Writing for Your Readers

This is the post for the July 11, 2014 class meeting.

Great work in the forums again yesterday. You’ve made some excellent observations about the bio statements you reviewed, and I think you’re quite ready to work on your own drafts.

Class Work for July 11

These are the goals for today’s work:

  • Talk about my availability July 11–12.
  • Go over some guidelines for contacting me.
  • Read about how to adapt your writing to the needs of your readers (chapter 6 of Markel).
  • Post details on the audience(s) and purpose(s) you have chosen for Project 1.

Reaching Me July 11–12

I am going to Dayton, Ohio for a regional conference this weekend, so there will be some delays in my response to your questions in the forums and to any email you may send me. Basically, I will not be online during the day Friday through Sunday. I will check in and catch up with everything in the evening.

Contacting Me When Something Goes WrongKEEP CALM - CARRY ON

Eventually, something is bound to go wrong, so I wanted to take a moment to outline what to do when it happens.

If something goes wrong with one of the websites we are using, don’t panic. I will fix it, and if necessary, I’ll adjust any due dates or expectations. Go ahead and send me an email message, since I may not know there is a problem, and keep working as you can until the situation is resolved.

If something goes wrong for you personally, send me an email message explaining the issue and relax. We can come up with a solution. Things such as a broken computer or a change at work that messes up your schedule would fall in this category. It may feel like a horrible situation, but we can work it out. Don’t be worried if I don’t respond immediately. It just means I’m not at my computer.

Finally, if you have an actual emergency, first take care of any immediate danger. When you can, email me and begin the subject with 911. For example, a subject line might be “911 Struck by Storm.” Give me the details in the message (e.g., The storm knocked out your power. Your work is going to be delayed until things are fixed). I will give 911 messages priority and answer them ASAP. Save this 911 messages for real emergencies please.

Writing for Your Readers

Chapter 6 covers strategies for matching the style, tone, and design in technical writing to the people who will read what you write. This advice will help you with all the projects in the class. All of the information is important, but I will highlight three areas that can make a big difference:

  • Choosing Effective Organizational Patterns (pp.107–108)
    Be sure to look through the chart in the book that talks about different ways to set up your writing. Some of you noticed the use of chronological order in some of the bios you examined, but some of these other options could work as well. For example, some of the bios also move from “More important to less important” information. Use the chart this term to remember the options available.

  • Writing Coherent Titles and Headings (pp.108–111)
    The right title can draw someone into your text, and effective headings can help chunk the text into manageable sections that increase understanding as they guide people through what you write. Pay particular attention to the Guidelines on p. 111. For your bio statements, you may not use either of these strategies, but they will be crucial in the rest of the projects. And realize that you can use them if you want to in the bios. It will all depend upon audience, purpose, and the organization you decide to use. The examples from “Meet the Team” Pages: Examples and Trends use the person’s name and title as headings, for instance. You might also arrange your informal bio as a kind of Q&A, with the questions as headings.

  • Using Lists (pp.117–120)
    Like headings, lists can make a remarkable difference in readability. Pay attention to the guidelines in this section for examples that show what lists contribute to a piece of technical writing. You may not use lists at all in your bios (though you can if they make sense for what you are doing). Keep the strategy in mind for future projects.

Post Your Plans for Project 1

Once you have read today’s readings, I want you to turn your attention to your own biography statements by completing these tasks:

  1. Go to the Project 1: Professional Biography Statement
    board in the forums, and start a new topic. Give the topic your name or your username to help keep things organized. For instance, if I were setting up a new topic, I would name it “Traci’s Bio Statements” or perhaps “Tengrrl’s Bios.”

  2. In your new topic, do the following:
    • Post details on the audience(s) and purpose(s) you have chosen for Project 1.
    • Use headings to separate information on the bios if you are writing more than one.
    • Give us enough summary of your plans to understand what you are going to write about.
    • If you have any questions, include them.
    • Note that you can plan big. For instance, if you plan to write 2 bios, but only get 1 done, that’s okay. You are sharing plans, not signing contracts.

  3. Once you have posted about your plan, read the plans of at least two of your classmates and add a reply with advice and encouragement.
    • Find one post that no other student has replied to (so that we can be sure everyone gets a reply).
    • Find a second post that has only one other student reply.
    • Do not count my replies when you are looking for a post that no student has replied to. I will reply to everyone by the end of the weekend.
  4. Begin working on the drafts for your bio statement(s). For Monday, you will post your drafts in your topic in the forums, and give peer review feedback to two other students. Project 1 is due on Tuesday, July 15.