Witing for Government

Writing for Government and the Public Sector
Course Description

Course Details

Instructor: Susan Doyle (sdoyle@uvic.ca)

Office: CLE C352 (250 721-7240)

Office Hours: Monday and Thursday 11:30–12:30, or by appointment

Classroom: CLE A103 (Clearihue computer lab)

Class Meeting Times: M, Th 1:00–2:20


We acknowledge and respect the Lkwungen-speaking peoples on whose traditional territory the university stands, and the Songhees, Esquimalt, and WSA?NEC? peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

Who Can Register

Although this course is part of the English Department's Professional Communication Program, we welcome students from all faculties and all programs.

The skills and practice highlighted in this course will be of value to you if you are studying in any program that leads to government or public sector work—from nursing, education, health information sciences, and social work to business, political science, history, and many othe programs in the social sciences and humanities. They will also help prepare you to work as a writer in any workplace setting, public or private. For details about the English department's Professional Communication Minor, send me an email.

Course Objectives

Welcome to English 302, Writing for Government and the Public Sector.

The goal of this course is to give you practice in the writing tasks commonly done by those who work for government or in the public sector, either as communications professionals or content specialists.

After completing the course, you should understand and be able to practise the skills required to write effectively for government, which include being able to:

  • analyze a communication task, identifying the message, purpose, and audience, and develop a production plan
  • write and edit at a proficient level
  • apply the principles of plain language and readability
  • gather and, as required, paraphrase, summarize, analyze, synthesize, or interpret information from sources
  • explain complex policies and procedures in a style and form appropriate to the audience
  • apply the principles of document structure and design, using headings effectively, organizinginformation, adding visuals, and choosing a form and design appropriate to the purpose and audience
  • plan and develop the types of documents commonly required in government, including briefings, policy descriptions, correspondence, and media releases

The Skills Required for This Course

The English Department expects that students enrolled in professional communication courses already have university-level grammar and composition skills.

To do well in this course, you must be able to:

  • write clear, concise, and correct formal prose
  • define topics, plan your work, and generate early drafts
  • revise and edit subsequent drafts
  • argue coherently, using logic and evidence
  • thoughtfully read and critique the writing of others
  • use the methods and conventions of research

We don't expect mastery of these skills (which takes many years to achieve), but we do expect competency. Work that does not demonstrate a basic command of these skills will not receive a passing grade.

Ground Rules

As a professional writing course, ENGL 302 is meant to give you practice as a writer and as a professional — that is, someone who can meet the expectations typically held of professionals in the work place. The following are academic equivalents of those expectations.

  • You are expected to attend all classes and workshops, to come prepared, and to participate actively.
  • If you miss or have not prepared for workshops that are part of an assignment, you will lose marks from your grade for that assignment. Unless you have a legitimate excuse for missing a class, please do not ask to be filled in on what you missed.
  • If you are going to miss a deadline, make sure to let me know beforehand. You can send me an e-mail, leave a phone message on my office phone, put a note under my office door, or come to see me before class. If I do not hear from you before the deadline, I will consider your work late and will deduct marks or not accept your work, depending on the circumstances.
  • Please try to be on time. Late students are disruptive to the whole class. If another instructor is not giving you enough time to get to class, let me know and I will talk to the instructor.
  • The work you submit in this course must be entirely your own. If you are uncertain about the university’s policy on plagiarism, make sure to read the section on academic integrity in the university calendar.
  • You must submit every assignment in this course in order to receive a passing grade. If you fail to submit every assignment, you will receive a grade of N (a failing grade) even if you have achieved a final grade of 50% or higher based on the assignments you have submitted.

Required Text & Software

Text: The Canadian Style(be sure to bookmark this link). You can also purchase a print copy from amazon.ca.

Assignments & Grading System

The course uses the standard UVic grading system, which is shown below.

Letter Grades
Grade Point Value
90–100 Grades of A+, A, or A- are earned for work that is technically superior, shows mastery of the subject matter, and in the case of an A+, offers original insight or goes beyond course expectations. These grades are normally achieved by a minority of students.
77–79 Grades of B+, B, or B- are earned for work that indicates a good comprehension of the course material, a good command of the skills needed to work with the course material, and the studentís full engagement with the course requirements and activities. A grade of B+ represents a more complex understanding or application of the course material. These grades are normally achieved by the largest number of students.
65–69 Grades of C+ or C are earned for work that shows an adequate comprehension of the course material and the skills needed to work with the course material and that shows the student has met the basic requirements for completing assigned work and/or participating in class activities.
50–59 A grade of D is earned for work that indicates minimal command of the course materials and/or minimal participation in class activities.

Be sure to check the evaluation criteria for course-specific descriptions of the expectations for each letter grade.

If You Encounter Difficulties

I want you to enjoy this course and, through it, to strengthen your skills as writers and editors. I recognize that the demands of other courses, as well as personal, social, and financial pressures, can cause students stress and time management problems. Regardless of the cause, if you find yourself struggling to manage the course requirements, please let me know so that we can try to work out a solution. UVic has many student resources, and I can help connect you with those that may be helpful.

Send questions or comments to sdoyle@uvic.ca. © Susan Doyle, 2017