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#WednesdayWrite: Advice to Future Students

#WednesdayWrite: Advice to Future Students published on

If you are lucky, when you begin a new job, you will find a continuity folder on the desk or on the computer to help you complete your work. The exact name of this folder will depend on your workplace. It can be called a continuity folder, binder, portfolio, or book; standard (or standing) operating procedures; or a transition book.

Inside this folder, you will find documents and information that will help you complete your work. The contents can include:

  • mission statements and goals
  • position responsibilities
  • system and social media login information
  • advice and tips
  • schedules, timelines, and calendars
  • instructions, protocols, and procedures
  • templates and examples
  • checklists
  • budget and funding information
  • inspection reports
  • organization charts and info on personnel

You will use this folder to guide your daily work, and one of your on-going tasks will be to keep the contents of the folder current. In the event that you are not available, the person filling in for you will use the folder to determine what to do and how to do it. When you move to another position, the next person in the position will use the information that you leave in the folder.

The Writing Activity

If you were contributing to a Continuity Folder for students taking this course in the future, what would you include and why? You can share the advice you would include in the folder, or you can describe whatever you would add to the folder. You are not limited to a single thing. If you want to mention more than one item or piece of advice, that’s fine.


#WednesdayWrite: SPOT Evaluations

#WednesdayWrite: SPOT Evaluations published on

Course Evaluation Day. Finally I Have My Revenge!Our #WednesdayWrite is a little different this week. It’s that time of the semester when all your teachers beg you to complete the SPOT survey, and I want to tell you a little bit about how we use your feedback in my department.

What We Do With Your Comments

I use your feedback to figure out if the course is giving you what you need. I take your suggestions into account as I set up my classes in the future.

My department uses your feedback as part of the system that is used to evaluate how well I am doing as your teacher. Both the survey answers and the comments that you make are read by others in the department to provide annual review feedback to me each year. Most (but not all) departments on campus use a similar system.

What I Would Love to Hear

Here are some things you can write about as you respond to your SPOT survey for this class:

  • Give concrete details. Use a specific example or two to help me understand your comments. Instead of saying, “This class taught me a lot,” say what the class taught you a lot about; or instead of saying, “I wish this class covered more,” say what kinds of things you wish the class had covered.
  • Think of your feedback as continuing the conversation. You have been sharing resources on Facebook and adding comments on the course blog. Adding comments on the SPOT evaluation is just another way to continue telling me about what you are learning and thinking about the course. I am really interested in hearing what you have to say. Just be honest, and tell me what you think.
  • Let me know how you feel about the course policies. I care a lot about making the course fair for everyone. I know you all have other classes and obligations, so I have tried to set up the course in a way that makes it fair and easy for everyone to do well. That is why I have the grace period and the infinite revision system, for instance. Did these policies seem fair to your? Do you have suggestions? Let me know.

And Now Your #WednesdayWrite…

  • Remember that your feedback is anonymous and that I will not see it until AFTER course grades have been submitted, so there is no way that your feedback can influence your grade.
  • You can include completion of the SPOT survey as evidence of your work to earn a grade higher than B. State that you completed the survey in your final. Include a screenshot if you have one as evidence. If you don’t, no worries. All work in this course is covered by the Honor Code, so lying about the survey would be a violation.
  • Once you have completed your SPOT survey, add a comment here that says, “Done.” That’s all you have to say today. Feel free to say more if you want.


#WednesdayWrite: Is BRIEF Correspondence Best?

#WednesdayWrite: Is BRIEF Correspondence Best? published on

This week, the daily posts focus on correspondence in general. You will find posts that apply to letters, memos, and email messages—all of which you write in the workplace. Since none of the course projects focuses on correspondence, these posts will cover this important topic.

