Technical & Business Writing: Course Overview



Welcome to ENGL 2311, Technical & Business Writing, an introductory technical writing course offered at Austin Community College, Austin, Texas, USA.

Technical & Business Writing: Course Description

ENGL 2311 Technical and Business Writing: Principles, techniques, and skills needed to conduct scientific, technical, or business writing. Instruction in the writing of reports, letters, in the preparation and presentation of oral reports, and other exercises applicable to a wide range of disciplines and careers. Emphasis on clarity, conciseness, and accuracy of expression. Research techniques, information design, effective use of graphics, and preparation and presentation of oral reports will be covered.

This is the Technical Communication track. It may look like less work, but it isn't. This track is for people who are seriously considering a career as a technical communicator (technical writer, content specialist) and will probably pursue a major in the Business, Government & Technical Communications Department at Austin Community College. This track assumes better than average writing skills; the writing projects will be analyzed and critiqued much more closely than projects in the other tracks. If you are not sure whether this is the specialization track for you, get in touch with the department chair.

In this course, these are our major focus areas:

Textbook

We'll use both:

  • This textbook is free and online: Online textbook
  • Alan S. Pringle, Sarah S. O'Keefe. Technical Writing 101: A Real-World Guide to Planning and Writing Technical Content. Kindle at amazon.com ($0.99); Scriptorium Publishing Services, ISBN 9780970473363 ($21.57).

Technical & Business Writing: Details

Overview

  • Word-processing software. Use any text-editing or word-processing software you prefer. If you're looking for suitable free software, I suggest OpenOffice.org.

  • Work load. Be forewarned that this is a writing-intensive course; assignments are due every two weeks in the 16-week semesters, almost every week in the 11- and 12-week semesters, and sometimes two in a week in 6-week summer semesters.
  • About technical writing. For information about the field of technical communication, see www2.austin.cc.tx.us/tcm.
  • Open forum. In the upper-left corner of the schedule is a link to the Open Forum. Use this forum to ask questions, answer questions, make suggestions, complain, and just generally get involved with others in the class.

Projects & Assignments

  • Sending assignments. Send your assignments by e-mail attachment.

    Note: When I receive your files via e-mail, I will send you e-mail confirming. If not, contact me. It is your responsibility to ensure that I receive readable, usable files.
  • Profession overview. At the beginning of this course, you'll read about technical communication and summarize your observations in a document you send to me (your instructor).
  • Practice formatting and revising. The following units will ask you to format text in certain ways; create tables, charts, graphs; and revise text: headings, lists, notices, highlighting, tables, graphs, charts (other format).
  • Instructions and user guide. The heart of this course is the instructions and user-guide writing projects. You can pick your topics. Specifications for these two will be stated in the pages for them.
  • Reviews. I will review, comment on, grade your assignments in the actual documents you send, and then send them back by e-mail.
  • Revisions. Good writing requires good revising. You will have a chance to revise writing projects to receive better grades. However, don't abuse this policy. Don't hand in sloppy, careless work; I may not accept a revision or, if so, will award revision grade no higher than 75. Don't overlook any of my recommendations for revisions; if you do, you are stuck with the original grade. If you disagree with any of my recommended changes, explain why in brackets at that point in the document.

    Caution: I will not accept a revision more than a week after you have received my review of the original document. I absolutely will not accept a pile of revisions a week before semester is over.
  • Resume. This course will end with the resume and portfolio. If you are at the beginning of your careeer as a technical writing, you may not have much go on—but this will be your start!
  • Portfolio. You will be expected to create and post your portfolio on a web site. This means creating web pages, for which you'll have support and a real Internet account. As your instructor, I will support you as you much as you need to create the web pages and upload them to your account. This will be an important part of what you learn in this course.
  • Writer's bootcamp. To get this course started, you will study some common writing errors and do exercises involving them. Missing these errors in your writing projects can really hurt your grade. You must complete these exercises before I will accept writing projects from you. Notice that the writer's bootcamp work does not count toward your final grade. That is intentional: this is stuff you should know already.

