Introduction to the Text

Brian Dunphy and Andrew Stracuzzi

Professional Communications: A Common Approach to Work-place Writing

Textbook Cover

Welcome to your new communications textbook! Now, you may be feeling like English classes should be behind you since you graduated from high school, but don’t worry. This is different. At Fanshawe College, if you have taken the Reason and Writing curriculum  (or “WRIT”), then you’ll already be familiar with the importance we place on making sure students are equipped with the essential principles of reading, writing, and reasoning at the post secondary level.  Just as WRIT is designed to help students succeed in becoming functional, competent communicators in college, Communications (or “COMM”) courses  are designed to prepare you for the real, everyday tasks of writing and speaking in your chosen profession. Ask any professional in your field, and they’ll set you straight on the enormous importance of practical communication in the work they do.

So How Does College Writing Differ from Workplace Writing?

The kind of writing you do and the communication skills you use in college are designed to help you achieve a specific purpose: to earn your academic credentials. Workplace writing, however, is specific to the needs of your job. One of the major differences between workplace writing and college writing is reflected in the expectations of those who assign the writing. In the workplace, the emphasis is on producing a written product. In college writing, the emphasis is on writing to think, writing to learn, and writing to demonstrate learning. For example, at work, you may be expected to write an email to employees to explain a procedural change. In a college assignment, you may be expected to understand the process of creating an email, to clearly explain a new policy, and to demonstrate reader-centered writing techniques in writing the email (Guffey, 2010).

At other times, the content, form, and style of your writing will follow company expectations and/or industry-standard conventions, and the process of writing may already be established for you. Using existing document templates and formats, as well as specific work-related language and tone may also be required. In short, work-place writing requires you to be adaptable and apply the skills you’ve acquired in college and tailor your writing for a number of situations and audiences. As a writer, you may be expected to occupy multiples roles, such as information gatherer, researcher, presenter and, in some instances, you may need to write a document as part of a team.

Another way academic writing can differ from workplace writing is in the level of original ideas that are explored as well as the way personal opinion, individual preference, and unique expression of thought takes shape. Academic writing shows knowledge and understanding of both content and process.  On the other hand, workplace writing often aims to convey information clearly and concisely about a specific issue at hand. The channel of communication is often already determined in its purpose and form, whether it be internally via an email to colleagues or externally in a press release for business clientele. Workplace writing tends to be practical—geared toward completing a work-related task—whereas college writing enables you to explore new avenues of thought.

Keep in mind that writing is also only one form of communication;  it’s one of the primary ways we communicate in school, but it’s also important  to think about the value of communication, in general, and specifically how your ability to communicate will differ in personal and professional settings.

As we continue to evolve in an ever changing digital landscape, communication technology within the workplace (and in school), is changing, so it is also important for you to understand how communication must be altered in these new media settings.  Social media, web-based writing, teleconferencing, cloud-based collaboration, and visual and graphic-based communication are common place today and will impact the way you write and communicate in a globally-connected always-on  world.

This should be something you think about as you go through your Communications course. You may not fully appreciate it yet, but this open text is compiled to help develop those vital communication skills now and in the years ahead as you grow professionally.

Common Communications Course Learning Outcomes

This open textbook is designed to support the learning outcomes of  Fanshawe College’s first-year Common Communications curriculum.  If you are taking this course, it means that your program requires an advanced professional communication credit as part of your diploma.  In fact, because almost all diploma programs at Fanshawe have a communications component, you can be sure that your class will be similar in content, structure, and approach; in short, all students will have a common or shared experience regardless of their program.