SSN774 Virginia rollout by Marion Doss on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 licenseThe Lifehacker article “Remember ‘BRIEF’ for Efficient Office Communication” outlines a mnemonic for writing correspondence and presentations that include just the right amount of information for the audience and purpose. The idea is explained fully in the book Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less by Joseph McCormack, the founder and CEO of Sheffield Marketing Partners. (The full text of the ebook is available through the Tech library.)

Neolithic, a commenter on the Lifehacker post, argues that another mnemonic, SBAR, is more effective. The SBAR system was developed by U.S. Navy personnel working on nuclear submarines. As explained in Stewart and Hand’s “SBAR, Communication, and Patient Safety: An Integrated Literature Review,” “Employed primarily in high-risk situations of the Navy’s nuclear submarine industry, the SBAR communication tool enabled all users, regardless of the level of command, to communicate via a common structure.”

For your #WednesdayWrite, compare the two mnemonics and explain which would make the better choice for someone in your field. As you examine the two options, think not only about the logistics of how they work but also the details on how they were created (one in marketing and the other by the military).

If you read any of the linked background information, incorporate what you find as well. Further, you can also suggest an alternative system for writing effective correspondence if you have one.


Photo credit: SSN774 Virginia rollout by Marion Doss on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license


#WednesdayWrite: Emails to Your Professors

#WednesdayWrite: Emails to Your Professors published on

This week, the daily posts focus on advice and strategies for writing effective email messages. You will find that writing email that is clear, concise, and engaging is critical to your success in the workplace. Since none of the course projects focuses on email, these posts will cover this important topic.

Anatomy of a Perfect Business EmailEveryone in this course has surely had to write to a teacher at some point. You may have had a question about an assignment, needed an extension on a project, or wanted to explain a class absence.

No matter what reason you write, the Inside Higher Ed article “Re: Your Recent Email to Your Professor” outlines tips for how to write email messages that persuade your professors to help you.

As a bonus, you can also consult the infographic on the right, which outlines the parts that comprise a perfect business email message:

  • Subject Line
  • Greeting
  • Introduction
  • Main Body
  • Closing Remarks
  • Closing Signature

Depending upon the purpose and audience of your message, the length of these sections may vary greatly. There’s no reason to pad your message out for a short request, for instance. Adding extraneous information in that way just buries the point you are trying to make. Use common sense.

Reflecting on these resources, what experiences or examples can you share that relate to writing to professors? What other advice have professors given you about writing to them? How would you compare writing to professors to writing to your manager or another executive in the workplace?


Note: This infographic needs a text-based transcript. See the Optional Accessibility Transcript Activity for more details.



#WednesdayWrite: Visualize Your Progress

#WednesdayWrite: Visualize Your Progress published on

You can often show trends and comparisons with graphical elements than with text descriptions. Consider the difference between describing the performance of a stock or a portfolio during the last year and showing that performance with a line chart. Here’s an example from the Student-managed Endowment for Educational Development (SEED) 2016 Annual Report. Which seems easier to read and process to you?

Text Description

The portfolio performed relatively in line or slightly below the respective benchmark until the final quarter, as shown in Exhibit 1. We included the Consumer Price Index as a preservation of spending power benchmark to monitor changes in our real returns. From mid-November to year-end, the portfolio significantly outperformed and finished 2016 with an active return of 5.13%. In order to calculate our risk-adjusted return, we incorporated our portfolio’s beta of 1.2 and historical average for yields on the 1-Year Treasury note (1.84%) in order to compute a CAPM-based implied alpha. This calculation resulted in an implied 2016 alpha of 3.11%.

Line Chart

SEED 2016 Performance

For my money (yes, a pun), the line chart is much easier to understand quickly. In many circumstances, you will include both a text description and a graphical representation. The point of today’s post is that the graphical version is not just an illustration. It is critical to showing the reader information about the topic.

For your #WednesdayWrite, think about how you can add graphical representation of information in your progress report. The infographic below shows a collection of graphics you can use to communicate information. Visit the post How to Think Visually Using Visual Analogies from Anna Vital for a larger version of the image and short details on the various kinds of charts and graphs.

