Rhetoric 380 Home Page
Rhetoric 380: Persuasive Writing

Oakland University
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Rhetoric, Communication, and Journalism
Rhetoric 380: Persuasive Writing (4 credits)
Winter 2007

Instructor:             Lori Ostergaard
Office Phone:       370-2075
Email:                     ostergaa@oakland.edu
Office:                     Wilson 402
Mailbox:                 316 WH RCJ Office
Office Hours:        Tuesday, 2-3, by appointment, by email
Course Hours:     Tues. 6:30-9:50
Course Web Page: www.oakland.edu/~ostergaa

Any student needing to arrange a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability should contact Disability Support Services in North Foundation Hall, by calling (248) 370-3266 or TTY: (248) 370-3268; faxing (248) 370-4989; or e-mailing dss@oakland.edu.

Course Description

From the Oakland Course Catalog: A four-credit course in advanced writing designed to help students develop argumentative and stylistic skill in a variety of rhetorical contexts with application in business, communication, industry and government.

Prerequisite: Satisfaction of university writing foundation requirement. (RHT 160)

General Education Requirements
This course satisfies the following General Education requirements:

      Students will demonstrate:

Effective Communication

Course Goals

Students in this class will:

Why take a rhetoric course focused on persuasive writing for business, communication, industry and government?

The biggest reason comes from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Quarterly. In a survey of 200 top occupations, the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections found that good communication was an essential skill for 40% of occupations ranging from management to health services, and a moderately essential skill for 45% of the occupations, ranging from computer programmers to industrial engineers.

Class Materials

Textbooks and Readings 

Marsh, Charles. A Quick and Not Dirty Guide to Business Writing: Twenty-five Business and Public Relations Documents that Every Business Writer Should Know. ISBN: 0137774834

Williams, Robin. The Non-Designers Design Book. Second Edition. ISBN: 0321303377

Additional readings will be provided by the course instructor.

Format of the Class

This class is designed as a writers’ workshop, so much of the time we spend together this semester will be devoted to analyzing documents and using that analysis to draft, review, and revise those documents. You will often begin projects in class, extend them beyond class time, and return to class to get feedback on your work. Class time will also consist of discussion based on the texts you are composing, and the majority of the projects you complete this semester will be produced in collaboration with one or more of your classmates.

You will also gain experience developing documents for a “client” outside of our classroom by designing the publicity documents (brochure, newsletter, Web site) for an organization or group on campus.

We will work in a computerized, networked classroom throughout the semester, and as you develop documents, I will also introduce you to some editing, document design, and Web design software.

Because this is a writing class, there are no midterms or final exams: your grade will be based on the writing, editing, and collaborative work you do this semester.

Tentative Course Schedule

Weeks 1 & 2

Introduction. We will explore basic rhetorical principles for professional writers, and we will begin looking at strategies for analyzing the design and usability of professional documents. Our discussion of ethos, ethics, and voice in professional documents also begins.

Weeks 3 & 4

We will discuss the rhetoric and design of  business letters, memos, and emails, and begin our discussion of collaborative document production and editing. During week four, your group will also make first contact with your  “client” (the organization or group on campus for whom you will design documents).

Week 5

This week you will write a press release. I will provide you with information for your press release unless your “client” has expressed an interest in having you write one for them.

Weeks 6-9

Thus far you have written and designed documents for business associates and the press. During weeks 6-9, you will learn to design informative and persuasive brochures for the public and newsletters aimed at your client’s membership.

Weeks 10-12

Over the course of these three weeks, you will continue to work with your group to create a visual identity for your client by designing a Web site. You will need to arrange for a preliminary meeting with the organization’s leadership and a follow-up meeting to get your client’s feedback on your work before you submit it for my final review. In class I will introduce you to Web design software and we will discuss how to make your Web site ADA compliant and how to conduct usability tests. We will also discuss color theory, and discuss how color impacts your designs.

