detail from Minard's chart of Hannibal's march
image credit: Charles Joseph Minard

professional conduct

This course is part of the Professional Writing and Editing (PWE) program at WVU. The PWE program is dedicated to preparing its students to complete a capstone internship experience and, ultimately, for careers as professional communicators. For this reason, many aspects of the course are designed to replicate professional work experiences, and all students are expected to conduct themselves like professionals in the course. As is the case with professionals, students are expected to attend and be on time to all class meetings; to come to all class meetings prepared; and, generally, to respond to course activities and assignments as they would to comparable work activities and assignments.

social justice policy

The English Department and the Professional Writing and Editing Program support WVU’s commitment to social justice. In this course, you will work with your classmates to create a positive learning environment based on open communication and mutual respect.


The West Virginia University community is committed to creating and fostering a positive learning and working environment based on open communication, mutual respect, and inclusion. If you are a person with a disability and anticipate needing any type of accommodation in order to participate in this class, please advise me and make appropriate arrangements with the Office of Accessibility Services (293-6700). For more information on West Virginia University’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, please see http://diversity.wvu.edu.

work visibility

Due to the nature of the course, you will be sharing your work with your fellow classmates as part of workshops and peer review sessions. Additionally, you will share your work publicly on the Web (e.g., on this course site) and with the WVU community. By taking this course, you are indicating that you accept these requirements; if you have any questions or concerns about this policy please contact me immediately.

office hours

If you have questions about the readings, assignments, or any other issues related to the course, come talk to me; I will be happy to answer them. The best times to meet with me will be during my office hours.

scheduled office hours

In-person. My in-person office hours will be held on Tuesdays from 10-noon; my office is in 231 Colson Hall.

Virtual. In addition to my in-person office hours, I will also hold regular virtual office hours using the chat or video features of Google Plus. Google refers to these chats as hangouts. My virtual office hours this semester will be on Tuesdays from 10-noon and Fridays from noon-1. If you are new to Google Plus, you can find more information on how to initiate a hangout here.

please make an appointment

I would like to know when you plan to meet with me, so please schedule an appointment if you are going to come see me or start a chat with me.

meeting outside of my scheduled office hours

If you would like to meet with me but are not free during any of my scheduled office hours, please contact me directly via email and I will be happy to arrange an alternative meeting time that fits both of our schedules.


If for some reason it becomes necessary for me to cancel or reschedule my regular office hours or a meeting with an individual student, I will notify the class or the student as soon as possible. Similarly, if you need to cancel a scheduled meeting with me, you should contact me as soon as possible.

official communication

In addition to our class meetings, there will be two primary avenues of official communication for the course: WVU email and this website.

I will conduct most official communication with the class or individual students via email. I will send these messages to your MIX email addresses.

Updates to this course site—such as changes to the course schedule, or additional information about assignments—will be posted to the blog on this site. I may sometimes duplicate messages in other media—for example, I might post on Twitter that I have added a new blog post to the course site or that I have sent everyone an important email—but, in order to make sure you don’t miss important information, you should regularly check your MIX accounts, messages posted to the course hashtag on Twitter, and this site.

My tendency in course communication initiated by students will to respond in the medium in which the question was sent. For example, if you ask a question on Twitter, I will tend to respond on Twitter (assuming the answer can fit in a tweet and is suitable for public view); if you ask a question in a comment on a document in Google Drive, I will respond in a comment on that document; if you send me an email, I will email you back.

I will do my best to respond to your messages within 24 hours during the work week (M-F); on the weekends, responses may take longer.

technology policies

working with new technologies

In this course, we will be experimenting with many different technologies for writing and reading, ranging from services like Twitter to software packages like Adobe Illustrator. In this course you may be introduced to a new way of communicating that you find indispensable. Alternatively, you may find yourself using technologies that you cannot imagine yourself using again outside of the course, and you may experience these technologies as being difficult or unrelated to your career goals.

That is ok.

You are not required to love the technologies we experiment with in the course or to embrace them without question. What is required of you is that you approach all of our assignments with an open mind and your best effort, as a future professional experimenting with different modes of communication.

The course will contain specific instructions on technology use and software. For example, we will cover basic methods of preparing information for visualizations and page layout in programs like Word and Illustrator. When we do, I  expect that you will take notes so you will have a guide to follow when it comes time for you to use these technologies. Additionally, it is likely that you will find that your particular project will require you to use a technique or software feature not addressed in class, and this will require you to do additional research and adopt additional tools that you will learn on your own.