Although each school offer a variation of COMM and assigns a different course code, they’re all consistent in their approach to professional communication studies. At Fanshawe, the following schools are part of the common communications curriculum:

  • School of Community Studies (COMM 3082)
  • School of Contemporary Media (COMM 3075)
  • School of Design (COMM 3074)
  • School of Digital and Performing Arts (COMM 3075)
  • School of Information Technology (COMM 3077)
  • School of Language and Liberal Studies (COMM 3073)
  • School of Public Safety (COMM 3048)
  • School of Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts (COMM 3080)

Because all common COMM courses are equivalent credits, the courses listed above also share similar course learning outcomes, which are sometimes referred to as CLOs and appear on your course outline. CLOs provide you with a set of measurable goals to achieve success in your COMM course.   As such, this textbook refers to the following common learning outcomes, and they appear at the beginning of each chapter and section:

  1. Compose workplace documents including emails, letters, and a research report;
  2. Analyze an audience and tailor a message to that audience (objective/subjective writing, persuasive writing, internal/external audience);
  3. Apply principles of grammar, punctuation, and editing appropriate to professional writing;
  4. Prepare documents according to basic principles of formatting and visual communication in various written documents;
  5. Demonstrate critical thinking skills in reading, writing, and discussion;
  6. Perform an effective presentation; and
  7. Employ research skills including locating, selecting, evaluating, and documenting source materials.

In addition, the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business’s COMM 3020, which is a part of our common curriculum, contains the following learning outcomes:

  1. Communicate clearly, concisely and correctly in the written, spoken and visual form that fulfills the purpose and meets the needs of the audience;
  2. Respond to written, spoken or visual messages in a manner that ensures effective communication;
  3. Create well-organized business documents (including emails, letters and reports);
  4. Compose stylistically appropriate business documents;
  5. Evaluate business case studies;
  6. Deliver a persuasive presentation on a business-related topic;
  7. Synthesize research sources in an APA-style, analytic report;
  8. Create a resume and cover letter for use in employment searches;
  9. Explain cultural differences and the impact these differences have on effective business communication, and
  10. Implement principles of properly documenting the use of research sources and others’ ideas.

The above outcomes may not represent every aspect you’ll learn in your course or they may be expressed using slightly different wording on some course outlines (depending on the school and program you’re in), but they nonetheless represent a common set of shared skills and tasks.

What You Need to Succeed

This resource is suited best to students who use:

  • Microsoft Word (MS Word) as their word processor program, which is available to most Fanshawe College students via the Fanshawe Connected website or contact IT Services for additional assistance.
  • The Google Chrome browser for internet activity
  • A laptop or desktop computer with the Windows operating system, though some considerations are made for Mac users.

A Note on Style

Whereas most commercial textbooks on communications maintain a high level of formality, this open textbook relaxes that a little to include contractions, colourful expressions, liberal use of “they” (rather than “he or she”) as a singular pronoun, and other characteristics of semi-formal or casual business writing. The idea is to model the style of a common email between work colleagues, which imitates a conversational style of writing while still being grammatically correct. Notice in the previous sentence and section, for instance, that “email” and “internet” appear instead of the more formal, old-fashioned “e-mail” and “Internet” often used in other textbooks. For this we take our cue from style guides in leading tech publications and international news organizations that trend towards lowercasing and de-branding the terms (Martin, 2016). See § on the formality spectrum in professional writing for more on the editorial decision to model a casual style for accessibility reasons.


This textbook is divided into five major units designed to guide first-year college students who have a high school education and perhaps some employment experience through the steps towards proficiency in English communication for college and professional success.

Unit 1: Communication Foundations
Unit 2: The Writing Process
Unit 3: Workplace Communication
Unit 4: Employment and Interpersonal Communication
Unit 5: Presentations and Group Communication

From the above units, you can further explore the full range of topics in the textbook’s chapters, sections, and subsections.


Guffey, M.E., and Lowery, D. (2010). Communication Process: Essential of Business Communication

Martin, K. C. (2016, April 5). Should you capitalize the word Internet? Retrieved from

Online Guide to Writing and Research (2011). University of Maryland University College (UMUC).

Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J., Courduff, J., Carter, K., & Bennett, D. (2013). Electronic versus traditional print textbooks: A comparison study on the influence of university students’ learning. Computers & Education. Retrieved from



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Introduction to the Text Copyright © 2019 by Brian Dunphy and Andrew Stracuzzi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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