Can't write anything. Henry Petroski: the WRITING Engineer


Week 3 (about half way)


  • Drafting, revising, perfecting the article review you are writing now: peer review of entire document (7-12 paragraphs) on Thursday, with final copy due for a grade on Monday, June 23.
  • At home, you need to revise your rain garden memo.  Start by using the checklist given, reviewing the entries on this class journal, and your class notes.
    • Checklist!
    • Topic sentences/transitions sentences
      • SV early, let detail trail
      • SV together
      • NO ITs in the document, period.
      • No There is/there are subject
      • Discussion guide in class here, for rain garden revision.
    Knitting up from earlier:
  • Transitions/paragraphs example
  • Empty subjects (there is/are; it) READ THIS ENTIRE PRESENTATION FOR THURSDAY!!!!!!!!

New links for class discussion today:

That/Which (recall that that/who notes)

Opening moves for technical documents

Approaching audiences


Now, onto to a "study hall" session on your review document, including citation guidelines and establishing ethos.

Posted on Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 06:48AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Day 4, week 2: review of your article upcoming

We will knit back to some earlier documents posted here.  Now that you written a memo, we are ready to review your article.  Your review will be in the context of Leaf it to Us.  More on that in class.  We will use stasis theory -- all five stages -- to arrange and write a 7-12 paragraph review of the article.  Roughly, we need to first, think in terms of a lemon shape and:

  • Beginning (hook with strong opening, establish credibility of author(s), introduce context for research)
  • Middle (select three or four points to share, devoting one paragraph per point)
  • End (close with your commentary on application, controversy, idea for new research, and perhaps a limitation on the research)

Here is another structure guide. Can you see the stasis steops here:


Paragraph 1: introduce, hook, establish exigence

Paragraph 2: present credibility of authors and institution; announce article by focus on topic (not title) and journal (in ITALICS)

Paragraphs 3 and perhaps 4:  brief background definitions or descriptions or context

BODY PARAGRAPHS (your three or four point paragraphs)

Analysis or discusison paragraphs (1 or 2)


  • application
  • further research
  • suggested reading

But, let's spend some time on stasis theory.  Let's consider that many times in professional life, we need to focus on the fifth stasis of policy. WHAT OUGHT WE DO?  Here is a recent document all about policy: the proposed Northern Virginia deer managment plan. You do not need to read this entire piece. However, this document came across my desk last night. I think a great deal about deer management in urban areas like ours. So, this is an example of how stasis thinking can help us with work documents.  Note: nested within this document are the other stases:

  • definitions
  • causal patterns (deer population effects)
    • plants and ecosystems
    • homes and business (eating plant instations)
    • safety (cars)
    • human health (ticks, along with other animals, including white-footed wood mice)
  • value (within the causal patterns, we can see economic and social costs)
    • are white tailed deer good for our area?
    • what rights to these animals have?  (Consider the Bambi effect.....)
  • ANOTHER take on stasis sucralose analysis

Some grammaer/language conventions:

What is an appositive? Friday bits and ends

What is an appositive? A bit of information you insert in between the subject and the verb.  You need commas or other sorts of punctuation to set this off.  This image of bunny paws can help you remember to do this:

Alot v. A lot: Grammar moment: the abomination of alot. alot is not a word.  Let's see what this blogger says about remembering to use a lot and not alot(click into image to access her website).

Now, to this bit of charm from N.N. Ta DAH!


Thinking for next week:

Your 7-12 paragraphs on the review are DUE ON TUESDAY for peer review. The review as an assignment is due THURSDAY FOR A GRADE. (June 18)
Read this google doc on transitions between paragraphs
Did you read the plagiarism exhibit?  Do know what common knowledge is?  Here is a primer on citation in science and technical documnts.
Posted on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 08:17PM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Day 3; week 2

Rethinking your rain garden memo (due on Thursday FOR A GRADE: Checklist here) 

  • cognitive wedge
  • paragraphs that unveil the extended definition (partial use of the stases steps)

Here is an arrangement for your memo.

Polite first person opening

  • Para 1: Definition (what is a rain garden, briefly, by two functions)
  • Para 2Classifying (what type of technology is this? Hint: low impact development and storm water management)
  • Para 3: Description (Illustrative; give detail on the layers of soil and the type of plants)
    • include two examples; consider the ones on campus (separate para; incorporated into one of the paras -- your choice)
  • Para 4: Evaluation (is this good or bad?  Use Dr. Davis' research as you do not have authority to evaluate based on your expertise)

Polite first person closing with offer to help (content you like but did not include?)

I would think you need about one source per paras 2, 3, 4  Use (author, date) citation from APA guidelines. Include a works cited page also.


and style.  Short paragraphs are evidence that you, the writer, does the heavy lifting for the reader. Why? Please consider paragraphing as an ethical duty to your reader.  At the very least, think about manners and consideration.


Here is an exercise in sentence-to-sentence coherence.  Work your way through this web exhibit, including the links. Read more about working on paragraph coherence strategies at OWL.


For some fun, as we all head into the hell of May:" Elements"!








Now, some sentences you can use at the beginning of your paragraphs:

Let's look at examples of topic sentences useful in the rain garden memo:

Rain gardens, or bioretention ponds, are a kind of low impact development.  Low impact development....

Rain gardens have two components:  layers of percolation material and carefully chosen plants.

Rain gardens protect the local environment by absorbing water run-off from impervious surfaces and by sequestering pollutants.

Dr. Allen Davis studies rain garden effectiveness.  Davis, a civil engineering professor, has been studying bioretention for more than twenty years.

Posted on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at 06:52AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | Comments Off

Day 2, week 1: BUSY!

Lots to do today.  First, your research article. Start reading this over the weekend.  Our third assignment will be a close review of this knowledge. Hint: make notes on three to five important take-aways. Let's also think about what is a  research article.