Policies

Assignments: There are no optional assignments in this course. Everything counts. Furthermore, reading quizzes assignments must be done on time or they will not count.

Late papers: I will accept a late written assignment—with a penalty of one letter per day. If you know that a paper is going to be late and have a reason for the lateness, don't remain silent about it. Tell me in advance and I will consider what accommodation to make.

Plagiarism: The penalty for plagiarism: If you plagiarize once and I detect it, the course is over for you; I will give you an F and report your scholastic dishonesty to the ACC authorities.

Standard ENGL 2311 requirements. All ENGL 2311 courses, regardless of the delivery method, have a standard set of minimum requirements. See ENGL 2311 Course Document and the following for details:

  1. Style & format requirements. In this course, we care about producing professional-looking documents. Therefore, assignments will typically have precise style and format requirements. You'll be asked to use a specific format for numbered and bulleted lists, headings, graphics, cross-references, citation of borrowed information, notices (like cautions, warnings, or dangers), and so on.
  2. Audience requirement. In writing assignments for this course, write for the nonspecialist audience. This is more interesting and challenging for everybody concerned. If this is a problem, contact me.
  3. Real or realistic contexts. In all assignments in this course, use a real or realistic audience and situation. Find or invent real or realistic people in real or realistic situations who need the documents you write. If you have problems finding or inventing real or realistic contexts, contact me.
  4. Grade calculation. Your final grade is calculated as follows:

    Category Points
    Profession overview (1) 10
    Quizzes (19) 9.5
    Writer's bootcamp 0
    Practice Formatting and revising (7) 7
    Practice writing project (1) 10
    Instructions (1) 19.5
    User guide (1) 20
    Resume (1) 10
    Portfolio (1) 14

  5. Withdrawals & incompletes. If you fall behind in the course and miss more than two consecutive assignments, I may withdraw you from the class; but I get very busy, distracted, overwhelmed during semesters—so don't count on it. Incompletes will only be granted if you have an emergency and have only the last writing project remaining to complete.

Austin Community College policies for Academic Freedom, Scholastic Dishonesty, Student Discipline, and Students with Disabilities are as follows:

  1. Academic Freedom Statement: Each student is strongly encouraged to participate in class. In any classroom situation that includes discussion and critical thinking, there are bound to be many differing viewpoints. These differences enhance the learning experience and create an atmosphere where students and instructors alike will be encouraged to think and learn. On sensitive and volatile topics, students may sometimes disagree not only with each other but also with the instructor. It is expected that faculty and students will respect the views of others when expressed in classroom discussions.
  2. Scholastic Dishonesty Statement: Acts prohibited by the College for which discipline may be administered include scholastic dishonesty, including but not limited to cheating on an exam or quiz, plagiarizing, and unauthorized collaboration with another in preparing outside work. Academic work submitted by students shall be the result of their thought, research or self-expression. Academic work is defined as, but not limited to tests, quizzes, whether taken electronically or on paper; projects, either individual or group; classroom presentations, and homework. (See "Student Discipline Policy" in the current version of the Student Handbook). Penalties for scholastic dishonesty will depend upon the nature of the violation and may range from lowering a grade on one assignment to an F in the course and/or expulsion from this institution. See also plagiarism, above.
  3. Student Discipline Statement: Classroom behavior should support and enhance learning. Behavior that disrupts the learning process will be dealt with appropriately, which may include having the student leave class for the rest of that day. In serious cases, disruptive behavior may lead to a student being withdrawn from the class. ACC's policy on student discipline can be found in "Student Discipline Policy" in the current version of the Student Handbook.
  4. Students with Disabilities Statement: Each ACC campus offers support services for students with documented physical or psychological disabilities. Students with disabilities must request reasonable accommodations through the Office for Students with Disabilities on the campus where they expect to take the majority of their classes. Students are encouraged to do this three weeks before the start of the semester. (See "Students with Disabilities" in the current version of the Student Handbook.)

Programs and information provided by davidm@austincc.edu.