Analyzing Example Memos

This is the post for the September 23, 2014 class meeting.

Today, we’ll look at examples that are similar to the memo you can write if you are aiming for an A on Project 2.

Class Work for September 23

These are the tasks to complete for today’s work:

  • Discuss your focus for Project 2.
  • Read and discuss some example memos analyzing tech writing documents.
  • (Optional) Analyze the Microsoft layoff email.
  • Be sure you are comfortable with Google Drive’s spreadsheet tool.

Important Dates

  • Thursday, Sept 25 by noon: Project 2 Rough Drafts Due for Peer Feedback
  • Tuesday, Sept 30 by 11:55 PM: Project 2: Writing in Your Field Due
  • Tuesday, Oct 7 by 11:55 PM: Project 2: Writing in Your Field Deadline (end of grace period)

Focus for Project 2

Thank you for your posts about your careers and fields of study. You all have a great start on the second project.

As you work on your spreadsheets, don’t panic if you find that you have an empty slot on your spreadsheet. If one of the columns is irrelevant for one of the documents you have listed that is okay. Likewise, if you cannot find an example of the document online to link to, that’s okay too. Remember, however, that you need to account for those empty spaces in your reflection memo when you turn in your work next week.

If you have any questions about Project 2, post them in the Questions about Project 2 topic in the forum or email me.

Discussing Example Memos

The example memos included on the Project 2 assignment page were written by students who were analyzing a piece of technical writing in their field using the six characteristics of technical writing that are explained in Markel, Chapter 1. If you are aiming for an A, these memos are similar to what you need to write. Note that I have updated the list with new examples, as some of the examples disappeared from the Internet.

Today, I want you to review them and think about what makes some better than others. It’s useful to understand what makes a good memo even if you aren’t aiming for an A. You will probably write more memos (in the form of email messages) than anything else during the arc of your career.

Here’s what you should do for today:

  1. Read through the Example Analysis Memos. You don’t have to read every word, but look at them well enough to get a sense of how they work, what they do well, and what they could improve on.

  2. Go to the Discussion of Example Memos topic in the forums and weigh in on which of the examples seemed more effective. You can quote someone else’s post or just start in on your own ideas. You will find some guiding questions in the forum post.

Optional Post: Looking at the Microsoft Memo

Back in July, Microsoft Executive Vice President Stephen Elop released an email that was sent to all employees, announcing layoffs and the reasons for the job cuts. At the time, many people criticized the email (for instance, Microsoft Just Laid Off Thousands of Employees With a Hilariously Bad Memo).

Read the original email and visit the optional forum topic to say what you think of the Microsoft email announcement. Having just read about writing memos and email messages, do you think it’s as bad as the story says? How would you feel if you got this message? What could you do to improve it?

Setting Up Your Spreadsheet

Just to repeat the note from last week:
If you have never worked with the spreadsheet tool in Google Drive before, please explore it a little bit so that you can ask any questions you need to. Your spreadsheet needs to be a native Google Drive document, not an uploaded PDF, Word doc or Excel spreadsheet.

You can set up your spreadsheet similar to the example, but feel free to add or change the column headings to fit the writing in your field.

If you need a tutorial, go to the Virginia Tech login for, and then watch the section on Working with spreadsheets. You are only entering text in your spreadsheets, so you don’t need to worry about making calculations or using functions and formulas.