Let's consider some of the technical language we will use to talk about writing:

  • logos
  • pathos
  • ethos

See more here about Aristotle's "proofs." Dr. Garret's approach is a good place to start. We will think about logos, pathos, ethos in technical settings.

We also need to know about the canons of rhetoric:

  • Invention
  • Arrangement
  • Style
  • Delivery
  • Memory

In the BYU link above, please click into the links for these five aspects of rhetoric.

We will knit back to Tuesday's post to think about the Oxford or serial comma.  Why the videos?  Humor supports memory.  Here are some classic examples of why this comma convention is important:

Oxford comma: Look at these examples, to jump start the lesson.

To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

To my parents, J.K. Rowling and God.

To my parents, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.


In a newspaper account of a documentary about Merle Haggard:

Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.

These two preceding examples are from Theresa HaydenHere is another doosie that cries out for a serial or Oxford comma.

 Here is another doosie that cries out for a serial or Oxford comma.

The Times once published an unintentionally humorous description of a Peter Ustinov documentary, noting that

"highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector."

Now, to be clear, the serial comma does not always solve ambiguity problems:

They went to Oregon with Betty, a maid and a cook –

  • They went to Oregon with Betty, who was a maid and a cook. (One person)
  • They went to Oregon with Betty, both a maid and a cook. (One person)
  • They went to Oregon with Betty, a maid and cook. (One person)
  • They went to Oregon with Betty (a maid) and a cook. (Two people)
  • They went to Oregon with Betty, a maid, and with a cook. (Two people)
  • They went to Oregon with Betty – a maid – and a cook. (Two people)
  • They went to Oregon with the maid Betty and a cook. (Two people)
  • They went to Oregon with a cook and Betty, a maid. (Two people)
  • They went to Oregon with Betty as well as a maid and a cook. (Three people)
  • They went to Oregon with Betty and a maid and a cook. (Three people)
  • They went to Oregon with Betty, one maid and a cook. (Three people)
  • They went to Oregon with a maid, a cook, and Betty. (Three people)

We can also look at the grocery list problem: 

buying  bread, jam, coffee, cream, juice, eggs, and bacon. VS

eating toast and jam, coffee and cream, juice, and bacon and eggs


Please read this post on commas at OWL at Purdue. Now onto sentences and paragraphs.



Paragraph transitions: Think pearls beaded upon a string. Think train cars coupled. This UCSB guide is helpful with words that serve nicely as transition elements.  This writing guide emphasizes the value of repeating key words as a transition strategy. Now, think about transitions between sentences WITHIN paragraphs as another way to achieve cohesion.

    Your memo:

Using stasis theory questions to organize an extended definition.  Your memo is an extended definition, structured by stasis theory. Detail here.

You will write a memo over the weekend in five short paragraphs, with sources, using this stasis structure. Let's talk about the audience/context/purpose for this memo. We will write for Jane Austen Powers at Leaf it to Us. Wh is she?

Answer: SHE IS THE BOSS and your primary audience for the memo.

46361-1032021-thumbnail.jpgSource:  Dover Pictoral Archive -- Office Clip Art collection 

Topic Sentences, to open each paragraph: A list of qualities for you to strive for

 Usually a short direct sentence (think announcement)

  • Signals the topic in the paragraph (think preview)
  • Hooks the reader by 1) raising a question or 2) provoking thought
  • Can be placed anywhere, but early on in the paragraph is the best default strategy for most professional documents; in other words, at the beginning of the paragraph
  • Contains an element of transition from the previous paragraph



Now, let's write directions in class. Here is the assignment sheet.   Before we turn this in, use this check list with a partner.




Posted on Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 06:39AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Day 1 of Week 1 WELCOME

Welcome. We will discuss several items that preview our work together in this class. Note: this section of 393 is also a campus Sustainabilty Themed Course.  I am a campus Chesapeake Fellow and also a national Sustainabily Fellow.


  • books (a happy surprise)
  • class attendence (YOU MUST COME TO ALL CLASSES)
  • assignments overview
  • audience sensitivity and rhetorical theory

Theme:  Sustainability topics will be addressed in this class.  Regardless of your major, this broad social and technical theme can fit your major and career goals. We will discuss this today.

Details: Here is your syllabus. We will discuss the seven assignments that will total about 30 pages of written output in this class. 

For Thursday next (day two) please complete these requests:

  • You need an active Terrapin Express account to print in this classroom!
  • Bring a resume and cover letter (draft) to class in digital format
  • Find a job description you would like to apply for
  • Bring an idea about directions you could write in class AND TURN IN BY END OF PERIOD
  • Find a technical article about your field to review for this class (options to be discussed in class)
  • Bring in three short definition/ descriptive paragraphs on the topics noted in the email

Note: your cover letter and resume, and the three paragraphs should be brought to class in digital form. For the directions assignment, you need an idea that is ready to go. In other words, you will draft, revise, and complete this directions assignment for a grade on Thursday.

Here are some materials we will use to jump-start summer learning: NAUGHTY WORD ALERT!

Commas! Yes.  Commas are very important to clarity in communication.

Read this link for Thursday. We will use the Oxford comma in this class, for precision and clarity.

Let's see what Stephen Colbert says about the Oxford comma.

Plagiarism Exhibit

Today, we will talk about professional writing and your majors/fields and look at audience analysis.  This website -- class journal, posted documents, links, and a draft etext will form the readings for this class.  Let's begin by exploring the etext.

Next up, definitions.  And directions.

What is a Cougar anyway?  Let's check out Cougar Net.  think you do not need to worry about cougar encounters?  Think again.



Bones of the Dead

No-knead bread (Sullivan Street)

Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at 06:45AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment