Wednesday, February 25, 2009


This has been written about before by really smart people, but I want to try to work something out here (albeit briefly).

Today we had a mini-seminar for instructors of WRT 307: Advanced Writing Studio in Professional Communication. SU requires 307 for a good number of the professional majors, such as management and engineering.

I've taught 307 many times in all formats and never gave much thought to the fact that I wasn't necessarily teaching a "professional communication" course. Admitedly, my courses tend to lean toward technical communication -- or at the very least, an introductory foray into the fundamentals of technical writing. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem (for me or the Writing Program) if the official course description didn't read like this:

"Professional communication through the study of audience, purpose, and ethics. Rhetorical problem-solving principles applied to diverse professional writing tasks and situations."

Let me state the obvious: the description does not make even the slightest mention of "technical" writing, communication, or practices. Which is fine, if the course defines professional communication narrowly as business communication.

My question and concern (which our mini-seminar group has taken up) has to do with the text books we're all using in our different sections of 307. The most popular, of course, are the Markel and Lannon texts. Others include titles by Gurak, Woolever, and named "tech com" scholars. So why, in a professional communication course, do most of us use technical communication texts?

I know the answers are obvious and in many ways bundled up with disciplinary identity and programmatic territorialism. With all that aside, I think it will be extremely useful for our little group to develop a clear statement about what "professional communication" means to the Writing Program and how that definition jives with the program's missions, goals, and plans.

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