For Continuing students: Effective Writing

Effective Writing: Continuing Students

Effective Writing in Business and the Professions is an eight-week course designed to meet the writing needs of working professionals. The course is an accelerated, non-credit version of the the Writing Program's "Little Red Schoolhouse" course, which offered to graduate and professional school students at University's South Side campus. Effective Writing is offered at the University of Chicago's Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, conveniently located in the Gleacher Center at the heart of Chicago's Magnificent Mile. In 2016-17, Effective Writing will be offered in both Autumn and Spring on Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 8:00. The Spring 2017 session will begin in March;  see the Graham School's site for details

Effective Writing: course description and goals

When it comes to communication, busy professionals face a dilemma: the more you know, the more difficult it can be to communicate what you know clearly and persuasively. As a professional, you acquire expertise in your field, but that expertise can't do much good -- for you or for anyone else -- when it's just sitting in your head. To share it with others, you need to organize your material, structure your ideas, and frame your concepts in language that is both precise enough to be accurate and direct enough to be clear. And you need to do all of this fast.

Effective Writing in Business and the Professions demonstrates the structures of clear professional prose. You will learn not only how to diagnose and fix trouble spots that can make writing unclear, but also how to refocus a text to reach different audiences, such as colleagues, clients, or the general public.

How can you tailor your work to particular readers while working quickly enough to be effective? Our course tackles this problem by using a "reader based" approach to writing: you will learn to predict how readers will respond to language when it is structured in particular ways. Before your readers can process the information you wish to communicate, they need to see certain predictable kinds of sentence structures, paragraph structures, and text structures.

In our first three sessions, we disentangle convoluted sentences taken from real-world professional prose. We work to undo the damage done by sentences that leave readers with no clue about who is doing what to whom -- a common problem in professional writing. In the next two sessions, we focus on how to make clear points within paragraphs: how to identify the most crucial piece of information readers need within a paragraph, and how to position this information so that different readers will be able to find it immediately, before they start wondering what the paragraph is supposed to be about. Finally, in the last three sessions, we work on how writers may use the introductions of texts not only to create a sense of coherence, but to motive readers -- even readers who might initially be apathetic or resistant to the text.

Effective Writing's course structure and workload

The course includes lecture sessions and small seminar groups in which instructors can focus on each student's writing needs. In the lecture sessions, we'll examine real-world professional prose taken from a wide variety of fields, and discuss why the good ones work and why the bad ones -- and some of them are very bad indeed -- don't work at all. The principles of clear writing that you study, then, won't be presented as a list of abstract rules; instead, they will be developed from the class's experience of good and bad writing.

In the seminar groups, which are led by members of the Writing Program staff, you'll exchange copies of your writing samples with other students and discuss these samples as a group. This kind of a seminar can give you a very clear idea of how a group of diverse readers responds to your work. We'll also do some exercises that will help you incorporate the courses' principles into your daily writing habits.

Certificates of Participation: Effective Writing cannot be taken for course credit. Certificates of Participation are given to students who attend regularly and who participate in group discussions.

How to register for Effective Writing

You may order a Graham School catalog or register for the course by credit card over the phone by calling the University of Chicago's Graham School of General Studies at (800) 997-9689. On the web, you may obtain more information about how to register at the Graham School's Course Search page (Effective Writing will appear near the bottom of your screen). You may also call the Graham School directly at 1-(773)702-1722.