detail from Minard's chart of Hannibal's march

image credit: Charles Joseph Minard

  1. Professional conduct
  2. Social justice policy
  3. Inclusivity
  4. Work visibility
  5. Official communication
  6. Office hours
  7. Technology policies
  8. Attendance
  9. Submitting course work
  10. Late work
  11. Academic integrity

professional conduct

ENGL 305: Technical Writing is part of the Professional Writing and Editing (PWE) program at WVU. The PWE program is designed to prepare students for careers as professional communicators, and for this reason many aspects of PWE courses are designed to replicate professional work experiences. In this course you are expected to conduct yourself as a professional both in your work as well as in your interactions with myself and each other.

As is the case with professionals, you are expected to complete all of your assigned work and take part in all activities, to reply to course communication in a timely manner, and to respond to all course activities and assignments as you would to comparable work activities and assignments.

social justice policy

The English Department and the Professional Writing and Editing Program support WVU’s commitment to social justice. In this course, you will work with your classmates to create a positive learning environment based on open communication and mutual respect.


The West Virginia University community is committed to creating and fostering a positive learning and working environment based on open communication, mutual respect, and inclusion. If you are a person with a disability and anticipate needing any type of accommodation in order to participate in this class, please advise me and make appropriate arrangements with the Office of Accessibility Services (293-6700). For more information on West Virginia University’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, please see http://diversity.wvu.edu.

Work visibility

Due to the nature of the course, you will be sharing your work with your fellow classmates as part of workshops and peer review sessions. Additionally, you may share your work publicly on the Web (e.g., on this course site) and with the WVU community. By taking this course, you are indicating that you accept these requirements; if you have any questions or concerns about this policy please contact me immediately.

official communication

I will contact students in the course in two primary ways. First, I will initiate official communication to the class or individual students via my WVU email account. I will send these messages to your MIX email addresses and include “[ENGL 305]” in the subject line of the email.

I will also use the course blog (you can access the blog via the “Course news” link in the left sidebar) to inform you of updates to the course site—such as changes to the course schedule, or additional information about assignments.

In order to make sure you do not miss important information, you should regularly check your MIX accounts as well as the course blog for updates about the course. (An effective way to keep track of the course blog is via an RSS reader like Feedly.)

NOTE: I am teaching two sections of ENGL 305 this semester, and this course site will serve both sections. If it ever becomes necessary to distinguish between the two—say, a change to the schedule for one section, but not the other—I will do so by referencing the meeting time for that section. For example, if I need to make a change for the section that meets at 2:30 on TT, I will include “[2:30 section]” in the title of the post.

My tendency in course communication initiated by students is to respond in the medium in which the message was sent. For example, if you ask me a question via Hangouts, I will tend to respond to you via Hangouts; if you send me an email, I will email you back; etc.

I will do my best to respond to your messages within 24 hours during the workweek (9-5, M-F); on the weekends and during breaks my responses may take longer.

office hours

If you have questions about the readings, assignments, or any other issues related to the course, come talk to me; I will be happy to answer them. The best times to meet with me will be during my office hours.

My in-person office hours will be held on Tuesdays from 1-2 p.m. My office is in 231 Colson Hall.

In addition to my in-person office hours, I will also hold regular virtual office hours using Google Hangouts. My virtual office hours this semester will be on Wednesdays from 3-4 p.m. I will frequently (but not always) be in my office during this time. My Google address for hangouts is jmj5805 [at] gmail [dot] com, and my Google profile can be found here. (If you are new to Hangouts, you can find more information on how to initiate a hangout here.)

If you would like to meet with me but are not free during my scheduled office hours, please contact me directly via email and I will be happy to arrange an alternative meeting time that fits both of our schedules.

If for some reason it becomes necessary for me to cancel or reschedule either my regular office hours or a meeting with an individual student, I will notify the class or the student as soon as possible. Similarly, if it becomes necessary for you to cancel a meeting with me, you should email me to let me know about the cancellation as soon as you can.

technology policies

There are no prerequisite skills courses required for ENGL 305. The course is designed to teach students how to master basic genres of technical communication, such as instructions and scientific reports. Additionally, we will explore techniques for creating visual arguments within these genres. However, the course assumes that all students have basic skills in word processing as well as in accessing and navigating the Internet.

working with new technologies

In this course, we will be experimenting with many different technologies for writing and reading, ranging from document design using word processors to data manipulation using spreadsheets. In this course you may be introduced to a new way of communicating that you find indispensable. Alternatively, you may find yourself using technologies that you cannot imagine yourself using again outside of the course, and you may experience these technologies as being difficult or unrelated to your career goals.

That is ok.

You are not required to love the technologies we experiment with in the course or to embrace them without question. What is required of you is that you approach all of our assignments with enthusiasm, an open mind, and your best effort, as a future professional experimenting with different modes of communication.

The course will contain some specific instructions on technology use and software. For example, we will cover basic page layout techniques in programs like MS Word. When we do, I expect that you will take notes so you will have a guide to follow when it comes time for you to use these technologies on your own. Additionally, it is likely that you will find that your particular project will require you to use a software tool not addressed in class, and this will require you to do additional research and adopt additional skills that you will learn on your own.

As experimenters, our method will be trial and error. In all cases, when faced with new tools and technologies you should expect to devote some time to experimenting with and learning these technologies, researching (or discovering) their possibilities and limitations, and, when possible, sharing what you have learned with your classmates when they need help.

troubleshooting technology problems

While I am always available to answer your questions and help you troubleshoot technology issues, if you need assistance with a particular technology you will find that, in most instances, if you have a question about how to accomplish a particular task—for example, creating a histogram in Excel—other people have had the same question and the answer is available on the Internet. For this reason, your first recourse when facing a problem should be to search for a solution on your own.

If examining the course readings and searching for help online does not solve your problem and you need to consult me, please remember that the more detail I have about your problem, the easier it is for me to help you solve it. If you email me saying

I’m trying to create a histogram, but I’m stuck. Help!

I will not have much to go on and this will lead to delays in you finding a solution to your problem. I better email request is

I was using Excel to create a histogram, but I can’t get my axis labels to line up correctly. Help!

In many cases, it is most helpful if you not only describe your problem, but also share with me the files that you are having trouble with.

using technologies in class

During class you are welcome to use the computers in the lab for note-taking and activities that are relevant to the tasks at hand; you are also welcome to bring your own devices for these purposes. However, there may be some occasions when I will ask you to turn off computers and other devices for a period of time.

In general, most technology is welcome in class as long as it is used to aid student learning. Technology that does not serve this purpose—or that actively distracts you or your classmates from learning—is not welcome, and I reserve the right to restrict the use of these technologies in class.


In this class we will cover a large amount of information in our face-to-face meetings that will be essential to how you understand the course content and eventually complete your assignments. We will also be learning a number of skills that you will be expected to develop incrementally over the course of the semester. For these reasons, it is important that you attend class, arrive on time, bring any assigned work and necessary materials, and participate in all in-class writing, workshopping, and discussion sessions.

For this reason, there are no excused absences in the course. You should reserve your absences for truly unavoidable emergencies.

You will be allowed four (4) absences without it affecting your grade. For each absence over four (4), your final grade for the course will be lowered by one letter grade. This includes absences for illnesses and other emergencies.

It is also important that you be in class on time and stay for the entire period. If you arrive to class more than 5 minutes late or leave class more than 5 minutes before it is dismissed, you will be counted absent.

If you come to class unprepared on the day of a peer-review session, professor conference session, or workshop—that is, without a draft to discuss with your classmates or myself or in any other way unprepared to workshop or discuss your project—you will be counted absent.

If you find that an unavoidable conflict prevents you from attending class or being on time, you should discuss this conflict with me prior to the absence (if possible). Otherwise, you should contact me about any absences as soon as possible.

submitting course work

Unless otherwise noted, all course assignments will be submitted electronically. I will inform you of the method and procedures for submitting an assignment before it is due. Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are due before the start of class on the day they are listed in the course schedule.

late work

If you cannot attend class on the date an assignment is due, you should discuss a make-up date with me before the absence. With the exception of extreme emergencies, if you fail to turn in an assignment on time and do not contact me before that assignment is due, the assignment will be considered late.

Major assignments—the job application materials, instructions and documentation, usability test, report, and presentation—turned in after they are due will be penalized by ten percentage points for each calendar day they are late. Homework, quizzes, and all other in-class assignments will not be accepted late.

If you are absent on a day when you are scheduled to lead a class discussion or give a presentation, you should expect to receive no credit for that assignment.

In general, a problem with technology will not be considered an acceptable excuse for late or incomplete work. If your computer malfunctions, it is your responsibility to find an alternative one to work on (links to campus computing resources). If your Internet goes out, you will need to find a different access point. And you should create multiple redundant backups of your work in case you accidentally erase, overwrite, or otherwise lose your files.


academic integrity

The integrity of the classes offered by any academic institution solidifies the foundation of its mission and cannot be sacrificed to expediency, ignorance, or blatant fraud. Therefore, I will enforce rigorous standards of academic integrity in all aspects and assignments of this course. For the detailed policy of West Virginia University regarding the definitions of acts considered to fall under academic dishonesty and possible ensuing sanctions, please see the West Virginia University Student Conduct Code. Should you have any questions about possibly improper research citations or references, or any other activity that may be interpreted as an attempt at academic dishonesty, please see me before the assignment is due to discuss the matter.