Instructor: Daune O’Brien


Virtual Office hours: Thursday 8am-11am or by appointment

UTA: Bryan Toth


Course Description: The purpose of this course is to familiarize students with formats and structures of business communication and provide practice in writing clear and concise professional documents (reports, letters, employment communication, memos and emails). Much emphasis will be placed on the rhetorical situation. That is, writing for a specific audienceand purpose.

Specific Objectives: Course module activities revolve around several specific objectives that apply to all assignments. You will learn to:

Analyze a variety of professional rhetorical situations and produce appropriate texts, adapting the text to the knowledge base of the audience

Produce persuasive texts that reflect the degree of available evidence and take into account counter arguments

Understand and practice the skills needed to produce competent, professional writing including planning, drafting, revising and editing

Identify and implement appropriate research methods for each writing task

Practice the ethical use of sources and the conventions of citation appropriate in your field

Improve competence in Standard Written English (including grammar, sentence and paragraph structure, coherence and document design) and use this knowledge to revise texts

Required Materials:

Canvas / Module assignments, module schedule, Digital readings, Discussion Board for Weekly Discussion Question, conference tool. Major writing assignments due to the Assignments tab. It is imperative that students are comfortable using an updated internet browser and accessing/using online resources including digital media and applications.You can access the UMD Division of Technology's Help Deskhere.
Aplia / E-textbook and problem sets
Twitter &
Facebook / We will use twitter and Facebook for bonus point opportunities. Students are invited to create academic twitter accounts for class and “like” our closed course Facebook page. Stay tuned for more information.


Communication: As upper-level college students, you’ve probably already experienced several different types of communication. In the electronic realm, for instance, you have realized that the emails you send to your friends from home contain a different level of formality than the ones you’ll send to potential employers and future co-workers. In this class, we’ll practice becoming adept at communicating with each other in a professional manner. In other words, emails sent to your classmates and instructor will use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization, as well as proper salutations.

Time commitment: Because this is an online course, the time typically apportioned for class time (2h30m/wk) is addedto the workload done at home. Face-to-face courses constitute 2h30m of in class time and 5h oftime allotted for homework (2h of homework for every hour spent in class; a student enrolled in 15credit hours should expect a 45h work week). This is the basic principle by which universitycourses operate. However, because this course is an online section, and therefore lacks the2h30m class time, students should plan on spending 7h30m (2h30m x 5h) of time each week on work for this course. The course is divided into 15 learning modules that correspond with appropriate text book readings, discussion, and writing assignments.

Instructor Communication:

Please take note of my office hours listed at the beginning of the syllabus. I adhere to a strict schedule am not connected to the University email system at all hours. I generally do not access email or ELMS on weekends.

Assignment Submission Policy and Procedures

Electronic submissions must be uploaded by the stated due date,using the ELMS/Canvas space.

Please plan document submission in advance because late submissions due to technical difficulties – such as computer failure, corrupted documents, or files that don’t follow exact naming directions – will not be excused.
Every new draft of an assignment should be just that, new. All editing advice/notation should remain only in previous drafts. Final drafts in particular should be free of all earlier editing and should represent your very best, polished work.

Late Work Policy:

Late work is reduced by one full letter grade for every day late.

General Note:

Writing courses require a mastery of the process of writing: learning and developing skills that will assist you in communicating highly specialized content to a variety of audiences. For most of you, this class will take a significant amount of time and energy, and you may have inferred from these pages that we have high expectations from you. However, it is likely that an effort on your part to meet – and exceed – the requirements outlined will successfully prepare you for professional communication in the world beyond our classroom.

Late Enrollments:

Pursuant to the Professional Writing Department Policies and Procedures, students who add a class just before the end of the schedule adjustment period are officially permitted to enroll. Instructors, however, are not required to extend any courtesies for work, deadlines, or information that students have missed.

Undergraduate Writing Center:

Please consider taking your ideas and your written work to the Writing Center, where trained peer tutors will consult with writers about any piece of writing at any stage of the writing process. The Writing Center is located Tawes Hall. You can schedule an appointment with the Writing Center by phone (301) 405.3785. Visit the website for more information:


PWP uses its own evaluation that will be distributed during the last two weeks of the semester. However, we also encourage you to fill out the online evaluations. Your participation in the evaluation of courses through CourseEvalUM is a responsibility you hold as a student member of our academic community. Your feedback is confidential and important to the improvement of teaching and learning at the University as well as to the tenure and promotion process.Please go directly to the website ( to complete your evaluations.By completing all of your evaluations each semester, you will have the privilege of accessing online, at Testudo, the evaluation reports for the thousands of courses for which 70% or more students submitted their evaluations.

Academic Honesty:

Academic honesty is not just a principle on campus; in the “real world, “ using someone else’s words or ideas can constitute copyright infringement, which is a serious crime. You must always submit work that represents your own original ideas. Since you are learning to gather and choose information, you will be encouraged to use outside sources in class, or in your writing. However, you must cite all relevant sources in all written and oral communications. Your readers or listeners should also be aware of the extent to which you are using outside information. Using ideas or language without verifiable references constitutes plagiarism. I will give automatic zeros to all work that is plagiarized.

