity of action.

6. User Test Report
Your final major assignment is a follow-up to the instructions and introduces you to an increasingly important component of the document production process—usability testing. Working as a team of document design consultants, your group will administer and report on a usability test of another group’s instructions. After learning about strategies for user testing, your group will design a user-testing guide and then test another group’s instructions on a small number of prospective users. After conducting the tests and gathering as much feedback as possible, your group will write a 3-5 page empirical research report to the other group that describes the test’s objectives and methods, summarizes your findings, and outlines recommendations for improving their instructions. You’ll also need to attach your testing guide as an appendix.

At the end of the semester, each group will have the opportunity to revise their instructions based on the user test report they receive. The original and revised grades will then be averaged for a new grade.

Grade Distribution

Job Application Package 15%
Four Oaks Case 15%
Heated Sidewalk Case 15%
Proposal 10%
Instructions 25%
User Test Report 10%
Professionalism and Participation
(includes performances in discussions, in-class work,
and writing workshops) 10%

When grading, I will ask two overriding questions: 1) how well do you accommodate your audience and otherwise adapt your text to its situation?; 2) how likely would your text achieve its desired effect in the workplace? I will also pay particular attention to the arrangement, style, and visual design of your documents. The specific criteria for each assignment will be clarified in the assignment sheets, class discussions and exercises, and writing workshop guides.

For the two collaborative assignments, you will be evaluated based on your final product, my observations of your performance in the group, and the self and peer evaluations you complete. If you do not give 100% to your group, your individual grade will likely be lowered.

Course Policies
Text Requirements
All assignments, including visuals, should be computer generated.

Bring two copies of the assignment to the writing workshop. Drafts for writing workshops should not be “rough,” but complete and polished. You will be graded on this.

Writing workshops are mandatory. I will not accept a final text that has not been workshopped. If you miss a workshop, it is your responsibility to arrange for a make-up session with your classmates and/or tutors at the Writing Center.
Submit all drafts of assignments with the final versions in a 10 x 13 envelope (not folder). In the upper left corner of the envelope, write your name, the course name, number, and section, and my name.

All assignments are due the beginning of the class indicated on the schedule. Late assignments will be penalized at least one letter grade per day unless you have made arrangements with me in advance.

Promptness and attendance are imperative in a discussion/workshop class. It should go without saying that you should arrive to class on time and well prepared. Tardiness, like sporadic absences, disrupts the class. Don’t enter the class more than ten minutes after it has begun. Being tardy three times will count as an unexcused absence. Your letter grade will be lowered one full letter grade after the fourth unexcused absence (university-sponsored events and documented illnesses are usually excused). Additional absences may cause you to fail the course. If you miss class, you are responsible for getting any assignments and making up any work.

Grade Complaints
A low grade on a single assignment will not prohibit a good course grade if your work improves. You should first discuss grade complaints with me. After doing this, if you still have grade complaints about multiple assignments and have received a final course grade that is lower than you expected, contact the Director of Writing Programs in the Department of English to contest final course grades.

Academic Dishonesty
Unless it is specifically connected to assigned collaborative work, all work should be individual. Evidence of collusion (working with someone not connected to the class or assignment), plagiarism (use of someone else’s published or unpublished words or design without acknowledgement) or multiple submissions (submitting the same paper in different courses) will lead to the university’s procedures for dealing with academic dishonesty. All students are expected to honor their commitment to the university’s Honor Code [available online at http://itl.chem.ufl.edu/honor.html].

Every student in this class is expected to participate in a responsible and mature manner that enhances education. Any conduct that disrupts the learning process may lead to disciplinary action.

I encourage you to see me during my office hours, especially when you have questions about an assignment, need help with a particular writing problem, want extra feedback on a draft, or have questions about my comments on your work. Of course, we can also correspond via e-mail.

Helpful Links

UF Career Resource Center