Technical Writing

General Description: The focus of this course is technical/professional writing in the public interest. Over the semester, we’ll explore larger-scale questions such as what the “public” is or what “publics” are. In so doing, we’ll engage with theories of technical communication, document design, and professional writing while asking what it means to use technical and professional writing skills to write for public causes, community based groups, non-profits, and government organizations. We’ll examine the places and contexts where this type of writing happens (and what it looks like) – through documents like letters, proposals, reports, and strategic pitches – and across media like print materials, digital video, web content, and social networks. This course is specifically designed to create a “professional work context” for students; as such, it is focused on practical outcomes, opportunities for collaborative engagement, and changing/shifting scenarios, mirroring the expectations and realities students will face as professionals in their future work lives.

Course Goals: The overarching goals of this course are: (1) for students to explore rhetorical practices engaged in by different organizations and groups that are invested in or intersect with the public; (2) engage in intellectual, analytical, research related, and rhetorical skills in crafting effective, persuasive pieces of communication; (3) to identify and apply specific technical communication theories and professional writing concepts, skills, and tools across a variety of document and media types that are relevant to writing in public interest contexts.

Assignments: Students will apply theories of technical communication and professional writing while immersing themselves in “public writing” across four assignments: (1) conduct a communications audit of a nonprofit or government organization; (2) rhetorically analyze and summarize key findings from the communications audit; (3) draft a journalistic profile of a major figure from a chosen organization; and (4) work in “professional teams” to create and pitch competing comprehensive, organization-driven communications strategies.

Major Texts: Readings will be assigned via handout or electronically from a variety of sources covering technical communication, professional writing, and rhetorical theory.