Writing Definitions

For Project 2, you need to include a glossary of the key terms that relate to the topic that you have chosen. You probably know a great deal about definitions, since most of you have been looking up words in the dictionary since you were very young. Today, we’re going to review strategies for writing definitions, look at some example glossaries, and then end with the in-class writing.


We will also talk about descriptions (pp. 366–374), so be sure you have read that section of the text.

Introduction to Project 2

Today, we begin Project 2, an assignment that asks you to write technical definitions, descriptions, and step-by-step instructions. Markel, Chapter 14 (“Writing Definitions, Descriptions, and Instructions”) will be your best friend as we work on this project. We’ll also return to the information on audience and purpose from Chapter 4, and we’ll look at some relevant information in Chapter 8 (“Creating Graphics”).

Here’s what we’ll do today:

  • I’ll explain the requirements for Project 2, and talk about some changes to the schedule.
  • We’ll brainstorm some potential topics for Project 2, and talk about how to ensure that they are specific enough
  • We’ll find some examples of technical definitions, descriptions, and step-by-step instructions on the Virginia Tech website.
  • We’ll end with the in-class writing. Go to “Tests & Quizzes” in Scholar and complete today’s assignment, “02/21 Major Website Analysis.”


On Monday, I will ask you to propose your topic for Project 2 for the in-class writing. Spend some time this weekend thinking about possibilities and choose a topic. Think about your specific audience and purpose as they relate to that topic. Return to the information on audience and purpose in Chapter 4 if you need a refresher.

We will also talk about definitions (pp. 358–366), so be sure you have read that section of the text.

Sassy Email Responses

I have a change of plans for today. I am still setting up Project 2, so we’re going to talk about those personal email messages that you will ultimately have to send to a teacher or manager instead. At some point, you are going to have to email your manager that you are sick and won’t be coming in. It’s also likely that you are going to have to let your manager know that something has gone wrong and you’ll miss a key meeting or won’t meet a deadline. You’re also going to need to ask for a day off for personal reasons.

All these emails have a lot in common with the messages that students send teachers, so I’m going to share some examples from my files, talk about how to improve them, and end with a list of what you should include when you send an email to your teacher or manager.

In-Class Writing

We’ll do the writing at the end of the session today (so you can demonstrate you were paying attention). Go to “Tests & Quizzes” in Scholar and complete today’s in-class writing, “02/19 Email Excuse.” Choose one of the four options and write your answer in Scholar. You are not actually sending me an email message. Be sure to indicate which option you have chosen. You have until 5 PM tomorrow, Thursday, 02/20, to turn in your work.


If you haven’t started reading Markel, Chapter 14, “Writing Definitions, Descriptions, and Instructions,” please do. We’ll go over all the parts of the chapter in class during the next week or so.

Submitting Project 1

Today is the due date for Project 1. We’ll talk about the reflection memo and how to submit your project. While we will not talk about Project 1 after today, you have a one-week grace period if you need it. The very last moment when you can submit Project 1 is Monday, February 24 at 11:55 PM.

Write Your Reflection Memo

For this project, your reflection memo will give me the links to the document you are analyzing and to your rhetorical analysis. You will also tell me about what you have written. Follow these instructions to submit your work:

  1. Go to the Assignments tab on the left menu in Scholar.
  2. Choose “P1: Technical and Professional Rhetorical Analysis.”
  3. Scroll down to the text box below the headings Submission and Assignment Text. You will write your memo in this box.
  4. Add your memo headers (To, From, Subject, and Date).
  5. Insert a horizontal divider line using the button indicated with the red arrow in the image below:
    Insert Horizontal Line button in Scholar
  6. Add a sentence about the document you are analyzing, and add the Share link from Google Drive or the public URL to the site.
  7. Use the Insert Link button (shown with the red arrow in the image below) to make the URL a working weblink:
    Insert Link Button in Scholar
  8. Follow the instructions in Submitting Your Projects to make sure you have sharing set up properly and get the link to the final version of Project 1.
  9. Add a sentence that introduces Project 1, and add the Share line from your Google Drive.
  10. Use the Insert Link button (shown in step 7 above) to make the URL a working weblink.
  11. Write your reflection comments on the first project, following the explanation in the Project 1 Assignment page. Use what you know about effective memos to organize your reflection. For instance, use headings to arrange the information in your memo.
  12. Agree to the Honor Code by clicking the checkbox at the bottom of the page in Scholar.
  13. Submit your Project, and save a copy of the confirmation and submission ID.
  14. Celebrate! You’ve finished the first project!