Further information about university policies on plagiarism may be found at the following URL:

Disability Statement:

The University of Maryland is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students in its programs. If you have a documented disability (or think you may have a disability) and, as a result, need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this class, complete course requirements, or benefit from the university’s programs or services, contact the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) as soon as possible. To receive any academic accommodation, you must be appropriately registered with DSS. The DSS works with students confidentially and does not disclose any disability-related information without their permission. For further information about services for students with disabilities, please contact the DSS.

Office of Disability Support Services

0106 Shoemaker Building


I assume that all of us learn in different ways, and that the organization of any course will accommodate each student differently. For example, you may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, so that some of the written handouts I provide may be difficult to absorb. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them. If you do not have a documented disability, remember that other support services, including the Writing Center and the Learning Assistance Services Center ( are available to all students.

Social Justice Statement:

The University of Maryland is committed to social justice. I concur with that commitment and expect to maintain a positive learning environment based upon open communication, mutual respect, and non-discrimination. Our University does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, veteran status, religion, sexual orientation, color, or national origin. Any suggestions as to how to further such a positive and open environment in this class will be appreciated and given serious consideration.


Assignments / Point Value
Mandatory Conference
Informational Blog – (10)
8 points each
Letter Proposal:
Draft #1– 5 points,
Draft #2 – 10 points,
Final Draft -20 points
Correspondence Project :
Draft #1 – 15 points,
Draft #2 – 25 points,
Final Draft – 35 point
Reflective Writing (3) –
5 points each / 5
Discussion Board posts – (10)
5 points each / 50
ApliaProblem sets on textbook readings / 100
Peer Review (4) 10 points each / 40
TOTAL / 400

The class is worth 400 points, and is on a 10 point scale

A+ / 400-388
A / 387-372
A- / 371-360
B+ / 359-348
B / 347-332
B- / 331-320
C+ / 319-308
C / 307-292
C- / 291-280
D+ / 279-268
D / 267-252
D- / 251-240
F / 239-0

Grading Standards

Four broad evaluative criteria determine the grade students receive on their papers:

  1. Rhetorical Awareness—the degree to which the writer conveys the paper’s purpose; the degree to which the writer uses appropriate tone, style, and content for a clearly intended audience. This rhetorical awareness drives the content, format and mechanics.
  2. Content—the use of effective evidence to support the main points of the paper.
  3. Format—the overall structure of the paper, including the appropriate format for the specific assignment.
  4. Mechanics/Readability—skills such as style, mechanics, sentence and paragraph coherence; the degree of ease with which the reader can understand the document.

Please note: Since there are several bonus opportunities throughout the course of the semester, I do not round up scores. Do not send an email request asking me to round up a grade.

Week / Days / Assignments Due to ELMS & Aplia @ 11:59 pm according to following schedule:
One Module / Monday 1/25-Sunday 1/31 / Friday: Discussion Board Prompt #1
Two Module / Monday 2/1- Sunday 2/7 / Monday: Reading Due Pages 1-53
Friday: Reflective Writing Assignment #1 & Discussion Prompt #2
Sunday: ApliaReading & Problem Sets Chapters 1 & 2
Three / Monday 2/8 - Sunday 2/14 / Monday: Reading Due Pages 63-106
Friday: Discussion Prompt #3
Sunday: ApliaReading & Problem Sets Chapters 3 & 4
Four / Monday 2/15 - Sunday 2/21 / Monday: Reading Due Pages 120-140
Friday: Informational Blog Up and Running | No Discussion Post
Sunday: ApliaReading & Problem Set Chapter #5
Five / Monday 2/22 - Sunday 2/28 / Monday: Blog Post #1 & Reading 156-244
Friday: Discussion Prompt # 4 | Letter Proposal Topic Approval
Sunday: Aplia reading and problem set Chapter 6 & 7
Six / Monday 2/29 –
Sunday 3/6 / Monday: Blog Post #2 & Reading 299-339
Friday: Letter Proposal Draft #1 & Reflective Essay #2
Sunday: Aplia Problem Sets Chapters 8 & 10
Seven / Monday 3/7 -Sunday 3/13 / Monday: Blog Post #3 and Reading 352-377
Tuesday: Letter Proposal Peer-Review
Friday: Discussion Board Prompt #5 and Letter Proposal Draft #2
Sunday: Aplia Problem Sets Chapter 11
Eight / Monday 3/14- Sunday 3/20 / SPRING BREAK
Nine / Monday 3/21 – Sunday 3/27 / Monday: Blog #4
Tuesday: Letter Proposal Peer-Review
F: Final Version of Letter Proposal and Discussion Prompt #6
Ten / Monday 3/28 - Sunday 4/3 / Monday: Blog #5
Friday: Discussion Prompt #7
Eleven / Monday 4/4 - Sunday 4/10 / Monday: Blog #6
Friday: Discussion Prompt # 8
Twelve / Monday 4/11 –
Sunday 4/17 / Monday: Blog Post #7
Friday: Discussion Prompt #9
Thirteen / Monday 4/18 -Sunday 4/24 / Monday: Blog #8 and Reading Pages 264-288
Friday: Discussion Board Prompt #10 and Reflective Essay #3
Sunday: Aplia Problem Sets Chapter 9
Fourteen / Monday 4/25- Sunday 5/1 / Monday: Blog #9
Friday: Correspondence Draft #1
Fifteen / Monday 5/2 -Sunday 5/8 / Monday: Blog #10
Tuesday: Correspondence Peer-Review
Friday: Correspondence Draft #2

Final Peer Review Due Tuesday, May 10, 2016 11:59pm.

