Professional Communication Writing in Business

GEB 5212: Dr. Shannon Butts

Course Description

This graduate course will help you develop written communication skills for professional environments. While tailored to the needs of students studying international business, the lessons will help writers from all disciplines to develop strategies for approaching workplace communication. Students will focus on clear, effective writing that balances information with persuasive appeals. Working through case-based assignment prompts, we will learn to address the needs of an audience by analyzing writing situations and composing strategic messages. Students will learn the principles of clarity, concision and coherence, and practice strategies for crafting effective reports, proposals, letters, emails and memos.

Course Materials

  • All readings will be available on Canvas
  • If you would like additional help, you can purchase: The Business Writer’s Companion - Gerald Alred, Charles Brusaw and Walter Oliu.

Course Objectives

  • Analyze and interpret business communication methods
  • Learn writing strategies for professional environments
  • Work with different professional writing genres and digital technologies
  • Practice document design, data analysis, revision, and research skills
  • Create action-oriented documents for a public audience
  • Write more clearly and concisely with excellent grammar and formatting
  • Arrange ideas persuasively
  • Develop strategies for addressing a variety of audiences using diverse rhetorical approaches

Major Assignments

Our course uses a real world business scenario to create different writing assignments. Using case-based learning challenges students to attune to contemporary issues in professional communication while also providing them with specific situations and audience details for writing. This course uses the Harvard Business Review to address cybersecurity in today's marketplace. After reading through the articles on Canvas, students will analyze information, research potential solutions, and write informative, bad news, and persuasive messages to respond to the cybersecurity scenario.

Informative Email

Employees often research products, processes, or companies and report back on what they find. For the informative email assignment you will learn more about cybersecurity and compose a short report for your colleagues. First, research modern approaches to risk assessment relevant to our case. Choose two articles that you believe are current, relevant, rigorous, and trustworthy. Then, compose an email to the executive staff summarizing those resources (which you will attach to the email). You should write your email so that it will display well and be easy to read across devices. Focus on highlighting key points of information, presenting facts, creating a clear organization, and informing readers of current cybersecurity measures. Your email should:

  • Set the context for your message
  • Give the key takeaway(s) from the articles
  • Refer to and motivate engagement with your attachment
  • Include the names of the articles and their sources
  • Offer relevant next steps
  • Build goodwill.
  • Use a direct approach

Bad News Message

Professional communication often requires delivering what we term "bad news" - from changing meeting dates to firing an employee. This assignment helps you understand how to frame bad news while still building goodwill with the recipient and maintaining professional standards of communication. Using details from your case study, you will inform a consultant that you will not be hiring their cybersecurity firm; however, you might want to work with their firm in the future. Compose a bad new letter that declines the offer to work with the new firm. Your letter should:

  • Control reader response to the bad news
  • Preserve goodwill and a good working relationship
  • Communicate a context and rationale that the reader will understand
  • Employ the bad new sandwich indirect approach

Persuasive Proposal

Professional writing often involves situations where employees research companies, investigate policies, and suggest new approaches. Writers must offer recommendations supported by clear evidence and through easy to read formats. This assignment focuses on creating a persuasive proposal that offers new approaches to cybersecurity for your company. After doing considerable research, your CEO has asked you to propose a solution to the risk assessment issues. Using the research you and your classmates have gathered, you will compose a short persuasive proposal (in memo format) recommending specific changes to company cybersecurity. You are welcome to choose any number of approaches, but must support your recommendations with clear evidence, logical reasoning, and specific details. Show how your proposal works best for the needs of the company and offers a feasible solution. Your memo should:

  • Argue persuasively for your position
  • Connect to reader's interests
  • Refute opposing arguments
  • Provide clear next steps

Discussion Posts and In Class Work

As a graduate course, this class works best if you do the assigned reading and writing at home and come to class ready to engage new ideas. During class we will work collaboratively to analyze professional writing, interpret research, learn new writing strategies, and peer review our own work. Discussion posts will frame each week and provide writing for revision and peer review. We will practice research and writing skills through weekly discussion posts and in class exercises.

Created By
Shannon Butts