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Volume 4 Issue 2

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e r c r e t o f n d i e k s C s wor ms g h t In n i a a t p i r e r g h b t o W t jo for r e p h • T fferen ared riting • Di t prep nal w ni m o e i u s G l a • ofes e • Pr et som • Me


Release Notes

Volume 4, Issue 2

Welcome to the Spring 2017 issue of MEMORANDUM. The publication is completely written and designed by students taking classes in the Professional Writing program at UAB, who continue to ask two important questions: “How can students strengthen their professional and technical communication skills?” and “What types of jobs are available to professional writing students after graduation?” In addition, we get to catch up with three recent graduates: Allison Underwood, Jay Haywood, and last year’s Outstanding Professional Writing Student Award winner Sydnei Wheat.

UAB’s Professional Writing & Rhetoric and Composition Magazine is published by the UAB Professional Writing Program in cooperation with the UAB English Department Please direct questions, comments, and suggestions to: Jeffrey A. Bacha, PhD. Assistant Professor Department of English Phone: 205.996.5328 Fax: 205.975.8125 Email: jbacha@uab.edu Copywright © 2017 UAB English Department

Now in its fourth year, this publication would not be possible without Publication Date the continued support of the UAB English Department. However, this March 30, 2017 publication would not exist without the hard work and dedication of the contributors. Anyone who has worked on the publication can tell you that it is a stressful experience converting over 20 blank pages into an entertaining and informative document that people actually enjoy reading. To those of you who worked on this issue, I say “Well Done.” You have put together a wonderful contribution to our program and you should be proud of your work. As I always say, “Thank you for playing along and for trusting in the process.” Lastly, MEMORADUM has a new digital home. All of the previous issues of the publication—both print and digital versions—can now be found at https://uabmemorandum. wordpress.com/. Like our print issues, the new website for MEMORANDUM was completely designed by students taking professional writing courses at UAB. Until next time, Dr. B.


Contents 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 10 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

  Providing Service, Gaining Experience Through the PWC

  Five Professional Writing Must-Haves

  Creative and Professional Writing

  The Art of Collaboration

  Follow the Leader

  Keys to Successful Writing

  Rhetoric and Discourse in Professional Writing

  Marketing Yourself as a Writer   Finding Your Niche

  How Do Professional Writers Impact Our Entertainment?

Alumni

  Writing in the Scientific Community

  Busting a Writing Center Myth

  Navigating the Changing World of Professional Writing

  The Introverted Tutor: Seeing Introversion as an Asset

  Blogging: My New Favorite Pastime

11 12 13

Allison Underwood

Jay Haywood

Sydnei Wheat


MEMORANDUM

Providing Service, Gaining Experience Through the PWC

Elizabeth Slatsky works on Wordsmiths magazine.

Melissa Lawrence

preparation and college applications.

seriously. Creating something that looks

Wordsmiths shows students how to submit

professional and polished that the students

Professional Writing students frequently

their work to writing contests across the state

will be proud of is important to me for this

engage in emotionless, business-like writing.

and the nation. Additionally, students who

reason. I want to create something they will

Unlike other English concentrations at UAB,

have enrolled in this after-school program

be proud of.”

professional writing requires students to

every year since middle school receive a

write briefly and concisely. Despite the

$2,000 scholarship when they graduate high

At the beginning of the project, PWC

mechanical nature of professional writing,

school.

members learn how to construct a layout

students in this concentration can still create

for the magazine within Adobe InDesign.

meaningful products and impact their com-

Ultimately, the organization desires to show

As they format master pages, they also

munity.

students that their abilities are valuable

select fonts and designs for the publication.

and worth improving. They believe that

Members then learn how to design a cover

each student has a unique story, and they

page for the magazine. In this process, they

encourage students to express themselves

often utilize photography skills and gain

through short stories or poetry.

some Adobe Photoshop experience. This year

For instance, UAB’s Professional Writing Club (PWC) partners with a non-profit organization, Wordsmiths, to help design a literary magazine each year. Throughout the process, UAB students help Birmingham City students to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in future careers. Wordsmiths offers creative writing classes for students attending Birmingham City Schools or living within the city limits. They aim to provide students in 7th to 12th grade with the free opportunity to develop creative writing skills. Each year, professional writers and college volunteers work with the organization to instruct a group of up to sixteen students. They educate the students through extensive individual feedback. Since most of the Wordsmiths students are enrolled in schools where seventy percent of students need free or reduced lunches, Wordsmiths focuses heavily on preparing its students for college. Not only do volunteers assist with the students’ creative pieces, they also help with standardized testing

2

in particular, a PWC member photographed The PWC first began helping Wordsmiths

Rail Road Park to create a unique cover.

in 2014. The organization hoped to continue publishing their students’ work in an

As the Wordsmiths send in their students’

annual literary magazine, but it was too

poems and short stories, PWC members

time consuming and expensive without the

discover how to place their work into the

help of the PWC. To save the non-profit

document while preserving each student’s

organization a significant amount of money,

unique style. After the club completes the

UAB students now design the layout for the

project, the Wordsmiths receive a final PDF

entire publication. A representative of the

that is ready to print.

PWC meets periodically with Gin Phillips from Wordsmiths to ensure the club’s work

Any UAB student can join the PWC and

meets her expectations.

gain valuable experience while designing the Wordsmiths’ creative writing magazine.

Although UAB students do not directly

Through this project, students will acquire an

meet with the Wordsmiths students, they

extensive familiarity with Adobe InDesign.

enjoy knowing that their hard work enables

Specifically, students will master setting up

younger students to have their voices heard.

templates, creating paragraph styles, and managing a 60-page document. Students also

The PWC’s Social Media Manager, Elizabeth

develop negotiation skills as they work with

Slatsky, expressed the emotional significance

the client.

of the project by saying, “I really like knowing my work will have a positive effect

Through this project, PWRC students can

on someone. Also, I remember how much

obtain skills for future careers in publishing,

I wanted to be a published writer in high

and they create a product which many

school, and I wanted my work to be taken

members of the community can enjoy.


V4I2

Five Professional Writing Must-Haves Sarah Goodman Has a teacher ever told you the textbook

have to write properly; the online resource

they assigned is one you need to keep?

called Purdue OWL (Online Writing

Have you ever kept any of them? In an age

Lab) can help with that. Whether you are

where renting textbooks is often the most

citing diverse bodies of work or trying

financially feasible option, it is hard to

to remember that one obscure grammar

follow that advice. Still, would it not be nice

rule, Purdue OWL has the endorsement

to know before you start your career what

of professionals in the field and professors

professional writing materials will help you

alike. Purdue OWL is a free online resource

in the real world? Here is a breakdown of

on style. Style is not grammar: grammar

that provides extensive guides in different

what books, manuals, stylebooks, software

is about correctness; style is about making

writing styles, grammar, research and

and online resources that professors and

writing clear and powerful.” Now, which

citation, and writing techniques for job

alumni swear by, and these are not required.

stylebook do you go with? There are

searches. The OWL even provides guides

plenty of valuable ones; it boils down to

for writing in specific industries such as,

Number 1: An online portfolio where you

the approach. Dr. McComiskey offered, “If

technical writing, creative writing, healthcare

can display and host your writing to prove

you’re interested in academic writing, Joseph

writing, literature, engineering, and more.

you are a great writer is a must-have. In

Williams’ book Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity

In addition to Purdue OWL as a reference

addition, the ability to maintain a website

and Grace is excellent. If you’re interested in

guide, A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker

for your employer or client is a must-have.

more general non-fiction writing, then Joe

is a great resource introduced in English

Content curation is not everyone’s strength

Glaser’s book Understanding Style is great. If

Composition 101 and continuing through

so the ability to manage a website or code

you’re interested in writing for the Web, then

professionals’ careers. However, Director

a website is extremely valuable. There

Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee’s book

of the University Writing Center, Dr. Jaclyn

are website hosts that are free such as

Nicely Said is wonderful.”

Wells said, “There is nothing that beats

Wix, WordPress, and Weebly, which offer

just writing for a long period of time.”

premium services for small subscription

Number 3: Adobe Creative Suite is a must-

Experience is the best teacher, but it never

fees. Without subscription fees, you can

have for many professions. The utility

hurts to have a cheat–sheet.

still manage and customize the website

of Adobe Creative Suite is practically

through coding. Sometimes a single line of

unmatched in the mainstream digital design

Number 5: The last must-have is coffee. Dr.

code can make a difference in the aesthetic

market. Adobe has an affordable package

Wells, Director of the University Writing

and readability of your content. If you are a

called Adobe Creative Cloud for students

Center, said that coffee is one of her many

coding novice, there are free online training

that features all the programs from Adobe

must-haves. The discipline of professional

and tutorials like Dash by General Assembly,

Creative Suite for $19.99 per month. For

writing is a tough one that requires working

CodeAcademy, and w3 Tutorials.

individuals who are not students, the

hard hours and enduring criticism. But if

Creative Cloud with all applications costs

you have the dedication, willpower, and

Number 2: The responsibilities of

$49.99. However, UAB alum Olalekan

an energy boost, you can be a great and

professional writers have evolved over the

Dada said that if you or the organizations

successful writer. You may not need all or

past decade; now it is a good investment

you work for do not have access to Adobe

any of these extra resources. Just remember

to keep a book on design rules and tips.

Creative Suite, it is worth your time to learn

it is tough to fix things with no tools. Having

“Because of everything that professional

how to design and layout your work through

knowledge of industry-standard programs

writers have to know and be able to do in

Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office users can

like Adobe Creative Suite or best practices

2017, sometimes our attention to writing

attest that creative design is not an easy

such as online presence on your résumé

effective, clear, balanced, and elegant

task in Word, but learning how to use the

can make a difference. Also, you can create

sentences gets lost in translation,” said

other components (Powerpoint, Publisher,

works to add to your design and writing

Dr. McComiskey, Director of Professional

Sharepoint, Visio, etc) could also serve as

portfolio to prove your expertise and

Writing Programs. “So for me, every

useful tools.

creativity.

professional writer, and every professional writing student, should own and use a book

Number 4: When writing is your job, you

3


MEMORANDUM

Creative and Professional Writing: What to Do if You’re Interested in Both Lauren Moore As new students come pouring into UAB every fall, some know exactly what to study. However, the majority of the lower classmen are going to explore their options, possibly

interested in both concentrations, a way to

wanted to be, with a professional writing

exercise both.

concentration. Again, this idea is a stigma

Creative Writing Offers More Than You Think

associated with the concentration that is far from the truth. There are many ways to be creative with a professional writing concentration.

making changes to their career paths along

Oftentimes when people ask me what I’m

the way through some process of trial and

studying, I don’t specify creative writing.

Professional writing is an interesting

error.

I’ve grown tired of the judgemental

concentration because it is essentially

comments and looks that some offer to me

applicable everywhere. Students in this

For some, this process goes a step further-a

in response. Many stigmatize that studying

concentration will learn to develop skills in

student may find the right subject matter to

creative writing can only result in a teaching

technical writing, editing, and publishing.

study, but what about the concentration? I

job. However, this idea could not be further

These skills are useful both in the print

struggled with this decision myself. After

from the truth. In fact, the creative writing

and digital media worlds. Not only can

changing my major a few different times and

concentration opens you up to a wide range

professional writers find work as editors and

feeling unsatisfied, I realized what I felt I

of possibilities.

publishers, but they can find work with any company that requires a skilled writer.

should really be studying was English. The creative writing concentration teaches

The Two Concentrations Can Collaborate

However, I found my insecurities with my

you how to be a skillful, observant writer.

major surfacing once again when I was faced

Creative writers are taught to take words

with finding a concentration. There were

and pair them in ways that are visually and

many stigma that clouded my judgement

audibly pleasing to the reader. While a short

The thing to keep in mind with both of these

when I looked to pick a concentration. I have

story and a term paper are very different in

concentrations is that they teach you how to

always loved constructing fiction and other

content, they both require skillful writing.

write, and how to write well. It often comes

forms of creative writing, but was it practical

This concentration will provide you with

down to how you advertise yourself when

enough?

these skills.

you interview for a job. If you are able to assure your employer that you have the

I enjoyed being on the newspaper staff in

There are many careers that can come from

necessary skills to get the job done, that’s

high school, and writing in a professional

this concentration, including publishing,

often all that matters.

sense. Would it in fact be more beneficial to

marketing, and journalism, proving that

my career to be a professional writer despite

creative writing can be a very practical

There are some opportunities that allow

my passion for crafting stories? I had to find

concentration.

you to use both of these concentrations at

out. Through this article, I hope to not only break some of the stigmas surrounding both

Professional Writing is Not as Rigid as it Seems

once. For instance, some literary magazine publishers and editors get to enjoy both piecing together the magazine and submitting their own creative work as well.

concentrations, but to also give insight to

The idea that first struck me when

At the end of the day, these concentrations

careers that allow individuals who might be

I considered a professional writing

are what you allow them to be; if you really

concentration was that it was boring. I

look deep and explore all of your options,

immediately feared that there was no

there will be something there for you.

4

way I could be creative in my carrer, like I


V4I2

The Art of Collaboration Tammy Blue

emerging into the field has a lot more to offer than is often realized. They have fresh eyes with innovative approaches to the work.

Regardless of the career choice a professional

On the same scale, the recent graduate

writer makes, mastering collaborative skills

should look to the writer with more

is essential for success. Working with clients,

experience. After all they have seen and

editors and other writers at various stages

experienced many of the ups and downs

of their career is all part of the job. While it

of the profession. They can offer tips and

can be one of the more challenging aspects of

advice to the developing new writer. And

the profession, it is often the most rewarding

more often than not, they can navigate the beginner clear of roadblocks and potential

part of the creative process. successful collaboration, the client will

setbacks before they occur.

In virtually every professional scenario,

change their mind or realize they actually

the writer will find themselves without full

don’t like what was mutually agreed upon.

When all parties involved donate their

creative control. Business clients will have

This can be frustrating for the writer, to have

personal expertise, collaboration can create

guidelines that often serve as the blueprint

to revisit details and change aspects of the

a masterpiece. It is important to come into a

from which the writer bases their work. The

project that they feel don’t need revision.

collective creative process with a mind clear

writer must learn how to implement these

Sometimes the new ideas can even feel like

of any past negative experiences.

ideas effectively without losing their own

a regressive step back to the writer. Yet the

unique edge. They must make the ideas their

seasoned professional will dig deep and dive

Regardless of previous failures, each new

own.

back into the creative collaboration process

collaborative effort is an opportunity to

to make it work.

start again. The most amazing ideas often blossom from the varying strengths of each

Even the freelance writer will report to an

contributor.

editor or publisher, who ultimately has the

The most difficult challenge of collaboration

final say on subject, content, and style. The

is often working across age or experience

professional writer who is able to collaborate

gaps. In the professional world, writers will

The talent of a professional writer can be

within the hierarchy is going to be in more

often have to work with others who are in

attributed to the fact that they themselves are

demand. After all, one role cannot exist

different stages of their careers. For example,

a product of collaboration. All writers have

without the other. There isn’t a successful

they may work with a professional who has

been influenced by others’ ideas. Professors,

writer today who will tell you their work has

over 20 years in the field or a recent graduate

editors, publishers, clients, and other

not improved with advice and input from an

with no real world experience.

writers have all contributed to the writer’s personal style in some way. The writer has

editor. The veteran professional may feel

also learned how to emerge from a failed

Collaboration is often most difficult when

intimidated by a younger writer with

collaboration and come out stronger.

working laterally with peers. A healthy

expertise in programs and software they

competition can often bring out the writer’s

have never used or have yet to master. It is

A professional writer will know their

best work. It can also cause stalemates and

important to see collaboration with a more

weaknesses and be willing to lean on the

put up barriers, ultimately derailing a project

technically skilled writer as a huge benefit to

strengths of their collaborative partners.

timeline. It is imperative for the professional

the less than tech savvy professional.

By implementing and expanding on these influences, the writer doesn’t lose their voice,

writer to express their ideas but always be open to the art of collaboration. They must

There may also be the instinct to dismiss

in fact, that is how it is found. That is the art

always remember that everyone is on the

a novice writer due to their inexperience.

of collaboration.

same team.

