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 http://sites.austincc.edu/bgtcm/.

Projects & Assignments

  • Sending assignments. Send your files by e-mail attachment to me.do not use Blackboard.

    Note: When I receive your files, I will send you e-mail confirmation. If not, contact me. It is your responsibility to ensure that I receive readable, usable files.
  • Reviews. I will review, comment on, grade your assignments in the actual documents you send, and then 'll return your files by e-mail attachment.
  • Revisions. You will be able to revise one of your documents for a higher grade, which will be due on or before the next-to-the-last Sunday of the regular semester. Allowing for revisions of all documents causes people to rely upon the instructor as editor when they themselves should learn to revise and correct their writing on their own.

    Caution! Address all my comments. If you don't agree or understand some of them, send me e-mail for an explanation; address that in the document. If I see unaddressed comments, I'll get mad and stop reviewing and not change your grade.
  • Online practice. In the schedule, notice that practice and exercise items are "grayed out." This is optional, nonrequired work that will help you do better on the assignments that you receive a grade on. You are welcome to send practice items to me for review and to ask questions about them.
  • Online quizzes. Many of the chapters have "reading quizzes," which you use to test your understanding of what you've just read. If you don't do well on a writing project, I'll check the dates on the related quizzes. Look out!
  • 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.

Policies

Assignments: There are no optional assignments in this course. Everything counts. Furthermore, reading quizzes assignments must be done on time, or it will show in your grade for the related assignments.

Late papers: If an assignment is late after 12:00 p.m. of the following day (usually Monday), I will subtract 10 points from its grade; I will not accept any assignment after 2 days late (usually Wednesday). 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.

Withdrawals & incompletes. If you fall behind in the course and miss more than two consecutive assignments, I may withdraw you from the class (but 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.

Plagiarism: The extensive use of secondary sources is expected in this course. Indeed, it is required. However, you must be very careful not to misuse sources. The general rule is: If you are conscious of borrowing material, whether you are quoting actual words or just summarizing or paraphrasing, you must cite the source of the material, using MLA or style presented in this course. 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.

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.

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.

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.

  • 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

    In this course, you receive a grade of A, B, C, D, or F. For the meaning of these letter grades, see the ENGL 2311 Course Document.
  • General ACC Policies

    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.