undergraduate section

ENGCMP 0400 Written Professional Communication

“Good writing is good business. Bad writing isn’t. To be successful in sales, marketing, finance, engineering, law, personnel, and in virtually every field, you need to write well. In fact, your business writing can serve as persuasive evidence of your competence, your personality, your management style. It’s as plain and simple—and frightening—as that.”
– Wilma Davidson, Business Writing: What Works, What Won’t

“Under current trends, the twenty-first century will be characterized by an increasing diversification of the consumer market, global communications, and the collapse of traditional professional boundaries. In this climate, competence in transferring skills, addressing diverse audiences and understanding emerging needs becomes paramount for professional success. To a very large extent this competence is enhanced by the ability to understand, construct and manipulate written information in order to use it effectively in a variety of situations. Good business means good writing!”
– Sky Marsen, Professional Writing

Course Description

In this course we will examine the contexts for and rhetorical dimensions of a variety of professional documents, including those documents students produce in the course itself. Major assignments include a set of career materials (resume, cover letter, career report); a correspondence packet that addresses a conflict; a proposal; and a longer report based on research and analysis. As we engage in this work we will explore the nature of professionalism, common features and efforts (enabling and disabling) of professional discourse, and strategies for negotiating the "borders" of specialized and non-specialized discourse.

This course satisfies the Writing-intensive requirement.

Sample Student Projects

Students create a full portfolio of job materials. Starting from a career memo in which they articulate why they chose their major, to finding an appropriate job ad, writing a resume/cover letter, using a resume optimizer, securing references, consulting with professionals in their field regarding career searches, interviewing and being interviewed, and writing a thank you letter, students are prepared to find a career they love. Here are some specific examples of past student projects:

  • A biology student created a professional blog focused on the ethics of biomedical research, including such topics as animal testing dilemmas, unregulated pharmaceutical pricing, the dubious acquisition and use of HeLa cells, and more.
  • A team of three engineering students produced a FedEx feasibility report for implementing drones to make deliveries.
  • A team of four students from different majors created a recommendation report on how Netflix can diversify and improve its business practices to maintain subscriptions and break into new markets.
  • For her final project, an actuarial math major researched an app she had never explored before and wrote a paper making the app’s content accessible to a general audience of peers. This experience helped her to study for the challenging actuarial exams and pass her most recent exam.

Recent Course Faculty

Given the popularity of this course, several sections are offered each term and taught by a range of Pitt faculty. Each instructor tailors their course to their own teaching strengths to engage students, examine the many facets of professional communication, and emphasize real-world application. Read about how some faculty members approach the course:

Janet Zellman: “Because writing is a collaborative skill in the real world, my students work together to refine and revise their job portfolios. They often say that the most helpful job interview feedback they receive prior to having ‘real’ job interviews comes from their WPC classmates. While preparing the job portfolio, students have two opportunities to consult with professionals in their field to ensure that their materials are subject-matter ready. I also emphasize concise and clear writing in an effort to wean students away from the habits of academic writing; in their fields they will never have to write 500 words when they only have 300 words of substance!"

Recent Student Testimonials

“Every assignment had a purpose. This class was very beneficial because I was diving into the co-op and internship application process this semester, so I was able to put skills I was learning in class to use almost immediately. I liked that there was a lot of flexibility and the course was designed—and then modified—specifically for students' needs.”

“I love to work on projects. The business report was my favorite aspect of the class. It allowed us to escape from sitting and to work with our classmates which is a change that is beneficial to me. I also liked that it was informally run. There was a lot of student–teacher and student–student interaction which, during a 2½ hour course, makes the time go by much quicker.”

“This course further helped me with my organizational skills and helped improve my ability to write clear and concisely.”

“I liked that this course gave exposure to relevant information that we are going to see every day and have not been exposed to before in our college/academic career.”

“Learning how to write professionally is vital in all work fields. Writing concisely is one of my biggest weaknesses, but taking this class has significantly improved my ability. I have improved greatly as a writer because of this course.”