Once you explore the options, add a comment that discusses a graphical representation that you might use in your Progress Report. Talk about what you have chosen, how you will use it, and why it will be effective in communicating with me about your progress.

How to Think Visually Using Visual Analogies

Source: How to Think Visually Using Visual Analogies from Anna Vital

Note: This infographic needs a text-based transcript. See the Optional Accessibility Transcript Activity for more details.



#WednesdayWrite: Emojis and Professional Writing

#WednesdayWrite: Emojis and Professional Writing published on

Today’s #WednesdayWrite focuses on emoji and emoticon. To get started, review the infographic on the right and check out these articles:

Once you have reviewed the background information, add a comment that shares advice you would give someone about the use of emoji in professional discussions. You could write about any of these ideas:

  • when to use emoji (and when not to)
  • what emoji to use
  • what emoji not to use and why
  • how emoji work in special contexts, such as with clients and customers or with international audiences
  • what to do if emoji use goes wrong
  • any additional tips or advice

For examples of what your document can look like, see these resources from “the government’s internal design agency, 18F, about how they use emoji in Slack, including one on how they use emoji to document shared knowledge” (18F information from the Profhacker post, Getting More Done with Emoji).

Using Emoji In Your Comments

I believe that most of you are well-versed in using emoji in your writing. Just in case you are unfamiliar or you aren’t sure how to type emoji from your computer, I am including links to the WordPress documentation for emoji. These links will tell you how to find the emoji images you can insert in your comments:


Note: This infographic needs a text-based transcript. See the Optional Accessibility Transcript Activity for more details.


#WednesdayWrite: Proofreading Facebook vs. Proofreading Essays

#WednesdayWrite: Proofreading Facebook vs. Proofreading Essays published on

Meme: Posting on Facebook: Proofread status five to ten times. Writing an essay for school: Proofread essay exactly zero times. You know it's true.For your #WednesdayWrite, I have a meme for you, on the right side of the post. I know that you are writing proposals and reports (instead of essays), but the idea probably still applies.

So here’s the question I have for you: Why do students spend more time proofreading a post for Facebook than a document for school? What’s the difference between a status update and an essay for school?

There’s no one right answer. Think about what happens and why. You can post your own thoughts or reply to someone else. For a bigger challenge, you can also talk about how you might encourage yourself or others to invest time in proofreading a document.


#WednesdayWrite: Review a WikiBooks Page

#WednesdayWrite: Review a WikiBooks Page published on

Adapted from an assignment by Jim Collier’s on his Technical Writing course site.

proposal by Helen Cook on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license
You have read several resources on writing business and technical writing proposals. For today’s #WednesdayWrite, you will compare what you have read to a new resource and draw conclusions about the characteristics of and strategies for writing a proposal. I have broken today’s activity in several steps to structure the task for you.

Step 1: Review Previous Readings on Proposals

By now, you have read or viewed several resources on writing proposals. Review these resources to remind yourself of the characteristics of and strategies for writing proposals:

Step 2: Read a New Resource on Proposals

Read the WikiBooks page on Proposals from the Professional and Technical Writing text. Like entries on Wikipedia, this page is an open, collaboratively-edited text. It has been written by professional writing teachers and students. Unlike a textbook from a publisher like Bedford/St. Martin’s, this online text may not be polished, accurate, or well supported by outside resources. You have to determine the trustworthiness of this kind of text.

Step 3: Compare the Resources on Proposals

Compare the characteristics of and strategies for writing proposals that are presented in your previous readings and the new WikiBooks page.

  • Look for places that the texts agree or seem similar.
  • Note the places that the texts disagree.
  • Identify any information that is only included on the WikiBooks page.
  • Record any information that is missing from the WikiBooks page.

Step 4: Evaluate the WikiBooks Page on Proposals

Use the information you gathered in Step 3 to evaluate the Proposals page on the WikiBooks site. Determine its strengths and weaknesses, and then decide whether it is a trustworthy resource. Recognize that it’s possible for the text to include both strong, accurate information and weak, inaccurate information.

