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RPAD 503 March 11, 2010 - University at Albany

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Welcome WeekAugust, 2016
Stephen WeinbergProfessional Writing
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Agenda
Other resourcesFormatting for the assignmentProfessional WritingGeneral Principles:Picture your audienceWriting for skimmingUsing ExhibitsGrammar
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Other Resources
Handout of additional writing resourcesRecommended by faculty
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Formatting THIS Assignment
I’m going to give you some formatting instructions nowThen I’m going to talk about general principles of professional writingThen I’m going to return to these instructionsYou have two good samples of the format in your packetPLUS: I urge you to STUDY the rubric!!!!
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Formatting THIS Assignment
The top of the memo MUST include lines for To, From, Subject, and DateYou MUST include a detailed summaryYou MUST have sections, with each section header BOLDED and ending with a periodMemo MUST be easilyskimmable
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Formatting THIS Assignment
You MUST include a table, which must be referred to in the text of the memoThe table MUST include a descriptive title, headers, and captionThe table MUST be “stand alone”NOTE WELL: “table” means a grid of columns and rows; the word is NOT the same as “graph” or “figure”
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Formatting THIS Assignment
The summary MUST contain “clear, direct responses to the required questions”That means ALL the required questionsMake it very clear what text is your summary and when you switch to the rest of the memoSHORT (maybe a quarter page)You must have headings for each sectionThe headings must be descriptive
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Formatting THIS Assignment
2 pp, single spaced, plus 1-2 pages tablesNO Footnotes1” margins (NOT always Word’s default!)Times New Roman 12 pt (not the Word default)NO fancy coversSTAPLE!!!!!!!Electronic PLUS hardcopy submission
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Professional Writing
Professional Writing must conform to the rules of your professionRepresents yourself AND your agencyImportant basis for promotion
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Professional Writing
Does NOT have to be stuffyWrite as though you WANT your reader to understand youSound smart by making smart points, not by being incomprehensible
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Professional Writing
We will teach you one memo form to use for this assignmentThis is NOT the ONLY way to write a memo, but it IS the way to write THIS memoYou need to be adaptableEvery boss/professor has different expectations
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Audience
Two short skits
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Audience
Two types of audienceThe one you intendOther people who might get your memoAlways assume any given memo might end up in the public domain
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Audience
Your intended audience bringsMemoryInterest LevelExpertiseContent-specificGeneral abilityInterestsExpectations
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Memory
Do NOT assume your audience remembers what the heck you’re talking aboutWhat’s crucial to you may be tangential to themCan you assume that the recipient remembers you?
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Interest Level
Most professional writing is for people who do NOT want to read itBoss gets lots of memosProcurement office gets lots of memosJournalists get lots of press releasesAssume they’re skimming
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Expertise
What jargon can you use?What concepts can you assume they know?What background information can you assume they know (and remember)?
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General Ability
How complicated can you get?What reading level can you assume?
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Interests
What agenda does your reader have?What questions is she likely to have?How much detail does she want?
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Expectations
Does your reader expect a particular format?Which grammatical rules does your reader REALLY care about, and which does she let slide?How formal should you be?NOTE: you should NEVERNEVERNEVERNEVERNEVERNEVERNEVERuse “texting” shortcuts in professional writing, including e-mails and text messagesiirc,fwiw, studentswho violate this rule will be defenestrated from the thirdfloor, roflimtou
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Writing for Skimming
Your reader will NOT try to figure out what you meanYour reader will NOT dig around to find your point or key informationYour reader will SKIM
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Writing for Skimming
DRILL DOWN!Start with a summaryPrioritizeUseSections with HeadingsShort paragraphsFormatting
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Writing for Skimming
See two sample memosAndersen memo on writing memosWeinberg memo on gasoline taxes
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DRILL DOWN!
Key information is up topThe reader can CHOOSE to look for more detailIt is easy to find that detail (if it was important enough to include)
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Summary
Start with DETAILED summaryDo not ONLY restate questionMUST convey key pointsAssume summary is ONLY thing reader readsMust be short
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Prioritize
Reader will see only part of what you writeIf that part is unimportant, you’ve kept the reader from seeing what they need to seeTrade off between precision and readabilityMust meet length requirements
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Prioritize
Your job is not ONLY to include the important informationYour job is to GUIDE the reader’s attentionThe reader’s attention is your most important (and scarcest) resourceDon’t squander it!
