Analyzing Example Memos

This is the post for the July 18, 2014 class meeting.

We got a head start on analyzing memos with the Microsoft email message yesterday. Today, we’ll look at examples that are similar to the memo you can write if you are aiming for an A on Project 2.

Class Work for July 18

These are the tasks to complete for today’s work:

  • Discuss your focus for Project 2.
  • Take a look at the Microsoft memo (if you haven’t done so already).
  • Read and discuss some example memos analyzing tech writing documents.
  • Be sure you are comfortable with Google Drive’s spreadsheet tool.

Focus for Project 2

Thank you for your posts about your careers and fields of study. They look quite impressive, and everyone seems focused well for this assignment. You all have a great start on the second project.

In case you missed the question in the forums, don’t panic if you find that you have an empty slot on your spreadsheet. If one of the columns is irrelevant for one of the documents you have listed that is okay. Likewise, if you cannot find an example of the document online to link to, that’s okay too. Remember, however, that you need to account for those empty spaces in your reflection memo when you turn in your work next week.

If you have any other questions about Project 2, post them in the Questions about Project 2 topic in the forum or email me.

Looking at the Microsoft Memo

If you haven’t done so already, take a look at the Microsoft layoff memo that was posted yesterday and read through your classmate’s responses. Add your own response if you’d like. I’d like everyone to have the opportunity to weigh in. Focus on the memo as a piece of technical writing, and try not to let your love (or hatred) of Windows get in the way of your analysis.

Discussing Example Memos

The example memos included on on the Project 2 assignment page were written by students who were analyzing a piece of technical writing in their field using the six characteristics of technical writing that are explained in Markel, Chapter 1. If you are aiming for an A, these memos are similar to what you need to write (though they are a bit longer).

Today, I want you to review them and think about what makes some better than others. It’s useful to understand what makes a good memo even if you aren’t aiming for an A. You will probably write more memos (in the form of email messages) than anything else during the arc of your career.

Here’s what you should do by midnight Sunday in your timezone:

  1. Read through the Example Analysis Memos. You don’t have to read every word, but look at them well enough to get a sense of how they work, what they do well, and what they could improve on.

  2. Go to the Discussion of Example Memos topic in the forums and weigh in on which of the examples seemed more effective. You can quote someone else’s post or just start in on your own ideas. You will find some guiding questions in the forum post.

Setting Up Your Spreadsheet

Just to repeat the note from yesterday:
If you have never worked with the spreadsheet tool in Google Drive before, please explore it a little bit before the weekend so that you can ask any questions you need to. You can set up your spreadsheet similar to the example, but feel free to add or change the column headings to fit the writing in your field.

If you need a tutorial, go to the Virginia Tech login for, and then watch the section on Working with spreadsheets. You are only entering text in your spreadsheets, so you don’t need to worry about making calculations or using functions and formulas.

Writing Correspondence

This is the post for the July 17, 2014 class meeting.

Class Work for July 17

These are the tasks to complete for today’s work:

  • Talk about kinds of correspondence.
  • Learn about you attitude.
  • Post about your field for Project 2.
  • Set up your spreadsheet.

Kinds of Correspondence

Chapter 9, “Writing Correspondence,” discusses letters, memos, and email messages. If your experience will be anything like mine, you will probably write more email messages than any other kind of correspondence in your day-to-day work.

The table in the textbook on p. 219 outlines the differences between types of correspondence. Use the information there as a guideline, but also pay attention to the practices where you work. It’s completely possible for one company to rely on formal letters and another company to rely almost exclusively on email messages. There is no universal right decision. Instead, there are decisions that are right because they match a company’s or organization’s standard practices. Let the company’s practices be your guide.

Remember that the “Writer’s Checklist” (pp. 238-239) gives you a nice summary of the important concepts in the chapter. If you are writing the optional memo for Project 2, be sure to use the Memos section of the checklist as you write and revise.

Using You Attitude

You Attitude is the concept of focusing on the needs and interests of the reader in technical and business writing. It’s all about seeing things from the audience’s perspective and situating information so that readers understand and accept it.