The writing professional who has been in the field for many years may be set in their

“This isn’t going to work.” These are the

ways with a “Been there, done that” mindset.

words every professional writer dreads

This can make collaboration stressful in

to hear. Sometimes even when there is a

these situations. However, the new writer

5


MEMORANDUM

Inside Mentoring for Course EH-301: Reading, Writing, and Research Malecia Luckie

co-authored by Allen Brizee. Dr. Wells gave

Have you ever thought about what it would

real-world writing jobs

How do her points benefit a professional

be like to be mentored in the professional

writing student for work? Simple, one is now

writing world? Well, I have had the chance to be mentored by the director of the Writing

me many tips on how to be prepared for the

Take Notes on the Advice

Benefits of Mentoring

prepared, ready to hand out résumés and to apply for jobs. Dr. Wells suggested that

Center, Dr. Jaclyn Wells. It was a requirement

My experience with Dr. Wells was very

students should post their work everywhere

of the English 301 Course: Reading, Writing,

helpful and insightful. She gave simple

so that employers can view them. Posting

and Research. The course is designed to

advice that was sharp and to the point. Dr.

your work will benefit you. It shows

improve in-depth reading. Most Students

Wells’ first tip for me was, “Internships are

employer how well you know what you are

overlook the deeper message beneath the

incredibly useful for professional writing,

doing. It gives them a chance to notice you

smaller idea. The course features mentoring

actually any sort of real world experience

before you apply for a job. She suggested

to help students move forward to graduation

with writing is great and to have a portfolio

that if you plan ahead and do everything

and prepare students for life after college.

by the end of college is helpful as well.”

she presented, then applying for jobs after

The mentors are selected based on the

One internship is enough, however, many

college should be a breeze. Planning ahead is

students’ career plans. Students write a

you may come across will look great to

a major key point. It helps keep everything

500-word essay describing their future plans

employers. She really stressed that finding

go smoothly during the job search.

leading to their careers.

an internship was important. A portfolio is

Everything she mentioned was a part of the

good because it highlights all of your skills.

planning process. Each piece of advice helps

It shows your improvement over time and

students to be prepared and ready.

Getting to Know Your Mentor

helps the employers know what to expect from you if hired.

Now You’re Ready

path to take while in school and helps guide

She even included that finding a nonprofit

Now that you know how and what to do to

you to choose the right career for you. To be

organization would benefit students

stay afloat in the job searching process, stay

mentored by someone who has a powerful

tremendously. Nonprofit organizations

determined. Even if you do not get every

influence in the writing world is a great

look great on résumés, because it is close to

position you apply for—keep going. Failure

opportunity. It is always great to know your

volunteering. Even if you are not sure if it is

is a reason to try harder. It may feel like it

mentors background. It gives you more

“good enough,” you should keep it stored.

will never work, but just that know good

questions and helps you know what to

“Obsessively hold onto things, for people do

things come to those who wait. It takes hard

expect.

not credit themselves enough. You should

work to reach your career goals.

Mentoring is a great way to consider what

keep everything you have,” she emphasized. Dr. Wells’ work has been featured in

Dr. Wells made sure to tell me to keep

Professional writing majors go through

the Writing Center Journal, Community

everything multiple times. All work is

many obstacles. Get connected with others

Literacy Journal, and WPA: Writing Program

valuable. She believes that students too often

just like you and find someone who has

Administration. She even has a book that has

discredit themselves when the work could

experience in the field you choose to apply

been published, Partners in Literacy: A Writing

be used in many ways to help students on

to. There will times when you feel like giving

Center Model for Civic Engagement, which was

the road to success. Never sell yourself short.

up on yourself. Remember, winners never

You may miss out on an opportunity of a

quit, and quitters never win.

6

lifetime, because you were not confident in yourself.


V4I2

Keys to Successful Writing

used punctuation marks in writing are:

(2) Rewrite text to make it easier for readers

periods, commas, exclamation marks, and

to understand. Those are just two example of

question marks. It appears that the period

a position where punctuation is critical to the

and the exclamation point can be used

job assignment.

interchangeably. One of the most important positions of all Most importantly, even though we know

where punctuation needs to be carefully

Mary J. Doss

the difference, sometimes we forget to

looked at is when one does freelance work,

use the correct punctuation when writing.

because they most likely work alone.

“Punctuation can make an enormous

Therefore, be very careful when writing for

With that being said, they are their own

difference in the meaning of whatever it

someone else’s eyes. Make sure you indicate

proofreaders. Since they write for several

is you’re writing” says the UAB Writing

where you want your reader to slow down,

companies the text could be different.

Center. Getting a degree as an English

to pause, and to stop. Around 1984 to 1992

Therefore, they are required to carefully read

major with a concentration in Professional

I had the opportunity to work in the Word

the text and not assume that it will read the

Writing prepares the student to use

Processing Department for the Army. We

same.

necessary skills in punctuation. Clarity is

were assigned to read, properly punctuate,

the foundation of good writing. Have you

and sometimes rewrite the sentences. I did

Professional Writing courses prepare the

or do you know someone who has been

not think of this assignment as professional

student for the real world of writing. Be

denied employment because of incorrect

writing at the time. Everything we read

careful, read, and re-read everything you

punctuation? That’s what could happen

had to be perfect because this was training

write. Former UAB Professional Writing

if you apply for a position that requires

material for the soldiers. I mentioned this

student, Olalekan A. Dada, shares his

writing. When one does not use proper

because now we are into a world where

experience regarding Professional Writing.

punctuation, miscommunication can occur.

writing is classified as professional writing.

Olalekan says, “Writers are needed in a

More than likely, you will not be present

Professional writing has to be perfect.

variety of fields, from engineering to the tech industry. Having a Professional Writing

when someone else reads your work. As a result, writing for the reader is extremely

The Occupational Outlook Handbook

degree can allow you to experience what

different than speaking person-to-person.

provides many type of careers. Therefore,

it is like to be in various fields.” Also, he

When speaking face-to-face you have

if you are looking for a writing career look

shares that an individual will need to write

the opportunity to clarify or restate your

no further. In this handbook it mentions:

texts for different audiences. Knowing how

intentions. This is not the case with writing.

“What Reporters, Correspondents, and

to punctuate correctly is a must for the

For instance, a misplaced comma or period

Broadcast News Analysts Do.” In this

individual entering a Professional Writing

could alter the meaning of your sentence.

position Reporters and Correspondents

career.

For example, if you write a sentence such

are also called journalists. We know that

as: “Don’t stop” as opposed to “Don’t, stop”

journalists write. The job description for

Career options that allow a professional

and leave out the comma, the entire sentence

the article says, “These workers are often

writer to use his or her talents are: nonprofit

has different meaning.

responsible for editing interviews and other

organization, publishing companies,

recordings to create a cohesive story and

manufacturing plants, medical institutions,

Another example according to “The

for writing and recording voiceovers that

and legal offices, all of which requires

Importance of Punctuation” by The Write

provide the audience with the facts of the

the use of writing skills. All of these

Corner shows how punctuation can change

story.” The person writing the story should

organizations require the use of correct

the meaning of a sentence. If you write “He

write with the reader in mind.

writing skills.

was bitten by a dog, which hurt him,” the

If you, as a professional writer are thinking

Most importantly, should a person choose

meaning becomes unclear and the sentence

about becoming an editor, then you’d better

one of these career paths, then they should

could become misleading. The first sentence

be prepared to use punctuation correctly.

be willing to write well.

was bitten by a dog which hurt him” or “He

means the dog hurt him where the second sentence means the bite hurts him. It is the

The job’s description says editors typically

comma after the word “dog” that changes

do the following:

the meaning of the sentence. Improper punctuation can damage an otherwise well-

(1) Read content and correct spelling,

intended sentence. The most commonly

punctuation, and grammatical errors.

7


UAB Department of English

PROFESSIONAL WRITING Minor The Minor in Professional Writing prepares students in any major for the writing required in their chosen careers. If you choosethis minor you will learn how to compose both academic and professional documents, emphasizing the requirements of writing in your own discipline. Professional writing courses emphasize drafting, revising, and designing documents in both print and digital formats.

Major English Majors who concentrate in Professional Writing will learn how to write and design the kinds of documents that are most common outside of university classrooms, such as memos, brochures, newsletters, reports, instructions, manuals, multimedia presentations, and rĂŠsumĂŠs. Professional Writing courses emphasize drafting, revising, and designing documents in both print and digital formats. Many of the courses provide students opportunities to engage the community and gain hands-on experience writing for real audiences and purposes.

Graduate Ideal for students who wish to pursue careers as teachers of writing or as professional writers or editors, the theme in Rhetoric and Composition focuses attention on the art and craft of teaching, on the many roles of writing in business and industry, and on the history and practices of public discourse itself—from political rhetoric and the rhetoric of advertising to the complex uses of language and imagery in contemporary magazine and internet publications.


V4I2

Rhetoric and Discourse in Professional Writing Jessica Robbins

It is important to say what you want to say

When it comes to discussing hotly debated

to hurt someone’s feelings. The reality of the

issues, it is never easy to talk to someone

situation remains that a conversation is not

with whom we disagree. It is even harder to

going to take place if we do not talk about

write about these issues since it is difficult

the issues that hurt people’s feelings.

instead of tip-toeing around it in an effort not

to know exactly how our words will be perceived by those who disagree with us. If

Arguably the most important element of

the language is hostile and unsympathetic

writing about heavily debated subjects in a

to those who find themselves on the “other

respectful and civil manner is not to inject opinions into places that they do not belong.

side” of the argument, it is very likely that these individuals will become frustrated and

it directly opposes someone else’s. Finding

It is important to listen more than we speak.

simply stop reading. This becomes a huge

an element of connection is important in

For writers, this means reading heavily and

problem for the writer because the ones who

making sure that no one is immediately

frequently as it relates to the topics about

disagree with us are often the very people

shut out. We must communicate that we

which we write. We need to understand

whom we want to receive our message.

know and understand the other side’s

where the conversation stands at the present

argument before we move forward with the

moment before we offer an opinion. In

conversation.

dealing with written discourse, reading other

The professional writer has a unique

people’s work also gives writers clues as to

disadvantage when it comes to writing about sensitive topics, because a professional

The next step in this process is, of course,

what works and what does not work when

writer writes strictly non-fiction. While a

engaging in the conversation. This can

approaching sensitive topics.

creative writer has the luxury of hiding their

be incredibly difficult to accomplish as a

ideas behind fictional characters and literary

writer considering the other party is often

Writing about problems that evoke strong

critics conveniently mask their opinions

not present at the time that the arguments

feelings and emotions is no easy task

by critiquing literature and not necessarily

are being made. It is hard to understand

regardless of the chosen method. It requires

actual situations, professional writers have

exactly when and where a particular idea,

transparency, vulnerability, a willingness

to discuss controversial ideas candidly and

phrase, sentence, or choice of wording is

to understand the other point of view, and

openly. It brings the author to an important

going to discourage a reader. Therefore,we

usually, a consent to have your own beliefs

question: How do writers stand firm in their

must vigilantly ensure that we are never

criticized. Identifying with and establishing

own opinions while being considerate of

condescending toward a specific belief or

an area of common interest is the most

those who share a staunchly different view?

ideology in our writing.

important step we can take in these written conversations to be sure that everyone

There may not be an easy answer to this

Making sure that condescension stays out

knows they are respected and heard,

question, but there are certainly steps we

of our work is often equally as difficult a

regardless of their beliefs on the matter.

can take as professional writers to ensure

challenge, though. There is no way to predict

that our ideas are at least heard. According

exactly the way in which every word will

Writers should always keep the opposing

to the director of the professional writing

be perceived, but there are precautions

party in mind in order to reach the largest

program at UAB, Dr. Bruce McComiskey,

that writers can take to reach the largest

audience possible and communicate that

finding common ground is, without a doubt,

number of people possible. According to

we are listening as much or more than

the most important step when engaging in

McComiskey, one of the rhetorical devices

we are talking. Keeping the conversation

any type of discourse. Expressing interest

that individuals use all too frequently is the

open ensures that we are actively seeking

in a shared concern is always the best place

passive voice. It removes the controversy in

a solution to these issues and not simply

to start because it lets the other party know

a lot of ways, he says, but it does not move

fighting with each other to get our own way.

that you understand why they would be

the conversation forward in any way, which

upset about a particular issue. McComiskey

defeats the purpose of writing about these

continues by saying that it is never a good

subjects in the first place. McComiskey

idea to start with your own personal view if

states: “If the goal is to offend, then offend.”

9


MEMORANDUM

Marketing Yourself as a Writer

Wallace Golding

title should be something along the lines

process. Include your website URL on your

of “marketing specialist” rather than the

business card, résumé, and letterhead so that

bland and relatively non-descriptive title of

employers can find their way to your work

“professional writer.”

on their own. Additionally, employers may log on to view your work even if they are not

As experts in curating content, moreover,

requiring you to submit examples of prior

professional writers understand the

work, which can give you an advantage over

importance of branding and maintaining

other applicants.

the appropriate image. This should be no different at the personal level either. Create a

The most important aspect of marketing

There exists a common misconception

personal brand and stick with it.

yourself to potential employers as a

in society regarding the usability of an

Find your identity; find one that is

professional writer, however, is to value

English degree and other humanities

recognizable, original, and consistent. Coca-

industry experience over everything else;

degrees. They are often seen as archaic

Cola is identifiable thanks to its cursive-

this sort of work is truly indispensable.

and inflexible. As students of the English

lettered logo and high-contrast colors. Create

Considering the way humanities degrees are

language, however, professional writers

a design and use the same elements across

viewed, especially in the highly technical

know that this could not be further from

everything that may be sent to a future

fields professional writing graduates often

the truth. They are curators and creators

employer. This includes business cards,

find themselves working in, it is important

well versed in all things content, design,

résumés, letterhead, and other printed

to get tangible, résumé-worthy experience

and project management. Nevertheless,

materials.

before you enter the job market. This can be

some sort of disconnect continues to persist

acheived via numerous methods including

between what professional writers believe

As was said previously, find something that

internships, paid work, freelancing, or even

their degree to be, versatile and flexible,

is uniquely you and use it to your advantage.

volunteering your expertise to organizations,

and what employers perceive it to be. As

To do this successfully, though, you not

companies, and individuals.

experts in written and visual communication,

only have to think in terms of your own

professional writing students already have

personality, but also the personality of your

More specifically, it is important that you

an advantage, but there are some steps that

intended profession. If you are a young,

obtain experience that is relevant to your

even the most seasoned expert should adopt

energetic college student nearing graduation

desired industry. A student interested in

in order to excel in the competitive job search

and searching to being a career in technical

pursuing a career in marketing may gain

arena.

writing at a cutting-edge biotech firm, you

some interesting and valuable skills by

need a modern, energetic look and feel to

spending the summer at a biotech firm

There is a generally accepted rule that all

your brand rather than a traditional and

writing technical documents, but it would

professional writers believe to be true,

conventional identity.

be much more worthwhile if the student

but it bears worth repeating: never call

had spent his or her summer at a marketing

yourself a “professional writer.” Even if this

Just as you should use your personality in

or advertising agency or in the marketing

is exactly what you are, which it is, this is

creating an individual brand, you should

department of a large corporation. Simply

not what should be on your résumé. The

also use it to create and maintain a personal

put, the experience gained for this student

reasoning behind this is that it tends to be

website and portfolio. There is no better

is not bad experience, per se, but it is most

a broad term. With the countless industries

way to showcase what you are capable of

certainly not relevant.

that professional writers can end up in, it

than by showing what you have done in the

is important that you cater to the specific

past. If you are an expert in Adobe Creative

By obtaining a degree in the humanities,

industry to which you are applying.

Suite programs, prove it with design and

professional writing students are often at a

Employers are looking for some sort

document layout work you have done in the

disadvantage in the job application process.

of expertise beyond document design,

programs. If you want to dive into the world

Regardless of how they perceive their

typography, and rhetorical analysis.

of technical writing, use documents that you

degree, employers have been slow to adopt

That is why it is vital that you focus on

have created either while in school or during

the concept that a degree in this discipline

the fields you would like to find a career

internships.

is, in all actuality, very versatile and flexible,

in. That is, if you are searching to start a new job with a marketing agency, your

10

leading to many different career options. By Applications to some jobs may require that

properly marketing yourself and taking steps

prior work be submitted, so having your

like the ones above, however, you can be on

best examples close by and in one place will

your way to that dream job in no time.

make this a much easier, more streamlined


V4I2

Alumna Spotlight Interview: Allison Underwood Natalie Pagan

stellar career goal, Underwood admits that

Allison Underwood, a former student at

feel the need to analyze every document

the University of Alabama at Birmingham

or advertisement seen. Underwood

sat down with me to discuss how the

unabashedly stated, “I’ll look at a billboard

Professional Writing program can help

and think about what I would change to

current students reach further career goals.

fix it.”As someone currently taking the

Underwood currently works at Good Grit

Developing Digital Documents course, I had

Magazine here in Birmingham, Alabama as

to agree with Underwood in the fact, that

a digital media coordinator. This magazine

nothing can possibly look the same once

these skills have made it difficult to not

you’ve figured out all of the tricks and trades

focuses on an elegant and progressive reflection of southern heritage. Underwood

whatever they want with it.” Underwood

of designing a document. The interviewee

stated, “I’ve lived here my whole life,

listed: Technical writing, teaching, social

agreed and said that this was in fact the

but it wasn’t until I started working with

media, and coding as some of the jobs that

gift and the curse portion of learning all

Good Grit that I fell in love with the South.

are relevant in the professional field.

of these skills. “Once you know how to do it correctly, you notice that the rest of the

Good Grit brings the Southerner out of the box – there’s a place for everyone here!”

