English 3764 covers the principles and procedure of technical communication. This writing-intensive course focuses attention on analyzing audience and purpose, organizing information, designing graphics, and writing such specialized forms as correspondence, instructions, and proposals. Junior standing is required.


By completing English 3764, you will

  • Gain knowledge of technical communication’s rhetorical dimensions.
  • Learn to distinguish between effective and ineffective technical documents.
  • Write in several technical genres that use analysis, narrative, critique, persuasion, and argument.
  • Practice using the conventions of written, spoken, and visual composition.
  • Gain an understanding of the role of social media and visual rhetoric in technical communications.
  • Write and create texts in digital environments.

Required Resources

  • Course Website:
  • Markel, Mike. Practical Strategies for Technical Communication. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013.
  • Virginia Tech Career Planning Guide (available online or in print from Career Services).
  • Additional required and recommended readings and resources will be posted or linked from the course sites.
  • Bring a computer with working WiFi access to each class session.

Course Requirements

You must complete all major assignments and requirements in order to pass this course. All work must be submitted online, via Google Docs, the Scholar site, or posted in shared course sites. Your final grade is calculated on this distribution:

80% Four major projects, along with related drafts and other artifacts. These projects (listed below) will focus on different kinds of technical communication.  For each major assignment unit, you will be asked to submit preliminary drafts to be discussed in small groups, by the whole class, and/or by me. You should plan to revise these assignments extensively before the due date. There are no rewrites or revisions after work is graded.

  • Project 1: Technical and Professional Rhetorical Analysis. Due Feb 14.
  • Project 2: Description, Definition, and Instructions. Due Mar 17 Mar 21.
  • Project 3: Job Application Materials. Due Apr 4 Apr 7.
  • Project 4: Group Analysis and Recommendation Report and Presentation. Due beginning May 2.
20% Participation, homework, and a minimum of 20 pages of in-class writing. You will write during each class. These daily writing activities include correspondence, reading responses, peer feedback, and reflections.

Extra Credit Optional, Take-Home Final Exam. You can sketch out a revision plan for one of the major projects you have completed for extra credit points that will add into the 80% Project Grade for the course.

  • CRN #13260 (9:05 MWF): Due by 9:45 AM on Tues, May 13
  • CRN #13261 (10:10 MWF): Due by 3:05 PM on Fri, May 9
  • CRN #19530 (1:25 MWF): Due by 5:25 PM on Tues, May 13


Communication Guidelines: Email is the best way to contact me. You can email me at I do not respond to students at any other address. I try to answer student email within 24 hours on weekdays and within 48 hours on weekends and holidays. I’ll reply to messages sent during Spring Break on March 16.

Absences: Class attendance and participation are required. You may miss two classes (for any reason) without penalty. Each additional absence (for any reason) will lower your course grade by 5%, and six or more absences may result in a failing grade for the course. Because our time in class is limited, promptness is important. Each tardy (arriving more than 5 minutes late) and each instance of leaving early will count as 1/2 of an absence. If you are late for class, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have not been marked absent. If you miss a class because of an illness, death in the family, or family emergency, see the Absence Verification FAQs from the Dean of Students Office for details on how to have your absence excused.

If you have an issue that affects your ability to complete the course, you may qualify for Academic Relief. For personal medical issues, contact the Schiffert Health Center, and for psychiatric or psychological issues, contact the Cook Counseling Center.

Work Guidelines: All work and participation in this course is governed by the Undergraduate Honor System and the Virginia Tech Principles of Community.

Late Policy:
In-class work: Every class period, you will complete writing activities that you will submit online. This work is due during your class period and counts as part of your participation grade. This work is relevant to the activities that will take place in the class session. If you cannot complete the work in class, you have until 5 PM the next day to submit it.

Projects: You will compose four projects, which you will submit online. Each major assignment will have a due date, a grace period, and a deadline:

  • The due date is the day that your major assignment is due. Every student has a one-week grace period after the due date during which the assignment unit can still be submitted.
  • The grace period occurs between the due date and the deadline. Work submitted during the grace period will be marked as late in Scholar; however, there is no grade penalty for work submitted during the grace period. Note that  we will not work on the assignments in class after the due date nor will I be available to provide feedback on your work in progress or final submission after the due date. 
  • The deadline comes one week after the due date and is the final day that an assignment will be accepted. You will receive a zero for any work that is not submitted by the deadline. There are no extensions on deadlines.

Project Presentations and Final Exam: There are no extensions or make-ups on these activities.

Backups: Save backups of all your work for this class and maintain backups in multiple places (your laptop, a flash drive, Google Docs, your Va Tech Drop Box). Printed backups can also be useful. Do not discard any files, notes, or other work until the term is over and you have received your final grade. Be sure that you maintain backups so that you can continue your work when you encounter computer problems. If you need assistance with your computer, check with InnovationSpace or Customer Support Center (4Help).

Equal Access and Opportunity: If you need special accommodations in this course, please contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) in 310 Lavery Hall (above the Turner Place Dining Center) as soon as possible to ensure that you have the resources you need. I am happy to work with the SSD staff to make sure that you have the support you need.

Grading: I use a 4-grade scale (no rounding). Specific grading guidelines will be provided for each assignment.

Grade Scale Description
A  4.0
A- 3.7

Excellent, outstanding work that

  • exceeds requirements for the assignment.
  • demonstrates originality and mastery of the objectives or material.
  • addresses audience, purpose, and voice with expertise through the savvy use of rhetorical strategies.
  • contains no errors in grammar, spelling, or mechanics.
B+ 3.3
B   3.0
B-  2.7

Good to very good work that

  • meets all requirements for the assignment.
  • demonstrates above-average insight and a thorough understanding of the objectives or material.
  • addresses audience, purpose, and voice well with the appropriate use of specific rhetorical strategies.
  • contains only minor errors in grammar, spelling, or mechanics.
C+ 2.3
C   2.0
C-  1.7

Satisfactory or fair work that

  • meets most of the requirements for the assignment.
  • demonstrates a basic understanding of the objectives or material, but relies on generic or predictable techniques.
  • addresses most aspects of audience, purpose, and voice with rhetorically-appropriate strategies.
  • contains several minor errors in grammar, spelling, or mechanics.
D+  1.3
D    1.0
D-   0.7

Fair to poor work that

  • meets some, but not all, of the requirements for the assignment.
  • demonstrates a partial understanding of the objectives or material.
  • addresses some aspects of audience, purpose, and voice, and/or inconsistently uses rhetorical strategies.
  • contains one or two major errors in grammar, spelling, or mechanics.
F  0.699 & below

Unacceptable work that is flawed by one or more of the following characteristics:

  • does not meet the requirements of the assignment.
  • demonstrates little understanding of the objectives or material.
  • fails to address audience, purpose, and/or voice and/or uses rhetorical strategies incompletely or incorrectly.
  • contains several major errors in grammar, spelling, or mechanics.