Final Correspondence Due Friday, May 13, 2016 11:59pm.

Brief Assignment Overview

1. Informational Blog (Site the chapter that corresponds) Charting Your Career Path

Gather information about a career or position in which you might be interested in presenting to a specific target audience who would benefit from your research. Learn about the nature of the job. Discover whether certification, a license, or experience is required. One of the best places to search is the latest Occupational Outlook Handbook compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also, the UMD career website has access to databases to research businesses, industries, jobs and more.Each week, you will research and write about particular aspects of a vocation and use that content to inform your target audience. Later, you will use the research to complete other related course assignments.

Your Task: Identify an appropriate target audience andwrite 10 (ten) informational blog posts. (See course schedule for specific due dates.) The research and writing you do for the informational blog will help inform the rhetorical construction strategies you use to design the informal letter proposal and correspondence projects.

Potential Areas of Informational Discussion to cover in blog blog articles:

  • Discuss the nature of the work, working conditions, necessary qualifications, and the future job outlook for the occupation. Include information about typical salary ranges and career paths.
  • Discuss up-to-date issues facing your career area and industry using the library databases. Use research to discover what challenges and opportunities the industry you think you’d like to enter is currently facing.
  • Collect information about two companies where you might apply. Investigate each company’s history, products and/or services, size, earnings, reputation, and number of employees. If you choose to complete primary research (informational interviews), interview one or more individuals who are working in that position. Devote sections of your report to the specific tasks, functions, duties and opinions of these individuals.

Additional assignment information, readings, resources, etc. will be provided in corresponding course modules.

2. Informal Letter Proposal: Think like an Entrepreneur (Chapter 10) Topic Approval Required

  • MLA style - Proposal should contain in text citations and References page
  • 5 secondary sources
  • 2 of the 5 secondary sources should be from the UMD databases
  • 2 pieces of primary research may be substituted for 2 secondary research pieces
  • Proposal is 4-6 pages
  • Proposal should make use of graphic highlighting and other high-skim techniques

Perhaps you have fantasized about one day owning your own company, or maybe you have already started a business. Proposals are offers to a very specific audience whose business you are soliciting. Think of a product or service that you like or know much about. On the web and in electronic databases, research the market so that you understand going rates, prices and costs. Search the Small Business Administration’s website ( for valuable tips on how to launch and manage a business. Use the UMD business databases for information on industry, product, the Triple Bottom Line, etc.

Your Task: Based on the vocational research and writing you have conducted through your blog,choose a product or service that you would like to offer a particular audience, such as a window cleaning business, an online photography business, a new vehicle on the U.S. market, or a new European hair care line. Unlike a business plan, you are not seeking funding for a new business. Instead, you are assuming that your business has been in operation for a few years, and you want to solicit a new client or take on a new challenge. Write a letter proposal promoting your chosen product or service.

Additional assignment information, readings, resources, etc. will be provided in corresponding course modules.

3. Correspondence Project: Writing Typical Business Messages

  • Project is 8-10 pages
  • Project should make manifest the lessons you’ve learned from the text and our discussions about positive, negative and persuasive messages

Assume that the business that you created for your Letter Proposal has been in operation for several years now. In the correspondence project you will consider different business situations that might occur in the running of your business, and you will create pieces of correspondence that will attend to those situations.

Your Task: After reading chapters 6-8 (positive messages, negative messages, persuasive messages) review the messages explained in each chapter. Then, consider 1-2 scenarios that would allow you to utilize messages from these chapters to satisfy the situation you’ve considered. This project asks you to consider the rhetorical situation, and to become adept at writing within it. For instance, in one letter you may be writing as the boss of your company, while in another letter you may be writing as an upset customer. In one letter you might be writing to persuade a resistant audience to buy your product, while in another letter you might be writing to reveal bad news.

For example: Let’s say you’re the owner of an organic yogurt shop, FroYo. On a certain day, one of your customers finds FroYo out of his favorite topping, coconut. If this is one scenario, you might write a Complaint letter (persuasive) as the customer complaining about the missing toppings. Then, you might write an Instruction Message (positive) to your employees giving them instructions on product ordering to avoid running out in the future.

To begin your correspondence project, you should write an informational memo to your instructor. Your memo should detail the scenario/s, and why you chose the particular pieces of correspondence. Also, you should note which aspects of the rhetorical situation are most active or important in each of the 6 pieces. Following the memo, you will write six typical business messages (positive, negative and persuasive).