The textbook has a short explanation on pp. 220–221, and you can find more information in “What Is the ‘You Attitude’?

Posting About Your Field

Today’s forum post will help you begin Project 2. I’ve outlined below what I would like you to do. You can’t do today’s posts incorrectly. Just begin gathering ideas according to the directions. Also you’re not in competition with one another. Don’t worry if someone is further along than you are.

  1. Go to the Project 2: Analysis of Writing in Your Field forum.

  2. Create a New Topic, and use a subject line that includes your name (or nickname) and your career/field. I would create “Traci, college writing instructor.” Be as specific as you can be with your career/field. For example, don’t say, “computer science,” if you could say, “Android Game Development.” Adding your career to the subject line will help with the process of replying to one another.

  3. In the body of your topic, provide some background on your career/field choice. Tell us a little bit about the field and how you ended up in it. Think of your audience as people who do not know the nuances of your career options. Explain your career in lay terms. Aim for a few sentences here.

  4. Next, tell us a little bit about your experience with writing in your field. Have you done lots of writing? Have you watched others? Again, you just need a few sentences.

  5. Finally, brainstorm some of the different kinds of writing people do in your career/field. Aim for at least 5, and include a few words about how the writing is used if you can.

  6. Review your response, and add headings for each of the three sections to help organize your post. Submit your post when you happy with what you have.

  7. Reply to a classmate’s post, offering suggestions and encouragement. Choose a post that no one else has replied to so that we can be sure everyone gets a response.

  8. (Optional) Write a second reply to someone else. Use the career info in the subject line to find someone in a field similar to your own if you can. Again, offer suggestions and encouragement.

Setting Up Your Spreadsheet

If you have never worked with the spreadsheet tool in Google Drive before, please explore it a little bit in the next 24 hours so that you can ask any questions you need to. You can set up your spreadsheet similar to the example, but feel free to add or change the column headings to fit the writing in your field.

If you need a tutorial, go to the Virginia Tech login for, and then watch the section on Working with spreadsheets. You are only entering text in your spreadsheets, so you don’t need to worry about making calculations or using functions and formulas. If you run into trouble, post a question in the Questions about Project 2 section of the forums or email me directly.

Overview of Project 2: Analysis of Your Field

This is the post for the July 16, 2014 class meeting.

Many of you have already turned in your first project. If you are taking advantage of the grace period, you should have your work in my midnight in your timezone today (July 16). Today we move on to Project 2.

Class Work for July 16

These are the tasks to complete for today’s work:

  • Talk about the due date and grace period.
  • Go over the assignment for Project 1.
  • Discuss the way design elements are used in technical writing (chapter 7 of Markel).

Due Dates and the Grace Period

It looks as though the due date of midnight in your timezone is working for everyone, so we’ll keep that due date for the rest of the term. The grace period gives you an extra 24 hours if you need it. If you take advantage of the grace period, you have until midnight in your timezone on the day after the due date.

In working terms, Scholar requires me to use 11:55 PM (rather than 12:00). The system will accept your work, though it will be marked as “late” in the system. There is no penalty for being late as long as you get your work in within 24 hours of the due date. The goal of this system is to give you some leeway in case something goes wrong in your world. Use it if you need it.

Getting Started on Project 2

The second assignment is to analyze the different kinds of writing that you will do in the workplace. You will create a list of kinds of writing and the characteristics that apply to them. Think of your audience for this project as yourself. Your goal is to learn about the characteristics of the kinds of writing you will typically do in the workplace. A year from now, if you were in the workplace, you should be able to come back to this analysis to remind yourself of the kinds of features to include in a text you are writing.

Here’s what I want you to do:

    1. Read the assignment completely. Begin thinking about the goals you will set for the assignment and the specific field you will choose. You don’t have to commit to anything until tomorrow, but start thinking about it.

    2. If you have any questions (today or in the future) about the assignment, go to the Questions about Project 2 topic in the forum and add them. You can skim through this topic for answers as well.