Step 5: Write Your Comment & Reply to Your Classmates

Write a comment on today’s post that reviews the Proposals page on the WikiBooks site. Think of your comment as something similar to a comment on a Amazon product or a YouTube video (but leave out the mean, inflammatory stuff). Tell us what you think about the WikiBooks page on Proposals and provide some details to back up your evaluation. Once you have posted your comment, read through the comments by your classmates and reply to their ideas as you like.

Step 6: Apply What You Have Learned About Proposals

Now that you have read and compared these resources on proposals, synthesize the information to create your own list of the characteristics of and strategies for writing proposals. Apply your observations on how to write proposals to your Short Report Proposal Project.


Photo credit: proposal by Helen Cook on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license.



#WednesdayWrite: Midterm Evaluation

#WednesdayWrite: Midterm Evaluation published on

Course Evaluation Day. Finally I Have My Revenge!Since it’s the middle of the term, I want to invite you to tell me how you feel about the course so far.

For your #WednesdayWrite, add a comment that tells me how you feel about the course so far. You can also reply to a comment someone else has made. It’s useful to know if a lot of you are interested in the same thing.

Possible Questions

I will share some questions you can answer if you like; however, you are free to comment in whatever way you like. Don’t feel limited by the questions.

  • What do you love about the course?
  • What do you hate about the course?
  • How can I help you learn better?
  • What can you do to do better in the course?
  • What is most helpful to you about the course?
  • Is there anything you wish the course would cover? What?
  • “Stop, Start, Continue”:
    • What do you want to stop in the course?
    • What would you like to start?
    • What would you like to continue?

Please Be Honest

I will not use your comments against you, nor will your comments help you. Just be honest, and give me some details to support what you say. Here’s an example:

Not Very Helpful
This class sucks! [This response doesn’ let me know what I need to do to improve.]

This class sucks because I prefer multiple choice quizzes to writing projects.

Naturally, I cannot make every change you might like. I can’t eliminate writing projects, for example, since this is a writing course. I will take your suggestions seriously and make changes that the majority of people want if possible however.

Private Suggestion?

If you want to tell me something about the course privately, send me a private message in Slack.




#WednesdayWrite: Writing Superlatives

#WednesdayWrite: Writing Superlatives published on

This week’s #WednesdayWrite should be fun and easy for everyone. You probably remember yearbook or senior superlatives from your days in high school. In case you didn’t go to high school in the US, let me explain with some examples.

The word superlative means “the highest degree” or “the highest quality.” Grammatically, there are three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative, and superlative. Some examples should remind you how they work:

Positive Comparative Superlative
good better best
warm warmer warmest
likely more likely most likely
fast faster fastest

For yearbook or senior superlatives, the class usually votes on which students fit into specific categories, such as Most Likely to Succeed, Best Dressed, and Smartest.

In this activity, you will focus on the kinds of writing in your field, which you should have gathered in your Analysis project draft. Copy the list below and paste it into your comment. Add your answers for the items. After you post your answers, read what others have posted and reply, if you like. Note there’s no right or wrong answer here. You’re just sharing your opinion, based on the evidence you have so far.

  1. Your intended career field
  2. Longest kind of document someone in your field writes
  3. Shortest kind of document someone in your field writes
  4. Most frequent kind of document someone in your field writes
  5. Most important kind of document someone in your field writes (and why)
  6. Most difficult/challenging kind of writing in your field (and why)
  7. Easiest kind of writing in your field (and why)
  8. Biggest surprise about writing in your field
  9. Favorite thing about writing in your field
  10. Hokiest thing you have done (that you can talk about in class)

One final note: The remaining major projects focus on kinds of writing in your field, so this activity should help you decide which kind(s) of writing to work on for the rest of the course.



Photo credit: Stack of papers by Phillip Wong on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license.


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