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Sections
Divide your content into sectionsOrganize logicallyIn one page memo, each section may be one paragraph, or maybe two.In longer memo, use subsections
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Sections
Each section has VERY DESCRIPTIVE headerMake it easy for reader to locate informationInclude ONLY material that belongs in that section
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Short Paragraphs
Much easier to read several short paragraphs than one long oneAll sentences in the same paragraph logically fit togetherReader will be much more likely to read the FIRST sentence of a paragraph
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Use Formatting
White spaceIndentingBold/ItalicsCenteringNumberingList formattingA little goes a long way
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Exhibits
Two types of exhibits:TablesMaterial presented in a grid of rows and columnsQuantitative OR qualitativeFiguresGraphsOther pictures
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Exhibits
Tables and graphs have THREE advantages over text:Present information very compactlyMake it easier to see relationships across numbersEmphasize whatever you’ve chosen to put in an exhibit
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Exhibits
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Look at tables 1a, 1b, and 1cWhich table is best?
Exhibits
Tables facilitate comparisonsYou have to know the comparisons you want to emphasizeMain comparison: horizontal, if at all practicalSecondary comparison: verticalMain exception: when you want to compare the number of digits
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Exhibits
In Tables 2a and 2b, what comparisons are easy?In Tables 3a, 3b, and 3c, what comparisons are easy?
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Exhibits
Which is best, Table 4a, 4b, or 4c?
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Exhibits
Note Well: to compare decimals vertically, make sure the numbers line up on the same decimal!Hundreds should be under hundredsThousandths should be under thousandthsEasiest way: use same number of decimals, right justify, right indent
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Exhibits
Note Well:If your table is meant to make a point, keep the amount of information low, simpleSo reader can see the detail YOU wantIf your table is part of an appendix, you can put a lot more information inSo reader can find whichever detail SHE wants
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Exhibits
Ingeneral, tables are preferable whentheinformation covers several different dimensions (so that a figure isn’t practical),whenthe reader needs to see the exact values,whenthere aren’t a large number of values to present, orwhenthe information to compare is qualitative in nature.
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Exhibits
In general, figures are preferable whenthe information involves a lot of observations of the same type, such as the price of gasoline every month for several years (see example).Figures are also often more visually compelling than tables.
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Exhibits
Note Well: tables/figures that are part of your paper need to be talked about in the textTell the reader what you want them to see
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Exhibits
Note Well: when you create a professional document, other people will probably work on itYou want to be robust to careless editingRefer to exhibits by NUMBER, not by placement in textSee Figure 3, NOT “See figure below.”
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Exhibits
Note: Exhibits may be taken away from your paper and used as slidesSome readers flip through exhibits without reading textExhibits must be “stand alone”Descriptive titles and headersCaptionReader knows what’s being presented WITHOUT reading the textThis is part of the memo grading rubric
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Exhibits
Discuss exhibit in the textDo NOT walk through every numberTell the reader what you want them to notice
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Exhibits
Keep tables “clean”Don’t clutter them up with a bunch of extra linesDo NOT use vertical lines
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Exhibits
Tables can also present qualitative informationSee Sample Table 5
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Grammar
Lots of grammar rulesSome of them are vitally importantThey change the meaning of your sentence!“I shot the student who yelled at me” vs. “I shot the student, who yelled at me”Others are often ignored, but matter to some peopleI want to frequently ignorethe split infinite rule.Others aren’t rules, but just good style“The assignment, which was very long and painful, started with a presentation by the faculty” v. “The faculty started the long and tedious assignment with a presentation.”
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Grammar
All these rules are landminesVery easy to get caught up in themThey’re important, but it’s MORE important toHave good pointsSupport your pointsOrganize your points
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Grammar
Note: Word’s grammar checker isnot very good
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Grammar
If you worry about grammar in your first draft, you will never write anythingAFTER you revise, save time to proofreadDo NOT rely on spelling and grammar checkers (often wrong)Hard to see what you just wrote
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Grammar
How should you handle gender?Alternate “she” and “he” across examples?Use “s/he” or “his/her”?Use “they,” even in the singular?Use “he” all the time?
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Grammar
Which grammar rules MATTER?Subject and verb agreementPronoun agreementFragments/run-onsCorrectpunctuationForgetting punctuation at the ends of the sentences (except when in list format)
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Grammar
Which grammar rules MATTER?Usingsemi-colons and colons correctlyDanglingmodifiersUsing words that are the wrong part of speechUsing incorrect prepositionSpelling (don’t rely on spell-checker)
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Grammar
Rules that some people care aboutWhen to use “whom” instead of “who”When to use “that” instead of “which”Ending sentences with a prepositionStarting sentences with a coordinating conjunction (and/or/for/nor/but/so/yet)Using first personsplit infinitivesMost bosses/profs have some of these that REALLY bother them (for me, it’s parallelism)
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Grammar
Words that are often confused:Principle/principalLie/laySit/setLikely/liableMost bosses/profs have some of these that REALLY bother them(For me, it’s effect/affect)
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Grammar
Articles (a/an/the)When do you use them?Very jarring to native speaker when you get them wrongVery hard to learn for non-native speakersPersonally, I try NOT to count off for themMisusing them will detractfrom your writing, professionally
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RPAD 503 March 11, 2010 - University at Albany