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CMST 3WR3 Professional Writing (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2018

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Philip Savage


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 325

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23466

Office Hours: Tue 10am-11am

Course Objectives:

Successful professional communication in public, private and voluntary organizations does not happen by chance or just to those who are ‘great writers’. As  Hollywood screenwriter Gene Fowler said when asked about the ‘trick’ to writing:


                        “Writing is easy. I just stare at the blank page…

 until the blood drips from my forehead.”


The emphasis in lecture and tutorials will be on “tools” and “insights” in professional writing, grounded in the latest communication theory, but practically developed to reach strategic communication goals. 


This course will combine lectures and tutorials. Much of the material learned in the lectures will be applied in writing workshops within the tutorials. In order to do well in this course you need to attend both and fully participate (e.g. work-shopping writing styles individually and in a team).


In this course you will be introduced to professional writing techniques on three levels so that you will learn to:

  1. Understand the role of written English in a professional context, especially that of Canadian communication and cultural sectors, e.g. why do media rely on News Releases or OpEds, and in what situations do they work best?;
  2. Master the key mechanics of English writing in professional contexts including essential rules of grammar and style, i.e. knowing the rules (and knowing when and how to break them!); and,
  3. Apply your understanding and mastery of written English to key communication forms, e.g. Memos or Reports.

By the end of the course you should be able to understand and craft effective written documents in a variety of professional communication contexts. You should also have improved:

  • Team work abilities as they apply to the organizational, research, planning, composition and editing stages of writing.
  • Critical analysis of others’ writing – both in the professional and wider media realms.
  • Digital media writing knowledge, allowing you to use social media sites and mobile messages effectively to connect with publics and customers to achieve professional organizational outcomes.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Meyer, Caroline (2017). Communicating for Results, A Canadian Student’s Guide (Fourth Edition).  Don Mills: Oxford University Press.  Other required and recommended reading and materials will be available on Avenue. Other than the main text (price set by bookstore; used versions are widely available at a lower cost); there are no material or other fees.

Method of Assessment:






  • 10 Weekly MC Tests

        (Please study Chapters & Appendices

        as per Schedule on A2L)








  • Attendance (5%)
  • Participation (10%)






Writing/Speech Projects:


  • 3 Individual (or Group) projects, applying writing techniques.     







(See dates below)

Final Exam


As scheduled by Exam Office in December.


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

All assignments must be personally submitted at the beginning of class on the date it is due.  Do not drop off assignments in the CMST office (it will be considered late unless handed in to me in class).  If you submit an assignment late you may only do so in the next scheduled class.Late assignments will be penalized 10% per late class.  Extensions will be given only for documented medical reasons, and must be discussed before due date.All assigned work must be submitted on paper, not mailed electronically (with exception of the on-line forum). Always maintain electronic or other back-up copies of whatever you submit.  

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:





Topic/ Evaluation



Sept 4


Chpt. 1 “Issues and Trends”

Chpt. 2 “Getting the Message Across”


Sept 11

Planning to Write

(In-class MC - Test 1)

Bring pencil for scantron!)


Chpt. 3 “Getting Started: Planning (etc.)

Chpt. 6 “Memorandums, E-mail, and Routine Messages”


Sept 18

Writing Style #1: Words

(Test 2)

Chpt. 4 “Word Choice, Conciseness, and Tone”


Sept 25

Writing Style #2:

Sentences and Paragraphs

(Test 3)

Chpt. 5 “Business Style: Sentences and Paragraphs”


Oct 2

Memos, E-mail and Letters

(Test 4)

Project #1 Due: MEMO

Chpt. 7 “Routine and Goodwill Messages”




Oct 16

Workshop with TA’s




Oct 23

Press Releases, Op-Ed, Blogs

(Test 5)

Chpt 8 “Delivering Unfavourable News”, pp. 174-202

[VARIOUS ON-LINE re. Op-Ed/Blog/News Release]


Oct 30

Speeches and Presentations

(Test 6)

Chpt. 9 “Persuasive Messages”

Chpt. 13 “Oral Communication”


Nov 6

Informal Reports

(Test 7)

Project #2 Due: OP-ED

Chpt. 11 “Informal Reports”



Nov 13

Proposals and Formal Reports

(Test 8)

Chpt. 12 “Proposals and Formal Reports


Nov 20

Social Media/

Mobile Comms

(Test 9)

Chpt 14 “Social Media and Mobile Communications”


Nov 27

Content Catch-Up

(Test 10)

Project #3 Due: REPORT




Dec 4

Exam Review



Other Course Information:

Style Guides (Referencing): Please use APA or MLA styles; see library guides at: