Hi, 

I wanted to talk to you now after the first 3 weeks of class about 4 things that are very important to your success moving forward in our class. So in this rather long email, I’ll talk about the following:

1) How to approach the first memo report on electric cars,

2) How to approach the DESIGN ANALYSIS posting on Bb (due on the 26th),

3) How I grade your reports and why I do it that way, and

4) What you should be getting out of the class so far.

APPROACH THE FIRST MEMO REPORT ON ELECTRIC CARS AS THOUGH YOU WERE GIVING REAL ADVICE TO A REAL PERSON WHO REALLY WANTED THE INFORMATION IN QUESTION

I actually DO want to buy an electric car. You’re going to help me decide whether I should or not, and, if I should, what car or couple of cars should I seriously consider and why.

This is not an academic essay. So don’t treat it like one. I don’t care a fig about the history of electric cars or the environmental benefits. I just have very practical questions I need you to research and answer for me. Your job is to figure out those questions and answer them well. 

You don’t have much space to fill. So don’t waste it. I need a dense, tight, well-argued report with strong, clear recommendations. And I’m around if you need me. (HINT: follow the report format on page 164 in our textbook.)

APPROACH THE DESIGN ANALYSIS POSTING ON Bb AS THOUGH YOUR JOB DEPENDED ON A WELL-ARGUED, CONCISE ANALYSIS OF WHICHEVER REPORT YOU CHOOSE TO ANALYZE

For the “Design Analysis” posting, due on the 26th, I want you to select a report from among the 10 I provided links to and check out its HOCs and LOCs. Imagine that I’m your boss, and I asked you to evaluate the report you select. What’s particularly good about it? What’s not working so well? How can the report be improved? Be as specific as you can be. Your comments should reflect what we’ve learned so far.

I GRADE CONTENT, ORGANIZATION/DOC DESIGN, AND STYLE IN YOUR MEMO REPORTS, AND YOUR FINAL GRADE IS THE LOWEST OF THOSE THREE SCORES…HERE’S WHY

Just as a chain is literally only as strong as its weakest link, a document is only as effective as its weakest link. A report with weak content but strong organization and style is only as good as the weak content. A report with weak organization but strong content and style is only as good as that weak organization. A report with weak style but strong content and organization is only as strong as the weak style…you get the idea.

I give a mini-grade for each of the three areas. Your final grade for the report is NOT the average of the three. It’s the lowest of the three. So you need to pay attention to all three aspects.

I’m a tough but fair grader. I believe I’ve explained to you what I want. By the way, I value failure, both incremental failure on little stuff and abject belly-flop failure on big stuff. FAIL = First Attempt In Learning. Believe it or not, the more you fail, the more and faster you’ll succeed. (Here’s a great short article on how important failure is: https://www.wanderlustworker.com/the-importance-of-failure-5-valuable-lessons-from-failing/)

Hey…I might be failing right this very minute. You tell me.

FROM OUR CLASS SO FAR YOU SHOULD BE GAINING SOME SIMPLE BUT POWERFUL CONCEPTS AND SKILLS FOR WORKPLACE “WRITING”

You should by now appreciate that a workplace document is only as good as its user says it is. I don't care if you’re Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson, your job is to give the reader the information she/he needs in the clearest, most easily understood, and most easy-to-navigate way possible. The reader/user is everything.

You should be able to look at a published report and realize that 7 systems are working within that document to help (or hinder) its delivery of useful information.

It has good CONTENT if it answers all the user’s questions and if those answers are honest, factual, and complete.

It has good ORGANIZATION if it presents information logically and saves the reader’s time in getting to the most important information. We care about answers more than the reasons behind them. So feature answers. But don’t forget to give all the explanation needed. Don’t leave your reader with unanswered big or little questions.

It has good DOCUMENT DESIGN if the “layout” helps emphasize the most important points and makes the information very easy to navigate. It could use graphics to help with this (a topic that, sadly, we don’t have time to cover in this class much).

 It has good PARAGRAPHS if each paragraph discusses one main question/topic and puts the MAIN-POINT-SENTENCE first, then gives the explanation. Paragraphs should not wander off topic. They should follow the known/new contract (look it up). They shouldn’t, as a general rule, be more than 8-10 lines long. Do you like reading long paragraphs?

It has good SENTENCES if they’re clear, concise, and correct. Concise does not mean short. It means no extraneous information. Check how you use subordination and coordination strategically.

It has good WORD CHOICE if the words are accurately used and if the reader understands all the words and gets an explanation for any abbreviations, acronyms, technical terms (that can’t be avoided) or jargon (that can’t be avoided). Good word choice in workplace documents is NOT STILTED and artificially formal. It should seem plain and conversational…using the words you’d use at work with co-workers and clients/customers.

It has good MECHANICS if you spell words right, use all the punctuation required to make the sentences clear, and uphold the grammatical conventions that allow for clarity. If you were at work, you’d also be expected to follow a “style guide” (like MLA, APA, Chicago, AP, or some other style guide). Such style guides tell you how to write numbers, and specifically how to follow conventions within your particular field.

If you “write with an accent,” have an American-user-of-English check your draft and fix the bad stuff. Hey, I LOVE accents (except my own), so I do give just a little leeway when it comes to English written with what I, as an old white guy born in America, consider “an accent.” Who owns the English language anyway? (read this: http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Groups/CCCC/NewSRTOL.pdf…it’s from 1974 but REALLY POWERFUL. Power to the People!!!) So why does my version of English count for so much when it comes to grading your writing? Not because I’m your teacher! Because I’m your reader! I need to use this freaking information. OK? UX!

Our textbook gives you techniques for managing all these systems. Learn them well. Some we haven’t gotten to yet. But do your best.

Finally, you should know that readers are 90% concerned with the content in any document. Words need to convey that content, so how the words are presented occupies about 10% of your reader’s concern. It would be great if the presentation could be invisible and just jump into your reader’s head. But that’s NOT YEY possible.

As I like to say, it’s like a cargo ship—it’s 90% about the cargo and 10% about the ship. Of course, if the ship sinks, that 10% becomes pretty important. So pay attention to both content and presentation.

 If you have questions, let me know. I’m a tough grader. I expect you to work hard.

--H L