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#WednesdayWrite: Website Audience Analysis

#WednesdayWrite: Website Audience Analysis published on 32 Comments on #WednesdayWrite: Website Audience Analysis

Many of you have probably already seen the XKCD comic below, titled “University Website.” Beyond being a funny reflection on what you see on college websites, it’s a great example of what goes wrong when composers fail to think about what their audience needs. The people who decide what goes on these websites are meeting someone’s goals, but not all of the people who go to the site for information. I haven’t compared all the items in the comic to the Virginia Tech website, but I suspect that a lot of the details are quite true.

XKCD comic: University Website
Permanent link to this comic:; Long Desription below.

You can participate today in two ways: adding a comment that analyzes a university webpage, OR replying to someone else’s comment and explaining why you agree (or disagree) with their analysis. The details on the two options are below:

Option 1. Add a Comment Analyzing a Webpage

Our activity this week is to complete a similar analysis of another webpage. Find a page on the Virginia Tech website, and compare what shows on that page to what you would look for when you go to that page. I have some guidelines for you:

  • Choose a page that is in the domain. You can look at a page for your major, a course, resources you use on campus, and so forth.
  • OR choose a page that is clearly related to Virginia Tech, such as a page for a club, Greek organization, and so forth. If you’re not sure, send me the link and ask me.
  • You may NOT use any page that I have written or that is about me. That just gets weird and awkward.

Once you choose a page, do this:

  • Tell us the name of the page (for instance, English Dept homepage).
  • Share the link in your comment.
  • Talk about what you see there.
  • Talk about what you think people would go there for.
  • Draw some conclusions about how well the page meets the needs of its audience.

Finally, you are just making a comment. You’re not trying to write a formal comparison-contrast essay. Use short lists or fragments, whatever will make sense to people who read your comment.

Option 2. Reply and Discuss Someone Else’s Analysis

You can reply to a comment someone else has made (or even several people if you want). Your goal would be to think about whether you agree with that commenter’s analysis and explain the reasons for your response.



Comic Description


A venn diagram. The left circle is labeled "things on the front page of a university website" and contains "campus photo slideshow," "alumni in the news," "promotions for campus events," "press releases," "statement of the school's philosophy," "letter from the president," and "virtual tour."

The right circle is labeled "things people go to the site looking for" and contains "list of faculty phone numbers and emails," "campus address," "application forms," "academic calendar," "campus police phone number," "department course lists," "parking information," and "usable campus map."

The only item in the overlapping section is "full name of school."

Title text: People go to the website because they can't wait for the next alumni magazine, right? What do you mean, you want a campus map? One of our students made one as a CS class project back in '01! You can click to zoom and everything!



#WednesdayWrite: Consider Your Code of Ethics

#WednesdayWrite: Consider Your Code of Ethics published on 22 Comments on #WednesdayWrite: Consider Your Code of Ethics

Ethics CC BY-SA 3.0 Nick YoungsonFind the codes of ethic for your profession. For instance, an electrical engineer would focus on the IEEE Code of Ethics, and a biologist might focus on the Code of Ethics for the Society for Conservation Biology. Once you identify the principles for your field, consider the following questions:

  • Where do you find principles explicitly related to writing or communication in the code of ethics for your field?
  • Where are connections less obvious?
  • Are there ideas about writing and communication that you think they are missing?

After you analyze the code for your field, share what you have found in a comment on this post. Be sure to identify your field and link to your code, and then talk about anything interesting or surprising that you found about writing and communication in your field’s ethical code. Alternately, you can consider anything that is missing from your field’s code.


Photo credit: Ethics CC BY-SA 3.0 Nick Youngson.


#WednesdayWrite: A Reply-All Scenario

#WednesdayWrite: A Reply-All Scenario published on 43 Comments on #WednesdayWrite: A Reply-All Scenario

Screenshot of Google Gmail Inbox linksThe members of your writing group need to plan and write a short report on successful strategies for the job search. Your group has had two meetings in Google Hangouts so far, after which members have emailed and Replied to All, with everyone getting lots of emails with long threads about the report.

Two team members, Jasmine and Malik, are responsible for strategies for LinkedIn. Jasmine did research on what employers look for on LinkedIn, and she emailed her research to Malik without copying the writing group. Malik replied to Jasmine to ask a question, and he copied the other group members. Jasmine replied to Malik—not to all.

Malik is annoyed with Jasmine. He says they should be copying everyone in the writing group on everything they do so that people are in the loop.

Jasmine thinks they are drowning in email. She says they should only copy the entire group when everyone needs the information.

With whom do you agree? Why? Discuss with those who comment on the post.


Photo credit: Detail from Gmail – Inbox by Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license.



#WednesdayWrite: Emails to Your Professors

#WednesdayWrite: Emails to Your Professors published on 63 Comments on #WednesdayWrite: Emails to Your Professors

This post is the first of our Daily Discussion Posts. If you decide to leave a comment as part of your work toward a grade higher than a B in the course, remember that I have to approve your first comment on the site manually. Your comments will appear automatically on the site after I approve your first post.

Anatomy of a Perfect Business EmailEveryone in this course has had to write to a teacher at some point. You may have had a question about an assignment, needed an extension on a project, or wanted to explain a class absence.

The Inside Higher Ed article “Re: Your Recent Email to Your Professor” outlines tips for how to write email messages that persuade your professors to help you.

As a bonus, you can also consult the infographic on the right, which outlines the parts that comprise a perfect business email message:

  • Subject Line
  • Greeting
  • Introduction
  • Main Body
  • Closing Remarks
  • Closing Signature

Depending upon the purpose and audience of your message, the length of these sections may vary greatly. There’s no reason to pad your message out for a short request, for instance. Adding extraneous information in that way just buries the point you are trying to make. Use common sense.

Reflecting on these resources, what experiences or examples can you share that relate to writing to professors? What other advice have professors given you about writing to them? How would you compare writing to professors to writing to your manager or another executive in the workplace?


Note: This infographic needs a text-based transcript. See the Optional Accessibility Transcript Activity for more details.



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