The interviewee explained that in their

Underwood has been employed at this

particular job, there is not only writing

magazine for two years coming this August.

involved, but coding, designing and editing

The interviewee strongly encouraged current

documents. Although Underwood does not

English majors to look into the professional

Underwood started off at Good Grit working

code for Good Grit Magazine, they have

writing program. Underwood has shown to

as a paid intern and is now a part-time staff

done some coding as a freelancer.

be proof that with the right experience and

world does not.”

education, the job that you yearn for can be

member and currently the person in charge of running digital and social media. Some

During the interview, Underwood explained

of the job activities include posting on social

that the courses taken while still working

media sites such as Facebook, managing

towards a Bachelor’s degree allowed the

Days after interviewing Underwood, they

social profiles, emailing newsletters, and

opportunity to gain the experience needed

have just obtained a new position at Good

creating graphics for profiles. Underwood

for the job at Good Grit Magazine. Being

Grit Magazine. While keeping most of

mentioned the previously taking Digital

that the internship was geared primarily

the same responsibilities Underwood has

Media Capstone course which brought upon

towards digital media, they were able to use

added that their new position now includes

the unpaid internship. This allowed them to

what was learned throughout courses such

managing interns, gift guides, developing

receive a job offer to be a part-time employee

as Developing Digital Documents to better

campaigns for magazine subscriptions, and

at Good Grit Magazine.

analyze the documents that were going to

curating sponsored content. While still being

be distributed or posted onto the internet.

actively involved in scheduling Facebook,

I asked about the experience that

This course allowed them to learn how

Instagram, and the email campaign,

Underwood had prior to working at Good

to compare different font choices, colors,

Underwood has begun delegating a lot of

Grit. They gave credit to the background

and proximities on different documents,

these responsibilities and tasks to interns to

obtained in professional writing and how

making sure that the magazine is sent

be able to focus on the bigger picture. Good

the degree has helped thus far. Crediting

out looking its absolute best. This course

Grit is always looking for hard working

the professional writing major as being the

allowed Underwood to become familiar

students to fill internship roles.

reason Underwood was able to land the

with programs such as Adobe Illustrator,

position currently obtained. The interviewee

InDesign and Photoshop which many

On behalf of the University of Alabama at

mentioned that they are thankful for having

magazine companies work with such as

Birmingham, we wish Underwood the best

been introduced to the major early enough

Good Grit Magazine.

of luck in continuing to further their career.

the job that you obtain and thrive at.

to pursue and finish the degree. Underwood went on to promote the degree by stating,

Although all of these skills that were learned

“A person who chooses this major can do

have helped Underwood reach a

11


MEMORANDUM

From Bar to Brewery: Alumni Interview with Jay Haywood Lexi Waldon

While earning his degree, he continued

He’s the guy shaking your hand at the end

working restaurant jobs to stay afloat—all

of a meeting, the guy sitting behind the

Jay Haywood, a graduate from UAB with a

the while making connections and building

computer screen booking the band for the

BA in English-Professional Writing, has built

long-lasting professional relationships.

next event, and the person making sure the food truck shows up for “Good Lil’

his career by maneuvering himself through the restaurant and bar business since the day

During the beginning of his senior year

Wednesday,” a charity fundraiser Cahaba

he graduated high school. He made his way

at UAB, an old friend from a previous job

hosts every Wednesday night for a local non-

from restaurant gigs and bar-backing jobs to

called him up and asked if he’d be interested

profit organization.

becoming a Sales Representative for Cahaba

in running the bar at a new brewery in

Brewery here in Birmingham.

town—Cahaba Brewery. This put Jay’s

He stays in contact with those who drink the

foot in the door of a fresh company with a

beer and makes sure that the people creating

quickly increasing demand.

it understand how crucial it is to keep

Because there are only two members on the

Cahaba Blonde in stock. He reaches out to

sales team for this swiftly growing company, Jay’s responsibilities lie beyond those of a

For the remainder of his time in school and

the other breweries and restaurants in town,

typical sales rep. With his service industry

the beginnings of his time at Cahaba, he

making sure not to host any specials on the

experience and his professional writing

began to push the company to host events

same night as them.

skills, Jay proved himself to be pretty useful

and create an online presence for itself. Once

to a newly established brewery in a town

the company realized the impact of social

When asked about how he stays in the know

where many competitors have already made

media in today’s society, its presence became

with the community and the customers, he

their mark. To learn more about Jay and his

imperative. The company saw the need for

states, “Because most of my work is done

line of work, MEMORANDUM met up with

this and Jay saw the opportunity to fulfill

outside of these walls, I get to experience the

him on his own turf.

it, so he began curating online content and

people of our brand and feel more connected

creating a social media following for the

to our customers. It feels very close knit that

brand.

way.”

various restaurant jobs after high school.

As the online following grew, so did the

Because Jay is still fairly new to this position,

After a few years, he decided at the age of

sales, thus creating a new job position for

he is eager to learn more and create more.

24 to move to Birmingham and begin his

Jay as a sales representative and professional

He is always thinking of new ways to engage

college career at UAB.

social media guru.

with the community, whether it be through

With a major in Secondary Education and a

Jay plans events, books bands and food

on social media, or helping a non-profit put

concentration in English, he found himself

trucks, posts on Facebook and Instagram,

on an event of their own. These things not

enrolled in a few Professional Writing

updates the website, writes press releases,

only drive customers directly to the Brewery

courses and became increasingly involved

and coordinates with distributors and

itself, but allow the personality of the brand

with the program. After establishing a

graphic designers to make sure the concept

to be experienced, which is one of Jay’s

relationship with one of his professors

of the brand remains intact.

priorities when it comes to his work.

direction and begin working towards a

Jay calls sales meetings, meets clients,

Swing by Cahaba to see how professional

degree in Professional Writing.

coordinates donations for non-profit events,

writing and beer can come together to form a

and hosts tastings at restaurants in the state.

unique and exciting career.

Jay began his journey to this position in Columbus, Georgia where he began working

planning new events, promoting a new beer

within the PW program, he decided to shift

12


V4I2

Alumni Spotlight: Sydnei Wheat Danielle Ivey

a dream as I wanted it to be. When I got a

UAB Alumna Sydnei Wheat was a

in my junior year, I fell in love with the

Professional Writing student at UAB, and

environment and knew that librarianship

was the first winner of the Outstanding

could be another option for me. I’m happy

Professional Writing Student Award in

to say that with my new job I am now on the

2016, for her research paper that she wrote

track to further advance that dream with a

concerning the visual representations of

MLIS (Masters in Library and Information

transgender women, specifically Laverne

Science) education that will be fully paid for!

student job on campus in the research library

Cox and Caitlyn Jenneron, magazine covers The Professional Writing concentration

(and within) and how the visuals and the narratives written about them perpetuate

influencing that and still getting to write?! To

and the English major itself was a natural

long-existing racial myths and discourse

me, it was the best major ever!

precursor to library and information

surrounding black and white women. After

studies. Dissemination of information is

her internship with Good Grit magazine

the main foundations of both fields and I

and during her time at UAB, she has since gone on to the University of West Georgia to work as a Library Assistant in their research library. MEMORANDUM recently caught up with Sydnei (pictured to the right with her colleagues), to learn about her experiences:

What was your goal after graduation? How did you prepare for starting out in the professional world? I always (and still do) want to be a book

find that both complement each other well. I even wrote an article on it for the digital MEMORANDUM site.

Tell me a little bit about the job that you have now: things like what your role is, what you like the most about your job, and the most difficult parts of your job.

Why did you choose Professional Writing, and what were your favorite experiences as a Professional Writing Student?

editor, but as many probably know the

the Internship Director for the English

I just recently accepted a job offer from Uni-

Honestly, my initial decision to go into

department—set me up with a magazine

versity of West Georgia to work as a Library

Professional Writing stemmed largely

editorial internship.

