October 20, 2017

On Writing

One of the objectives in this course is to give you an opportunity to sharpen your written and oral communication skills. As you start your career (some in a few short months,) you will almost immediately start writing memoranda, letters, reports and other documents. The better you write the better you will communicate and impress people.

Good writing takes practice and a good understanding of the structure of the language. I do not claim to know the grammar better than you, nor do I claim to be an English teacher. I will simply challenge you to improve your writing and offer some guidance in doing it.

A matter of style

It is important that we all agree on the writing style that we can use as a standard. There are many style guides that you can pick up at any bookstore. All the writing in this course will follow The Chicago Manual of Style for documenting the sources. Although the Chicago Style allows for using either footnotes or endnotes, I require that in your writing all the references to be presented as footnotes.

I have prepared a style guide that shows how to format the citations and how to properly reference your sources without crossing the boundary of plagiarism.

To assist in formatting documents, I have written a formatting and layout guide, Typewriter Days (aka Layout Guide). Read that document and adhere to the principles outlined there. Your documents will
have a more professional appearance and you will not lose points.

These are must-read documents. You can view them on screen anytime using Acrobat reader or even print a copy of them to keep with your notes. Read the additional information below about the writing requirements in this course. If you do not adhere to those standards, you will lose points. In general, you can count on about 5-10% penalty for each occurrence.

The document template

I have prepared an imaginary paper to illustrate the formatting issues. You should view this sample paper, print and study it. If the proper Adobe Acrobat plug-in has not been installed, you will not be able to view this document.

I have prepared a template that will produce the results I want using Microsoft Word. You may download the Microsoft Word template and use it in all your written work. It is a self-extracting compressed ZIP file. Double click on the file name to extract into the same directory after you download it.

If you do not wish to use the template, devise your methods to replicate the format and the look of a template-based document when printed. You will lose points on each written assignment if your document does not conform to that format. Print the sample document and study it carefully. Pay attention to how headings are formatted, amount of space before and after each, and the position of the page numbers.

You will write papers and other documents in these courses. Strive to write papers that have substance and style. In addition to the documents I provide here, consider using a writing manual to smooth out the wrinkles in your writing. Also, read all the guidelines in the syllabus carefully and adhere to them closely. Here is a summary.

  • Writing is an attempt to communicate. Communication requires an idea, a message to share. If the readers do not get your idea, you are not communicating. Get the idea?
  • Do not try to write a finished paper on your first, or even second try. Good writing requires good editing. Carefully edit the entire paper to remove chaffIn these courses, you will write business reports. They need not use fancy words
  • Use short sentences that form cohesive paragraphs. Link paragraphs to form integrated sections

Here is the summary of the formatting and structuring style for this course. For matters not included in this summary refer to a style manual.

  1. Use plain white paper. The kind used in laser printing will serve our purpose
  2. Use a laser printer or a good quality ink-jet printer with black ink. Do not submit work that is printed
    on a printer running out of ink or toner. Printers have a nasty habit of running out of supplies and jamming at the most inopportune moment. Leave some room for these problems. Do not try to print your assignment on your way to class, anything that can go wrong, will.
  3. Use 11-point Times New Roman and double-space the text except for block-quotes, tables, and the like
  4. Pay attention to the form as well as content
  5. Use headings and subheadings to create and maintain a well defined and meaningful skeleton. Several (3-5) headings every two pages or so will not be excessive
  6. The sample paper content, which is used as a filler, explains some of the finer points that you need to observe. Read and carefully follow them
  7. For matters not covered in the sample paper or when in doubt refer to a style manual covering the Chicago Style of citations
  8. You have no excuses for sloppy writing. Use all the resources to your advantage

Resources on the Web

The Web offers many writing-related sites. Here are a few to start you on your search. Remember though, the writing and citation in this course will adhere to the Chicago Style.

Research and Documentation Online by Diana Hacker (recommended)
University of Wisconsin Writing center
Plagiary and the Art of Skillful Citation
Elements of Style
Guide to Grammar and Style
Common Errors in English (recommended)