Professional Writing and Technical Communication

University of Massachusetts Amherst

English 379

Welcome to the course website of ENGL 379: Introduction to Professional Writing. This course offers an overview of the field of professional writing in both theoretical and practical contexts. It also provides practice in the composition of traditional writing forms, especially letters and memorandums, interim reports, feasibility studies and formal proposals. It serves as the gateway course to the specialization in Professional Writing and Technical Communication and the specialization in Nonfiction Writing. (3 cr.): Prereq.: ENGLWP 112 or equivalent.

This course is occasionally offered online during the summer term. For instructions on registering, please visit UMass-Amherst Continuing and Professional Education.

David Toomey |
office hours: Bartlett 481 (time TBA)
syllabus (PDF), assignments, online textbook

Catherine Elliott |
office hours: TBA
syllabus (PDF), assignments, online textbook


Cover letter/résumé (short assignment #1)
—Library research (short assignment #2; you will receive a hard copy of this assignment)
Feasibility study (short assignment #3)
Progress report (not an assignment)
Presentation on a scientific, medical and/or technical controversy
Grant proposal

Deadlines and Responsibilities

Deadlines in the professional world are a rather serious matter. Missed deadlines mean lost contracts, lost grants and in some cases the loss, quite literally, of millions of dollars in revenue. Missed deadlines also compromise professional reputations and careers. For these reasons deadlines in this course will be respected. Please notify me at least one day in advance that you will be late with an assignment. You will not be penalized for the first late paper. Each subsequent second late paper lowers your final grade a letter grade (e.g., from B to BC).

Your other responsibilities: You should be familiar with the assigned reading or website links by the date at which they appear on the calendar. Participation in class and in-class writing assignments will be expected, and especially constructive participation may raise a final grade by several points.