Assistant in their research library, in fact as

book publishing industry in Birmingham, Alabama is slim to none. The magazine publishing industry is thriving in Birmingham. And so in order to gain hands-on experience, Dr. Ryan—who is

I’m writing this, I’ll be completing my first

from wanting increased job opportunities and choices than actual interest in the

While I did enjoy my time at Good Grit

official week at my new job! I work in the

concentration. I was previously in Creative

Magazine along with learning about how

circulation department, so the most difficult

Writing—from my freshman to mid-junior

magazines work, my love for books working

part of my job is actually talking to peo-

career—and while I did love the courses and

with them didn’t go away and so I decided

ple, it’s not my strong point. But the other

the various prose, short stories, and poems

to continue to pursue a career in which I

employees are patient with me and answer

that I wrote (I did after all, aspire to be a

could work around books whether through

all of my questions even if I asked them a

writer/editor) it just didn’t feel like it was

librarianship or publishing. If I’m lucky I

thousand times already! What I like most

enough for me. After taking all the classes in

might even be able to do both!

about my job is the fact that I’m surrounded by so much information and I can actually

the concentration and engaging in so much awesome interdisciplinary work, I fell in love

Honestly, I think the best way to prepare

use my academic/research skills and knowl-

with the major. Coding websites, filming

for the real world, is to not put your eggs

edge to help patrons locate items and even

and editing videos, designing promotional/

all into one basket. Meaning: always have

make suggestions on reading or reference

advertising materials, even studying the

another career option for yourself. I have

materials.

human psyche and how Professional

always wanted to be a book editor, but I

Writers or design architects have a hand in

also knew that that might not be as feasible

13


MEMORANDUM

Finding Your Niche: The Hidden Careers for Professional Writers Elizabeth Slatsky

these managers do a variety of different

understanding of editorial concepts. For

jobs including handling “complaints and

instance, Digital Document Design, a class at

The opportunities professional writing

customer feedback” and organizing “social

UAB, focuses on developing documents and

brings to English majors is game changing.

media requirements for Marketing and

different programs in which to design these

These classes equip students to take the skills

tak[ing] photos.” A previous job you enjoyed

programs. Also, someone talented in art or

they learned in their literature and creative

in a certain field is just one way to lead to a

graphic design would find themselves better

writing classes and bend them to match a

future career.

prepared for such fields.

Almost every organization needs writers;

English assignments prepare students

and, because of the wonderful flexibility

to appeal to multiple audiences since

Communications Director

of professional writing, there are multiple

professors often have different standards

Passionate about a non-profit organization?

jobs out there for a writer who is willing to

and preferences. Professional Writing is

Active in your faith community? Then

branch out into other fields of study. One

no exception and, in fact, exemplifies this

something similar to a Communications

just has to find where they fit in; one has to

ability. Going back to the example above,

Director at Ingleside Baptist Church

find their unique niche.

someone who has worked in a coffee shop

in Georgia could be an option. A

or a similar environment can combine the

communications director is in charge of all

What do I mean by finding your unique

variety of skills they learned on the job with

the organization’s communications with

niche? People are usually interested and

their college experience to get a job that is

those outside of their organization. This

knowledgeable about a wide range of

just right for them.

could be on social media or through emails.

certain career field that is right for them.

different topics and skills. Your niche is a place where writing and another interest intersect to form a job that will be the perfect match for you. Below I have provided three job examples. Each job is different yet incorporates English along with other experiences and interests.

Advertising Art Director

The job ad stated having a passion for their ministry and possessing “excellent written and verbal communication skills” was

Enjoy art and writing? As an Advertising Art

important. This is an example of how to

Director, one can channel their artistic side

channel a passion for a certain belief or non-

as well as the different skills gained from

profit into a potential career

four years of writing experience. Amazon’s job advertisement wanted a portfolio that

Community outreach can be as competitive

“demonstrates big, campaignable thinking

as marketing a product to a specific group

that can extend into any medium.” An

of people. Good writers are needed to create

English major who was experienced in

successful content that will appeal to the

Did you enjoy working as a barista at a

different forms of art would have the

church’s intended audience. However, these

local coffee shop in college? Have a thing

perfect portfolio for this job. This career is

organizations also need people passionate

for customer service? Toby’s Estate, a coffee

an example of someone who might take a

and knowledgeable about their work to

shop located in Brooklyn, New York, is

hobby or a minor in a specific field and turn

fill these positions. Here is where a writer

looking for a Customer Experience Manger.

it into something they can do for the rest of

interested in the organization’s work could

These managers take care of the overall

their life.

shine on a job application.

Though English classes give students a

These are only a few of the possibilities for

general idea of how to appeal to different

English majors. So go explore the internet!

audiences, professional writing classes

Your dream job could be right under your

provide students with a more precise

nose.

Customer Experience Manager

experience of customers as well as the staff. Toby’s Estate’s job ad mentions that

14


V4I2

How Do Professional Writers Impact Our Entertainment? Brett Hurst

inspires a person to decide to watch it.

Professional writers have been influencing

attention to what professional writers say

the public for a long time. They often find

within their reviews, it may be beneficial for

themselves writing reviews on multiple

them to start. Of course, everyone will have

subjects. Such critics encourage people to

their own opinion about the movies they

either participate in or skip out on what they

watch, but critics are not here to put you in

are reviewing. Whether you are checking

a box.

Even though many people do not pay

out what critics are saying about a movie or a book, critics use professional writing to

Critics are here to help people for many

persuade and motivate society.

reasons. One main reason is to help people decide whether they want to watch the film

Professional writers not only review movies

or not. Their work is nothing more than a

and books, but they also dive into reviewing

friendly suggestion along with helpful tips.

music and food. Alongside critics, social

In the end, it may be useful if you just read

media is one factor that is either helping

one review for a movie that you are going to see. It may help you in ways that you never

or hurting professional writers. So, how

thought of.

does a critic convince us to engage in

Rotten Tomatoes, they still come in contact

our entertainment? They use the art of

with some form of professional writing.

professional writing.

Usually, during the trailer for a movie, short

Aside from professional writers creating

reviews of the film will be included, still

movie reviews, they also tap into the world

trying to persuade viewers to watch the film.

of literature, music, and food. Society will

Let’s say there is a movie out in theaters that

always be in contact with reviews on their

you have wanted to watch, but you don’t want to pay the ridiculous ticket prices for

Even though what your friends on social

entertainment and food. Some questions

a film that is not worth it. What are your

media say is not considered professional

that all critics share include: How does

options? You can go to many professional

writing, it still influences the decision to

professional writing make an impact? What

outlets to read movie reviews. Some of these

watch the movie. Your best friend could

are some of the things that professional

outlets include The New York Times and Rotten

post their thoughts on a movie, which might

writers use to help to create an overall trend?

Tomatoes.

lead you not to watch the film. A person can

What are the things that people look for in

hate and completely disagree with what a

their entertainment?

Lately, Rotten Tomatoes has been giving these

professional writer says about a movie, but

highly anticipated movies high ratings. They

will still be influenced by what their friends

Based on a Twitter poll that asked: “Do you

have also been giving low ratings to movies

are saying on social media.

read reviews on movies before you watch them,” ten people voted no, and two people

that are not entirely popular. Movies that are nominated for awards, like the Oscars,

How do professional writers engage their

voted yes. Even though there is a lack of

have higher ratings than sequels to certain

audiences? There is a pattern with every

attention that people give to critics, it is

genres of movies, like horror and comedy.

film review that professional writers write.

always good to know that they are available

Professional writers know exactly what

The review usually starts out with an

for the public to use. One reason why people

to say about the film to either make their

introduction of what the movie is about

may be hesitating on reading reviews is

audience love or hate it.

and who the director is. Then, the critic will

that most reviews are very opinion based.

either praise the film or vilify it. Throughout

In the end, it may benefit people to look up

It is an interesting thing to see how many

the review, the writer comments on the

a review every once in a while. It may help

people actually rely on critics to influence

actors and the content of the movie. Is it

you save money and skip out on a movie

them to watch a movie. It is only interesting

fresh? Has it already been done? What are

that is not worth a trip to the theater.

because a majority of people don’t pay any

the strengths? How can the movie improve?

attention to what the critics say. Even if they

The answers to these questions are ultimately

don’t go directly to The New York Times or

what make up a film review, which is what

15


MEMORANDUM

Writing in the Scientific Community Stephanie Thomas

Science Writing vs. Scientific Writing

every scientific paper has to have a minimum

and figures, good writing is still evident.

of five main sections: abstract, introduction,

It follows a narrative structure and is

methods, results, and discussion. However,

therefore interesting to read.

most scientists struggle with this stage of their work.

It has a greater chance of being shared outside of academic circles and reaching the

Why? Because they’re not writers. And

rest of society. Good science is worthless if

often enough, their papers are filled with

it’s not communicated properly.

complex terminology and technical jargon. Scientists struggle with writing because they

If you’re interested in science journalism,

aren’t taught how to communicate complex

the nice thing about getting involved is

theoretical findings into everyday language.

that it’s quite egalitarian. Most publications accept open submissions for article ideas.

Most scientific publications aren’t written

Search through the websites for “submission

for the average reader in mind. Even more,

guidelines” or even contact editors directly.

this writing is sometimes difficult for other

Science writing is a field of journalism that

scientists to read. When researchers want to

If you want to get a feel for how academic

aims to communicate the world of science to

go further with their work (and publish) they

writing works in the world of science, start

audiences through forms of popular media

may find the skills of the professional writer

by reading science blogs in your area of

such as blogs, magazines, and journals.

incredibly invaluable.

interest. Follow your favorite writers and

Science writing is broad and can cover

familiarize yourself with their citations and

topics ranging from genetics, to artificial

The most brilliant of findings can be swept

sources. Or do your own research. Most

intelligence, to environmentalism.

under the rug if they’re not communicated

interesting articles have abstracts available

properly. All science tends to build on

online and are easily located.

Writing of this type is dynamic and

previous findings—and effective reporting is

multifaceted, and most writers are

a key component in this process.

specialized in a specific field. Whether it’s

Many professional writers have gone on to specialize in writing and editing for

producing a trade publication or a technical

Yet, little do we realize that today many

scientists within a specific field—such

journal, this kind of writing is essential

research results and scientific breakthroughs

as medicine, psychology, astrophysics,

to society because it helps translate and

simply aren’t made accessible for the general

or ecology. Writers who work with (and

distribute abstract and complex findings into

public. Often, this is because of ineffective

within) scientific communities help bridge

lay terms for the general public.

writing and the lack of proper translation.

the divide between the world of scientific

Cue the science savvy writer.

discovery and the general public.

Familiarizing Yourself with the Broader Contexts

A specialized science writer can cover a

presentations. But, science writing can

Most professional writers are uninformed

writer you could can write on alternative

involve these types of writing, too. The

about this writing style and the opportunities

theories for climate change education. Or,

science writer (like any writer) must find

therein. Why don’t we hear more about the

write an article on the psychological benefits

their niche—be it public, academic, or

possibilities for professional writers in these

of urban forest projects. Or even help

business-oriented writing.

areas of science? Why isn’t anyone talking

popularize new innovations created to aid

about the communication issues going on in

endangered populations.

When we think about writing, most of us don’t immediately jump to science writing. Instead, we think about writing blogs, articles, grants, business documents, or

But there is a totally different facet of science

range of topics within their specific field of interest. For instance, as an environmental

small academic research circles?

writing—scientific writing. Scientific writing

Writing in the sciences readily ties in to a

is different because it is a strict form of

Well, it’s because the majority of people in

vast landscape of sociopolitical issues. It

technical writing performed by scientists

these environments don’t leave these circles.

is the vehicle by which new information,

for their peers in the world of academic

There is a huge gap between them and the

theories, and findings are incorporated

research. Its rules on grammar, format, and

public. And it’s up to writers of a certain

into society. The best science writers are

structure are strongly enforced. For example,

breed to help close it.

tough, informed critics who never forget the greater importance of their task. Just as with

16

While the overall goal of scientific writing

any writing, science writing is diverse and

is to communicate precise scientific findings

expansive. It’s all about finding your niche.


V4I2

Busting a Writing Center Myth Anna Sims

Verbalizing Thoughts

Collaboration

The mere words “peer review” inspire

By speaking your thoughts out of your

The workplace in which many Professional

dread in students. They come to class nail-

head, you can untangle them. A great way

Writing students will find themselves will be

biting. They pass their papers around with

to identify flaws with your argument is to

a collaborative environment. Bouncing ideas

warnings and apologies. However, the fear

explain your thoughts to another person. In

off one another allows a company to produce

of feedback is unnecessary.

that situation, you are forced to think about

quality content and services. Practicing

your peer’s immediate reaction to your

collaboration by visiting the Writing Center

The opportunity to have a fellow student

thoughts, which causes you to evaluate your

provides students with a better idea of what

critique your work before it gets to the

argument more critically.

they will encounter in the workplace.

At UAB, we have the University Writing

Also, by hearing your thoughts spoken out

Writing feels more personal than other

Center that offers face-to-face tutoring to

loud, you may draw connections that you

schoolwork, so students may be afraid to

undergraduates and graduates.

had not drawn when your argument sat

have personal work critiqued. However, the

professor, the final authority, is invaluable.

stagnant on a map in your head. Verbalizing

tutor wants the student to succeed. When

Students can schedule sessions for 30 or

thoughts transforms them from the abstract

teachers give grades for papers and deduct

60 minutes and bring papers at any stage,

to the real.

points for errors, it easily may seem like

from drafts to finished products. The center

punishment for poor writing. This idea is

currently offers tutoring from graduate

Having a graduate student who has

often carried over to tutor-student scenario,

students of English.

previously been in your undergrad shoes

causing the student to feel that the tutor as

listen, critique and support your ideas helps

well is picking apart their work and looking

However, there exists the myth that the

foster awareness of public reaction to your

for failure. However, the entire process at the

Writing Center is meant for freshman

work.

UWC is a collaborative effort that improves

students struggling in English Composition, or that to visit the Writing Center means to admit failure.

Receiving Peer Feedback The tutors at the Writing Center have been in

not one specific piece but the entire writing process of the student.

Increased Confidence

According to the 2016 UWC newsletter,

your shoes; let them offer you wisdom that

35 percent of those who visited the

they wish they had been offered. Similarly to

Asking for help indicates strength rather

Writing Center were upperclassmen, and

how you can identify flaws or links in your

than weakness. The identification of the need

an additional 23 percent of clients were

argument when you speak it aloud, peers

for guidance demonstrates self-awareness,

graduate students. This leaves only 42

can find flaws or links in your argument that

investment in individual potential,

percent of the breakdown to freshman

you had not seen.

intellectual confidence and maturity. Going to the Writing Center may feel like admitting

clients. The highest percentage of clients by category, therefore, were upperclassmen

Seeking feedback means that the student

defeat, but nobody is above asking for help.

students.

wants to improve the final product. While

Being able to ask questions means that a

there is a considerable number of freshman

student has evaluated his or her writing,

Making an appointment with the writing

students who visit the writing center, this

identified pitfalls, and has decided that the

center does not denote an acceptance of

more reflects on those students’ desires to

piece deserves to be carried out to its full

failure but rather an investment in greater

understand the writing process and how to

potential. Understanding the strengths of

success.

succeed in a new writing environment.

the piece and knowing that the student has taken the necessary steps to improve

For any stage of the writing process, any

Seeking feedback requires confidence. One

weaknesses allows the student to turn it in

major, and any class standing, I see the

student indicated that, “it was great to come

with confidence in the result.

following four points as the most important

and talk to someone about my ideas and get

results of visiting the UWC.

great tips, advice and comments.”

17


MEMORANDUM

In the Flow: Navigating the Changing World of Professional Writing Theodore Rowe

Not only do differing businesses require

that you have a voice that is unique from

a variety of voices, the brand itself may

the company guidelines. A strong voice is

On first glance, the differences between The

necessitate numerous voices within the

as necessary as experience in establishing

New York Times and Buzzfeed are evident: one

company.

credentials to show employers.

with headlines referring to events of

Thus, the professional writer should expect

Maneuvering from one writing job to

international political theater while the other

to create a specific voice depending on what

another is a daunting task. Professional

entertains with allusions to pop culture and

is being written. For instance, an article

writers should expect to assume any

memes. But are the two really that far apart?

regarding a new restaurant near a promoted

position that is offered. Journalists are much

has the appearance of a serious publication

apartment complex can be more playful if

more fluid than before, meaning that one

Buzzfeed now has a team of journalists that

the restaurant is family-friendly as opposed

might be hired on to write material that

interview high-level politicians, including

to something more elegant, assuming the

engages a multitude of audiences. Thus,

the President, while breaking stories before

restaurant is of a higher quality.

the professional writer should be sensitive to contemporary political events with the

other, traditional sources. Likewise, The New York Times has sniped some of Buzzfeed’s

The example is unambiguous, but imagine

ability to engagage culturally or with an

means of reporting, as readers can now find

juggling varying social stratas in a single

adaptation to the latest technology.

“listicles” integrated into older sections of

article. Think of the overarching audience:

the paper.

who is the key reader? From there, attempt

Finally, professional writers should not feel

to either localize or heighten details

restricted by the free-form world of writing

News no longer exists in its own separate

depending on the article. Buzzfeed must

jobs that exist. I do not necessarily think

sphere away from the sorts of entertaining

connect to a larger audience, so the target

that jumping from one assignment with one

articles those online seek.

articles attempt to include a massive group

company to another with a different one is

of people via pop culture, social issues,

pragmatically a good thing—instead, the

Additionally, the Internet, encompassing

etc. An article for a company’s blog does

constant maneuvering is means of survival.

a larger network of social media, blogs,

well to include communal elements of the

and so on, purports massive amounts of

surrounding city.