Design Elements in Technical Writing

Chapter 7 of Markel, “ Designing Documents & Web Sites,” outlines four design principles that you and use to make your writing clearer and easier to read. The secret to remembering them is to rearrange them into a menomic: CRAP (Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity).

As the chapter explains, you can use various design elements like page layout and headings in your documents. The underlying goal for these elements is to help your audience use the document easily by making key information easy to find and making the document easy to read.

The choice of a spreadsheet create for Project 2 demonstrates how design choices can make information more readable and useful to an audience. Spreadsheets (or tables in a Word Processor) are frequently used in the workplace to present information that the audience will compare. For instance, you might create a spreadsheet for benchmarking purposes, to compare different features of competitor’s websites or to compare contractors for a project to find the best choice.

As you read chapter 7, pay attention to the CRAP design principles, the details on designing documents (such as using layout, columns, and typography), and the information on analyzing page designs.

Discussing Effective Design

Because you have different career goals, you will write different kinds of documents in the workplace. It’s highly likely, however, that all of you will use email to correspond with such varied people as clients, coworkers, managers, vendors, and contractors. I have collected several webpages that talk about how to write email messages that we will use today to talk about effective design.

  1. Visit the following pages and look at how they use design principles and strategies to arrange the information. Make sure you scan through the complete information. For instance, the Forbes article will require you to step through a slide show. Your goal is to scan for design. No need to read every word on the pages.
  2. Visit the Analyzing Document Design (email sites) topic in the forums and talk the way the sites use design. There are some questions there to help you get started.

  3. Aim to add two posts: one with your first impressions upon looking at the sites, and a second one that replies to another person in the class. Read through what others had to say, and reply to one or more of the ideas or questions that your classmates have posted.

Submitting Project 1

This is the post for the July 15, 2014 class meeting.

Today is the due date for Project 1. We’ll go over the reflection memo and how to submit your project. Aim to submit your work by midnight in your timezone, but remember that you have a 24-hour, grace period if you need it. No excuses needed. If something has gone wrong in your world and 24 hours may not be enough, contact me immediately and let me know what you need.

Class Work for July 15

These are the tasks to complete for today’s work:

  • Review requirements for Project 1.
  • Discuss the FAQs for using Google Drive.
  • Go over the reflection memo and how to submit Project 1 in Scholar.

You may want to print out today’s post so you can check off the steps for submitting your project as you work through them. If you run into trouble submitting your work, just send me an email message with the details and I will reply ASAP.

Requirements for Project 1

You need to turn in a reflection memo as well as a link to the biograpy statement(s) you have written. The number of bios you turn in will depend upon the grade you are working toward.

Remember to check your spelling and proofread for grammar and punctuation in your bios.

Using Google Drive

I have begun creating an FAQ site that includes details on policies and documentation for the courses I teach. Step-by-step instructions for tasks you will complete with your Google Drive, including converting your document if you have worked in another word processor, adding comments, and sharing your documents are all included.

To make sure that you can submit your first project smoothly, pay attention to the following FAQs:

Writing Your Reflection Memo

As I explained in the assignment, the reflection memo is your chance to tell me anything you want me to know before I read your bios. I will read your reflection before I read the bios.

For this project, your reflection memo will give me the link(s) to your biography statements on Google Drive and to your profile if you created one. You will also tell me about what you have written. Follow these instructions to submit your work:

