ENGL612 - Approaches To Professional And Technical Writing

In this course, we will explore how writing works in professional contexts, from corporations, businesses, and federal agencies to non-profit organizations and community-based social movements. We will study the rhetorical contexts in which professional writing is situated and the rhetorical problems it tries to address as well as the rhetorical strategies that professional writers use to negotiate these contexts and resolve these problems. We will also consider how this purposeful, socially situated language use is influenced by cultural, political, and economic histories.

To help illuminate the practices and politics of professional writing, we will focus on these types of research questions: What kinds of genres do professional writers create, and how and why do they use them? How does writing in organizational contexts advance some social goals and hinder others? How do expectations for writing differ across organizations, and how do writers operate simultaneously as writers and as employees? How are developments in communications technologies, corporate structures, and economic globalization affecting writing in professional workplaces? What constitutes “good” writing in professional contexts, both in terms of expediency and ethics? We will engage conversations that have emerged from these concerns and also consider the research methods that best allow us to generate answers to such questions.

As we address these research questions, we will consider key concepts and theories at the heart of professional writing studies, such as rhetorical theory, usability theory, activity theory, and visual design theory; digital media; interpersonal, organizational, and managerial communication; delivery, networks, and circulation; and audience, authorship, and power. Finally, we will consider the relationship between professional writing theory and professional writing practice, in terms of both the relationship between the academy and industry and the curricular and pedagogical strategies for teaching students how to write effectively and ethically in their future professional and civic lives. In short, then, this course is for anyone interested in studying how professional communication shapes the communities in which we live and work.