Professional Writing and Technical Communication

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Course descriptions

English 379: Introduction to Professional Writing (Fall)

This course offers an overview of commonly encountered professional genres such as memos, reports, job materials, and grant proposals. Students gain practice writing in these genres, with an emphasis on clarity and concision. They develop more sophisticated research skills and gain experience in communicating specialized information to non-specialist readers. Finally, they are exposed to the range of professional writing careers as they explore writing on both theoretical and practical planes through consideration of audience, as well as wider professional, social, and cultural contexts. Prereq.: ENGLWP 112 or equivalent; junior or senior status with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better. Toomey, Eherenfeld. An online version of Engl 379 is sometimes offered through the Springfield Initiative.


English 380: Professional Writing and Tech Comm 1 (Fall)

Introduces principles of technical writing and software documentation. This course simulates the writing and editing processes used in the computer industry; students write a 25-35 page manual documenting a software product, usually Microsoft Word. Prereq.: ENGL 379 (which may be taken concurrently) or permission of the instructor; junior or senior status with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better. Solberg.


English 391C: Advanced Software for Professional Writers (Spring)

In this course, you will learn to create web content using HTML, CSS, and Adobe Photoshop. The major ongoing project for the course will be to create an online portfolio of content that demonstrates your skills as a web designer and professional writer. The portfolio will be built with the software cited above. Class time will include lab work on the portfolio, workshop critiques of work-in-progress, and in-class exercises. Prereq.: junior or senior staus and a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better. Solberg.


English 381: Professional Writing and Tech Comm 2 (Spring)

This course continues and extends the work of ENGL 380. You will learn (and practice applying) principles of software documentation, information design, typography, and page design. You will also learn to use industry-standard software programs such as Adobe InDesign, MadCap Flare, and Adobe FrameMaker. This course asks you to increase your writing, organizational, and graphical sophistication and produce portfolio-quality writing. Prereq.: junior or senior status with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better and ENGL 380 or permission of the instructor. Solberg.


English 382: Professional Writing and Tech Comm 3 (Spring)

This course serves as the capstone for the Professional Writing and Technical Communication Certificate. As such, the course has two aims: professionalization and specialization. Students will participate in mock interviews, workshop their professional portfolios, and learn about careers in technical writing and information technology from working professionals. The course will also provide students with directed opportunities to explore the theory and practice of particular kinds of writing and technology (e.g., report writing, grant proposals, speechwriting, voiceovers, integration with video and film, web site development). Each student will present a significant report on a topic related to technology, communication, and culture. Prereq.: ENGL 381 (which may be taken concurrently), junior or senior status and a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better. Toomey.