Writing for the Public

Writing for the Public | ENG-CMP 420 | University of Pittsburgh (Fall 2015-Spring 2016)



The blog is one of the major assignments for this course and is entirely student designed and executed. Students are broken up into three groups and cycle through the following responsibilities twice during the semester: blogging, pages/other content generation, and commenting and circulating. Each blogging week includes a planning stage and large-group workshop. I am first-reader and critical responder, but I do not prompt or author any of the blog’s content.

Course Description

This course explores the theory and practice of writing that serves the public interest. Writing for the public is becoming more and more crucial in just about every sector, though is especially key for individuals working in careers with some aspect of public service (e.g. social justice law, non-profits, journalism, public health, etc.), for those invested in being active citizens as advocates and/or activists, and for those whose creative work is aimed toward a public agenda (e.g. artists, performers, other creative content professionals). Whatever your purpose in learning more about writing for the public, this course will offer you ample opportunities to increase your understanding of the complexities of issues of public interest and to move toward effecting positive change in our world.

As a writing-intensive class, the bulk of your time will be dedicated to practical experience in drafting and revising textual and multi-media genres from the position of an issue of public interest you have a genuine investment in. Through these projects you will come to understand the impact of rhetorical situations on the choices you have with respect to a composition’s genre, style, and tone as well as target audience. In your final projects, you will shape the material you’ve produced into a website/blog of your own design. It is my greatest hope that you will want to continue to work on these websites even after the semester ends. You will practice and prepare for your individual projects by collaborating in the design and execution of a class blog, by keeping extensive research logs, and by sharing and discussing your work with your classmates.

Sample Assignment Excerpt for a Visual Arguments Project

Arguments are made in a variety of forms, including through typographical decisions and formats and through visual graphical representations of data. But visual arguments do not have to be dry pre-formatted pie charts or line graphs, they can be exciting imagistic representations via infographics or other visual media like video, photo campaigns, etc. The purpose of this project is to produce two visual arguments, one infographic or text data visualization and one other visual argument in a medium of your choice. The first is rather constrained, the second is very open.