As experimenters, our method will be trial and error. In all cases, when faced with new tools and technologies you should expect to devote some time to experimenting with and learning these technologies, researching (or discovering) their possibilities and limitations, and, when possible, sharing what you have learned with your classmates when they need help.

troubleshooting technology problems

While I am always available to answer your questions and help you troubleshoot technology issues, if you need assistance with a particular technology you will find that, in most instances, if you have a question about how to accomplish a particular task—for example, creating a histogram in Excel—other people have had the same question and the answer is available on the Internet.

If examining the course readings and searching for help documents online does not solve your problem and you need to consult me, please remember that the more detail I have about your problem, the easier it is for me to help you solve it. If you email me saying

I’m trying to create a histogram, but I’m stuck. Help!

I won’t have much to go on and this will lead to delays in you finding a solution to your problem. I better email request is

I was using Excel to create a histogram, but my I can’t get my axis labels to line up correctly. Help!

In many cases, it is most helpful if you not only describe your problem, but also share the files that you are having trouble with.

using technologies in class

During class you are welcome to use the computers in the lab for note-taking and activities that are relevant to the tasks at hand; you are also welcome to bring your own devices for these purposes. However, there may be some occasions when I will ask you to turn off computers and other devices for a period of time.

In general, most technology is welcome in class as long as it is used to aid student learning. Technology that doesn’t serve this purpose—or that actively distracts you or your classmates from learning—is not welcome, and I reserve the right to restrict the use of these technologies in class.


In this class we will cover a large amount of information in our face-to-face meetings that will be essential to how you understand the course topics and eventually complete your assignments. We will also be learning a number of skills that you will be expected to develop incrementally over the course of the semester. For these reasons, it is important that you attend class, arrive on time, bring any assigned work and necessary materials, and participate in all in-class writing, workshopping, and discussion sessions.

There are no excused absences in the course. For this reason, you should reserve your absences for truly unavoidable emergencies. Each student will be allowed four (4) absences without it affecting his or her grade. For each absence over four (4), the student’s final grade for the course will be lowered by up to 5 points. This includes absences for illnesses and other emergencies.

It is also important that you be in class on time and stay for the entire period. If you arrive to class more than 5 minutes late or leave class more than 5 minutes before it is dismissed, you will be counted absent. Further, if you come to class unprepared on the day of a peer-review session, conference session, or workshop—that is, without a draft to discuss with your classmates or myself or in any other way unprepared to workshop your project—you will be counted absent.

If you find that an unavoidable conflict prevents you from attending class or being on time, you should discuss this conflict with me prior to the absence (if possible). Otherwise, you should contact me about any absences as soon as possible.

late work

If you cannot attend class on the date an assignment is due, you should discuss a make-up date with me before the absence. If you do not contact me before the time an assignment is due, the assignment will be considered late.

In general, a problem with technology will not be considered an acceptable excuse for late or incomplete work. If your computer malfunctions, it is your responsibility to find an alternative one to work on. If your Internet goes out, you will need to find a different access point. And you should create multiple redundant backups of your work in case you accidentally erase, overwrite, or otherwise lose your files.

Major assignments turned in after they are due will be penalized by ten percentage points for each calendar day they are late. Homework, quizzes, and all other in-class assignments will not be accepted late. If you fail to attend class on the day you are scheduled to lead a class discussion or give a presentation, you should expect to receive no credit for that assignment.

submitting course work

Unless otherwise noted, all course assignments will be submitted electronically. I will inform you of the method and procedures for submitting an assignment before it is due. Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are due before the start of class on the day they are listed in the course schedule.

academic integrity

The integrity of the classes offered by any academic institution solidifies the foundation of its mission and cannot be sacrificed to expediency, ignorance, or blatant fraud. Therefore, I will enforce rigorous standards of academic integrity in all aspects and assignments of this course. For the detailed policy of West Virginia University regarding the definitions of acts considered to fall under academic dishonesty and possible ensuing sanctions, please see the West Virginia University Student Conduct Code. Should you have any questions about possibly improper research citations or references, or any other activity that may be interpreted as an attempt at academic dishonesty, please see me before the assignment is due to discuss the matter.

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