We will begin Project 2 during the next class session. This assignment will rely heavily on Markel, Chapter 14, “Writing Definitions, Descriptions, and Instructions.” Go ahead and begin reading the chapter to familiarize yourself with these kinds of technical writing.

Review, Tips, and Pointers for Project 1

Project 1 is due on Friday, February 14 (I know. It’s not the best Valentine’s Day present.) In class today, we’ll go over some tips related to the project, and I will answer any questions that you have about the project. We’ll do the in-class writing at the end of the session.

  1. We will review the basic structure and checklist for Project One:
    • Include correct memo headers (see p. 230) and an effective subject line (title)
    • Open with complete details about the document you are analyzing
    • Add a summary (see Chapter 9, p. 232)
    • Step through the 6 characteristics of technical communication (see Chapter 1)
    • Evaluate the effectiveness with the 8 measures of excellence (see Chapter 1)
    • Finish with a conclusion
  2. I will demonstrate suggestions and revision strategies using the Rhetorical Analysis of Science Fair Booklet by Bryan Chambers.
  3. You will go to “Tests & Quizzes” in Scholar and complete today’s in-class writing, “02/12 Progress Report.” Your work will be graded for effort and completeness, but minor issues in spelling, grammar, and punctuation won’t matter in today’s writing.

Weather Plans

If Tech cancels classes on Friday, obviously we will not meet. I will post an announcement in Scholar with details on how we’ll revise the schedule.

If Tech has classes but for some reason I can’t get here, I will send out an announcement via Scholar letting you know. I would think I could let you know by 6 AM.


Finish up your work on Project 1. On Friday, we’ll go over the information and format for the reflection memo. Even if you will be taking advantage of the grace period for Project 1, you should be ready to begin work on your reflection. In class, you will have time to write your memo, and to make any last minute changes to your project. If you will be taking advantage of the grace period, please use the time in the class period to work on your project.

Writing Correspondence

Today, class will meet online only, because of a last-minute family obligation that has come up for me. I asked you to read Chapter 9, “Writing Correspondence” for today. The chapter covers writing letters, memos, and email messages.

From what you have told me about your career goals, I don’t expect you to be writing the kinds of claims or adjustments letters that are highlighted in the book, but you may well need to help customers and clients with issues that come up in relationship to the projects you work on. As a result, I want you to focus for now on the section in the chapter about memos.

  • Pay attention to your memo headers. Your first writing project is a memo, so note the options for the headers for your memo on page 230. Remember that you always need to include all four: To, From, Subject, and Date. You have some leeway in the order however, as the examples on that page show.
  • Provide a clear, easy-to-read organization. Apply the Guidelines for Organizing a Memo, on page 232, to your draft of Project 1. For this project, there is not a prominent recommendation to include at the end, but the other four guidelines apply to your work.
  • Use the Writer’s Checklist for Memos. Ensure that your first project has everything that it needs by applying the checklist for memos, on page 239, to your work before you turn it in on Friday.

In-Class Writing

For today’s in-class writing, go to “Tests & Quizzes” in Scholar and complete today’s in-class writing, “02/09 Memo Revision.” Since we will not meet in the classroom, I’m giving you until 11:55 PM on Tuesday, 2/11 to get your work in.


Keep working on your first project. I am in the process of checking your rough drafts, and have left comments on the Google Doc when appropriate. I am only a third of the way through the alphabet at this point. If you submitted your rough draft on time, watch for notification from Google that I’ve added comments to your draft and let me know if you have any questions by using the Reply function in the Google Docs comments.

There is no additional reading for Wednesday, 2/12. We’ll review the requirements for the first project, look at some example texts, and address any questions or concerns you have. Remember that the due date for the project is Friday, 2/14. You will work on your reflection memo in class that day. If you decide to take advantage of the grace period, the last day you can submit your project is 2/21.