However, the sorts of shifts one must make in order to put food on the table does allow

competition between who receives attention. The attempt at framing a particular voice for

for a specific working of style in developing

What does the influx of new media mean for

a blog runs into issues of authorial erasure.

a unique, but professional voice.

the professional writer? Is the contemporary

The issue comes from churning out material

sphere of writing particularly fruitful for the

that does not have a sense of personality

Companies are attempting to brand

professional writer and if not, how do they

behind it. At this point, websites like Buzzfeed

themselves now more so than ever; language

push back?

are so popularized that they merit parodies,

helps develop the company’s ideology.

thus a sense of individuality is unique in Professional writing obviously extends into

carrying a brand. Obviously guidelines must

There might exist a greater question

a number of differing fields, but this essay

be adhered to, but an injection of humor by

of morality for the professional writer:

will focus on taking on a specific company

the author, even if it seems like “too much,”

when language holds power to sway on

or brand’s “voice” in order to emit an ideal.

can be good.

an intimate level (perhaps received more intimately on an individual-to-individual

18

Working on your own interests manifests a

basis than ever before), with what should it

more interesting article while also signaling

be aligned and how should it be used?


V4I2

The Introverted Tutor: Seeing Introversion as an Asset Nicola Larson

way to a student. I was also worried that

Even though the name of the class was

would be very overbearing and not take well

Tutoring Writing, it still came as a shock

to someone like me who tends to be more

when Dr. Wells announced that everyone in

quiet and not as outgoing.”

because my students are athletes, they

the class would be tutoring in the University Writing Center. I have always seen my

Eight months later Jessica is much more

introverted personality as a handicap that

confident in her tutoring abilities. She is able

I needed to overcome. This self-perception

to acknowledge the fact that her introverted

was reinforced at the thought of tutoring

personality is actually very beneficial in the

other peer students in the UWC.

the smaller issues. It can be very difficult to

tutoring session.

push spelling and punctuation mistakes to What I learned through this experience,

the side to focus on the overall content and

Jessica recognizes the importance of placing

however, was that my introverted

organization of the paper. However, this

all of the focus on her student-athletes,

personality coincides well with essential

becomes a little easier for an introvert who

admitting “It is easy for me to focus on them

methods of tutoring.

is accustomed to analyzing more thoroughly

because as an introvert, I naturally do not

before making a judgement.

like for the attention to be on me.”

to learn to listen more and talk less. The

Most students who go to the UWC feel

The most difficult aspect of tutoring for

introvert can more easily fulfill the role of

nervous about the tutoring session. An

Jessica is being assertive when the student–

the listener because he or she is likely to do

introvert will be able to mindfully approach

athlete is unresponsive. I can attest to the

this in everyday situations. It is easy to point

each tutoring session in a way that relates

fact that being assertive is one of the things

out all of the mistakes in the student’s paper.

to the insecurities of the student. Exposing

I have struggled with most throughout my

What is more difficult is getting the student

one’s written work to criticism can make

life.

to open up and begin talking about the

anyone feel vulnerable.

In the tutoring session it is invaluable

thought process that went into the writing of their paper.

Those who are extroverted are likely more An introverted tutor has the ability to relate

comfortable with being assertive, and

to these feelings of insecurity because it is

there are obviously many other strengths

An essential function of a tutor is to teach

likely he or she has felt the same way in

that characterize an extrovert. However,

the student how to find their recurring

the past. The tutor can steer the tutoring

the tutoring session is a great opportunity

mistakes and learn how to fix them in the

session in a positive direction by offering

for the introvert to practice honing those

future. The student will more easily be able

constructive feedback to the student in a way

communication skills innate to the extrovert.

to self-correct if the tutor acts as a guide to

that is sensitive to the student’s insecurities.

lead them to the mistakes rather than fixing them for the student.

The introvert is more than capable of being Jessica Robbins is a tutor for UAB Student-

a successful tutor and possesses several

Athlete Support Services. She also considers

attributes which offer significant value to the

One of the first things a tutor-in-training

her personality more introverted than

tutoring session.

learns is that higher-order concerns should

extroverted, yet it has not kept her from

be addressed before lower-order concerns.

becoming a successful tutor for the last eight

By accentuating the positive qualities of the

An example of a higher-order concern would

months. She had similar concerns as myself

introvert I am hoping that all personality

be the overarching thesis of the paper. A

when she first began her tutoring job.

types, whether introverted or extroverted or

lower-order concern would be issues such as spelling and punctuation.

somewhere in-between, will be inspired to When I asked Jessica if she was intimidated

change the way they think about their own

when she first began tutoring student-

personality in relation to tutoring.

An introvert, who tends to put more thought

athletes she responded, “Most definitely.

in before speaking, can process the over-

I was scared that I would freeze up and

arching ideas of the paper before addressing

explain something in a totally ineffective

19


MEMORANDUM

Blogging: My New Favorite Pastime Silvia Pettway

In the professional writing world, there isn’t much room for expressing emotions,

Blogging has become a very close companion

and opinionated thoughts conflict with the

of mine over the past few years. As an

facts that news brings. So blogging is a great

English major whose entire academic career

way for writers in the professional world to

has been consumed with formal essays and

talk about about the interests that they love

10-12 page research papers, I can admit that

without the rules and regualtions that limits

it is refreshing to write and research certain

their writing and ideas.

interests of mine that do not revolve around passing a class.

An advantage to blogging is that it can become a stepping stone for journalists to

Blogging has given me the freedom to not

advance in their careers as professional

only explore and write about other avenues

writers. The Next Web writes about Shane

that interest me, but it has also given me the

Evans, the Deputy editor of Goal.com, a

ability to reach other individuals that have

soccer blog. Evans states that “in today’s

similar hobbies, ideas, and interests as I do.

information-based society, where everything me. I try to post on my lifestyle blog, “Living

is at your fingertips […] people are basically

What is blogging and how did it become so

SILsationally” as much as I can. And when

teaching themselves how to be journalists.

widely regarded as another outlet for writers,

I can’t post on my blog, I at least write ideas

Gone are the days when you need a degree

journalists, and pretty much anybody that

that I would like to have for my blog.

to show how credible you are as a writer.

has something to say? I see blogging as

If your blog gets a ton of hits and you have

an open diary, where you get to express

Technology has undoubtedly taken over our

thousands of followers on Twitter, you get

yourself without the limits of privacy.

world in every aspect. Blogging is proof

taken seriously.”

of this. In 2008, the news blogging journal, As a lifestyle blogger, I can honestly say

The Guardian released an article about “The

Of course, there are many ways for an

that I truly don’t know how the concept of

World’s 50 most powerful blogs” and at the

individual to express themselves, but I

blogging turned into something so massive

top of this list is the widely popular political

believe that blogging allows more room for

in the world of media, but this new technique

blog journal The Huffington Post.

connecting with others, which is great for us

has influenced millions of individuals around

introverts that have a difficult time opening

the world. There are many different genres

Before illustrating the highlights of The

up our lives to others. Blogging opens the

of blogging that can pique anyone’s interest.

Huffington Post, the authors of the post

door to networking in the professional field

Lifestyle, travel, fashion, politics, beauty, and

describe how bloggers have a show of

as well, which is an especially important

the news are just a few of the outlets that

solidarity and are seen as the underdogs in

assest to have in the field of professional

welcome the style of blogging.

comparison to mainstream media.

writing. With blogging, the viewers of your

I believe for any writer, it is important to

Hearing news on television has a profoundly

become vividly expressed. If the right

reserve time each day to simply write. It

different effect than reading a blogger’s

potential employer views your blog and

doesn’t have to be a profound piece of work,

latest post that gives their opinion of what

enjoys what they see, then they may be

nor does it have to be something small.

the news has reported. Blogging garners

more enticed with having you on board as a

Writing anything progresses the creative

emotions, and expresses thought and most

member of the staff.

flow and allows us to release the thoughts

of the time, their followers agree with how

that have consumed our minds throughout

they feel. This only makes sense, because in

The progression of this new form of media is

the day. Blogging has this same impact for

order for a blog site to have followers, there

exciting and unique for the world of writers.

has to be a similarity in interest, or else the

I know I’ve certainly enjoyed writing as

followers would not visit the site.

SILsationally as I can.

blog get to see more of your personality

20


Tammy Blue

Wallace Golding

Mary J. Doss

Sarah Goodman

Brett Hurst

Danielle Ivey

Melissa Lawerence

Nicola Larson

Lauren Moore

Theodore Rowe

Meet Our Contributors Malecia Luckie

Silvia Pettway

Natalie Pagan

Anna Sims

Elizabeth Slatsky

Jessica Robbins

Stephanie Thomas

Lexi Waldon


UAB Department of English 1720 2nd Avenue South. HB 215 Birmingham, AL 35294-1260

Profile for UABPWRC

MEMORANDUM Vol. 4 I.2  

MEMORANDUM is the official newsletter for UAB's Professional Writing and Rhetoric & Composition programs.

MEMORANDUM Vol. 4 I.2  

MEMORANDUM is the official newsletter for UAB's Professional Writing and Rhetoric & Composition programs.

Profile for uabpwrc
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