  1. Go to the Assignments tab on the left menu in Scholar.
  2. Choose “P1: Professional Bio Statement.”
  3. Scroll down to the text box below the headings Submission and Assignment Text. You will write your memo in this box. (Alternately, you can write in a word processor and copy/paste your text into this box.)
  4. Add your memo headers (To, From, Subject, and Date). For your reflection memo, you’ll use the following:
    • Address your memo to me (Traci) and from yourself (use your name).
    • Add a subject line that indicates this is your reflection memo and which project it is for.
    • Add the current date.
  5. Insert a horizontal divider line using the button indicated with the red arrow in the image below:
    Insert Horizontal Line button in Scholar
  6. Introduce your project—what are your overall goals, what grade have you aimed for, and what documents have you written for the project?
  7. For each part of the project you have written (e.g., the formal bio, the informal bio, the profile), do the following:
    1. Label the document so I know whether it is a formal bio, an informal bio, or an profile.
    2. For the formal or informal bio, add the Share link to the document on your Google Drive. Use the instructions for how to get the Share link on the FAQ site if you are unsure how to share documents.
    3. Explain who the audience for your statement(s) is. What do I need to know to understand the information you have included and the tone you have used?
    4. For the profile, add the link to your public page.
    5. Tell me anything else you want me to know about the bio, including the content, the layout and design, and any images you included.
  8. Review the information for your bio statements. You should have a block for each piece you have written that tells me what it is, gives me the link, and tells me about it.
  9. Add a concluding section that tells me anything else you want me to know about your project.
  10. Agree to the Honor Code by clicking the checkbox at the bottom of the page in Scholar. You cannot finish submitting the project without clicking that checkbox (and it’s easy to miss).
  11. Submit your Project, and save a copy of the confirmation and submission ID. If something goes wrong in Scholar, you can contact 4HELP with that information.
  12. Celebrate! You’ve finished the first project!

Peer Review for Project 1

This is the post for the July 14, 2014 class meeting.

Today is peer review day for the first project. By sharing the draft of your first project, you will have the opportunity to get some feedback on your work before it is due. In addition, you will have the chance to get to know your classmates better by reading through the bios everyone else has posted.

I will be in the online chatroom this evening (from about 9 to 11 PM Eastern) if you need to ask any questions about your project.

Class Work for July 14

These are the tasks to complete for today’s work:

  • Review Editing and Proofreading tips (Markel, Appendix, Part B).
  • Post drafts for Project 1 in the forums.
  • Respond to two students in the forums.
  • Read everyone’s posts to get to know your classmates.

Editing and Proofreading Tips

Part B of the Appendix in your text goes over various rules for grammar, punctuation, and mechanics. You can review these rules as needed. There’s also a list of 20 Most Common Errors available under the Resources menu at the top of the page.

Posting Your Drafts for Project 1

You will post your draft in the forums, just as you posted your topics last week:

  1. Go to the Project 1: Professional Biography Statement
    board in the forums, and find the topic you created with your name or your username (e.g., “Traci’s Bios.”).

  2. Post a reply in your topic, doing the following:
    • If you do not want to share your last name in the forums, change it in your draft to a pseudonym. You can use a generic last name like Doe or Smith, or you can change it to Lastname.
    • Share your draft in one of two ways:
      • Link to your bios in Google Docs, if you have shared your draft with “Anyone with the link” or “People at Virginia Tech with the link.”
      • Copy and paste your document into the forums; however, you will need to restore the formatting (such as adding any bold or italics back to the draft)
    • If you have written more than one bio, please label them so that your readers will know what they are reading (for instance, you might note one is a formal bio for the company website, and the other is an informal bio for the internal company newsletter).

  3. If you have any specific concerns that you want your readers to consider, add a note on that as well.

  4. Be sure to Preview your draft to make sure everything shows up the way you want it to, and then Submit your draft.

Replying to Project 1 Drafts

You will post your draft in the forums, just as you posted your topics last week:

  1. Read the drafts of at least two of your classmates and add a reply with advice and encouragement (more below).

    • 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.
  2. In your reply, be sure that you answer the following three questions for the draft:

    • What is good about the draft? What should not be changed? Why is it good?
    • What suggestions do you have to improve the draft?
    • Add an overall comment that sums up what you thought of the bio(s) and gives your classmate some encouragement.

Reading the Remaining Project 1 Drafts

To get to know your classmates a bit better, read through the remaining bio statements that are posted. If you notice anything you want to comment on, feel free to post additional replies.

Finishing Project 1

Read the peer review comments in the topic for your project, and use the advice to improve your work. You will post your projects tomorrow, along with your reflection memo. Tomorrow’s post will include details on writing the memo and how to submit your project in Scholar.

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.