Weeks 13-15

At the end of the semester you will revise and polish the documents you designed this semester for inclusion in a professional portfolio. The audience for this portfolio will be future employers, but your introduction to, and organization of, this portfolio will be directed to me. You will use this work to explain the decisions you made in designing your docuemtns. The introduction will also explain your work in the context of the issues we discussed this semester: rhetoric, voice, design, usability, and ethics.


15%     Correspondence projects
10%     Press release
15%     Group brochure and Newsletter project
20%    Group Web site project
20%    Class participation, collaboration, client rapport
20%    Final professional portfolio

Course Policies

Social Practices

I hope for lively, interesting, and informed discussion throughout the semester. I expect that you will respect your classmates and me by coming to class prepared, and, if not entirely excited to be here, at least willing to fake it for our sakes. I expect you to be respectful to your peers, to me, and to your clients; I expect your responses to your peers’ projects to be constructive and generative; and I expect your participation in your group projects to be professional and productive.

Late Work

I reserve the right not to respond to or return late work until after I have caught up on my other work. I also reserve the right to grade you lower for work submitted after the deadline. Work submitted late will be graded 1/3 letter grade lower for each class period it is late. After you have submitted two late projects, any additional projects submitted late will not receive a grade above 0.0. Late projects cannot be revised for a better grade.

Response Policy

A big part of my job as your course instructor is to provide you with helpful feedback about your work in this class—feedback that goes beyond a simple letter grade. You will notice that my feedback will typically present a summary reflection of what I think you are saying and doing in your work, a response to the ideas or arguments you advance, a discussion of your document’s design and usability, as well as several questions for you to think about as you revise. You will not see grammar corrections, and I do not typically use static abstractions like “flow” or “awk” or “improve organization,” as I think these responses may be less than to aspiring rhetors and writers. But I do expect you to turn in polished, copyedited drafts at all times. Because I believe our written works should be allowed to percolate over time, we will consider all works in this class to be “in process” until the end of the semester. I will respond to early drafts of your work, respond again to that work and grade it when it is due, and return to re-evaluate that work at the end of the semester after you have made substantial revisions to that work for inclusion in your professional portfolio.

Revision Policy
Because this is a writing class, you will be creating multiple drafts of each project throughout the semester, with a final revision of all documents that will occur at the end of the semester. While you are required to revise documents based on peer and instructor feedback prior to submitting those documents to me for a letter-grade evaluation, you may also revise those documents later for a better grade. After I have returned your graded work to you, you will have two weeks to revise that work for a better grade. To take advantage of this policy, you must email me one week after the document has been returned, letting me know specifically what you plan to revise and how you will do that work. You will then have another week to submit that work. In other words, revision is built into the construction of every document in this class, but you may also revise documents for better grades.

Academic Integrity
Professional and technical writers who plagiarize or violate fair use policies or copyright are a legal (and financial) liability for employers: at minimum, these writers damage their employer’s (and their own) ethos.  This is just one reason why I suspect any warnings about academic standards of honesty and fair use will be entirely gratuitous with this group. Nevertheless, you will spend the early part of the semester getting to know the university’s standards for, and punitive measures to deal with, plagiarism, violations of fair use, and copyright infringements.  Your work in this class must conform to these policies at every step in the drafting process.

This class conforms to the Oakland University Academic Conduct Policy.

The university add/drop policy will be explicitly followed. It is the student’s responsibility to be aware of the university’s deadlines for dropping this (or any) course.

My standard policy is be here, end of story. But I realize that perfect attendance is not always possible or desirable, so we will follow the Rhetoric program’s attendance policy: after one absence (the equivalent of one week for this class), for each additional absence, 6%  will be deducted from your final grade.  Three absences (the equivalent of three weeks for this class) will result in your failure of the course. I will also count you absent for every three class periods in which you are 20 or more minutes late. I will also count you absent if you leave class early 3 times.

Finally, you should know that I am really excited about the work we are going to be doing together this semester. A lot of the documents you’ll be creating and a lot of the interpersonal professional work you’ll be doing this semester will probably be new to you. For that reason, you should feel free to contact me with questions, request meetings outside of office hours, and ask for one-on-one conferences during class work days.

Creative Commons License
These course materials
are licensed by Lori Ostergaard under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.