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Welcome to Writing Commons, the open-education home for writers. Writing Commons helps students improve their writing, critical thinking, and information literacy. Founded in 2008 by Joseph M. Moxley, Writing Commons is a viable alternative to expensive writing textbooks. Faculty may assign Writing Commons for their compositionbusiness, STEM/Technical Writing, and creative writing courses. 

Writing Commons houses seven main sections: Information Literacy | Research Methods & Methodologies | Writing Processes | Collaboration | Genres | New Media | Style 

The two best ways to navigate through Writing Commons are using the top menu navigation, called Open Text, or the left-hand navigation menu system.  


Top Trending Webtexts

Writing a Cover Letter

By: Megan McIntyre, University of South Florida & Cassandra Branham, University of Central Florida 

When applying for jobs, a well-written cover letter is just as important as a well-written resume. While the resume is designed to provide an overview of your relevant skills and qualifications, the cover letter is your opportunity to discuss relevant experiences, connect those experience to qualities and qualifications from the job ad, and to display your personality to your reader. In other words, the cover letter is your chance to humanize yourself to your reader and to give the reader a sense of who you are and why you’re uniquely qualified for a particular position.



Tailor your letter to the job and company by making explicit connections between the language and values articulated in the job ad and/or on the company’s website and your experience and qualifications.

Send a generic letter that includes no specific information about the company or position.

Begin with an introductory paragraph that contextualizes your letter by describing the job you are applying for, indicating where you saw the ad, indicating your interest in being considered for the position, and previewing the credentials you will discuss.

Begin with your qualifications. It’s important to establish what you job you’re applying for and that you know something about the company before describing yourself.

Include one or two body paragraphs that highlight your most relevant skills and experiences. One paragraph may be enough, but use more if necessary, particularly if you want to highlight various skills and experiences. Discuss one topic per paragraph.

Create a narrative resume. Your attached resume will tell them what you’ve done. The cover letter is an opportunity to make connections between your experiences and qualifications for the position.

Show, don’t tell. Use both qualitative and quantitative examples of your experiences and qualifications. Provide concrete examples by referring to specific courses, research projects, internships, or prior work experience.

Just tell. Anyone can write, “I am an excellent leader.” However, describing an experience that allows you to show the reader that you are an excellent leader is much more effective.

Conclude by expressing interest in being contacted for an interview. Be sure to also include your contact information in your conclusion, and remember to thank the employer for his or her time and consideration.

Forget to show appreciation to the reader for his or her time and effort in considering your application materials.

Establish ethos through a professional tone. Although you are writing in first-person, avoid being too informal. Avoid contractions and jargon, and strive to create a mature, self-aware, and confident tone.

Adopt either an arrogant or self-deprecating tone. When presenting your qualifications, it is important to show confidence. However, it is also important not to sound cocky or aggressive. On the other hand, it is also important not to sound insecure.

Follow conventions of the formal business letter. Use a standard font and font-size, keep the letter to one page, and use appropriate formatting conventions for business letters.

Format your cover letter like an email or a personal letter. Don’t use a unique font or include color in your cover letter. Don’t write a cover letter that is longer than one page.

Proofread your letter so that it is grammatically perfect. Hiring managers receive many resumes. Often, regardless of the content of your resume, a typo or grammatical error can quickly eliminate you from the pool of applicants.

Think that a cover letter is not necessary. Even if a job ad does not specifically request a cover letter, most professional positions expect them.

Preparing Job Materials: Reading Job Ads

By: Megan McIntyre, University of South Florida and Cassandra Branham, University of Central Florida 

Getting a job is hard work. Higher than normal unemployment and significant increases in the number of college graduates mean that even well-qualified applicants may find it challenging to land the position they want. This chapter endeavors to help you set yourself apart – in a positive way – by improving the one part of the job search you can control: your application materials.

The sections that follow will help you create and improve your job materials by connecting information gleaned from job ads and corporate websites to experience you already have so that you can position yourself as uniquely qualified for the position you want.


Rhetorically Reading a Job Ad

The first step in getting a job is finding the one you want. This section will provide strategies for scanning job ads for key words and using these keywords and phrases to tailor descriptions of relevant experiences for your resume and cover letter.

Where to Find a Job Ad

When looking for a job ad, it is important to consider reputable job searching sites, as well as the websites for particular companies that you might like to work for. Here are some links for reputable job searching sites:

  • Employ-A-Bull
  • Is there an application deadline?
  • What is the title of the position?
  • Who should the application materials be addressed to?
  • Is this position specific to a particular department within the company?
  • What are the requirements necessary to fill this position? (educational requirements, years of experience, particular knowledge, etc.)
  • What are the responsibilities for this position? In other words, what will you, as an employee, do on a daily basis?
  • Does the position require teamwork?
  • Is this a management position?
  • Does the job ad mention writing or communication skills as a part of the position?
  • Are there any technical proficiencies required for this position?
  • What adjectives does the job ad use to describe the ideal employee?
  • How long has the company been operating?
  • What is the company’s mission statement?
  • What kinds of products or services do they provide?
  • What types of clients does the company serve?

For information about these and other, industry specific job search sites, please visit this gallery of job search websites (

What to Look for in a Job Ad

A job ad is the way companies let potential employees know what they need and what they want in an applicant. The job ad also provides important clues regarding how to talk about your experiences in a way that make them attractive to the employer. Your job as an applicant is to read the job ad critically and to develop a list of key words, phrases, and information related to the position.

Questions to Ask Yourself about Key Information

To answer the remaining questions, you will need to do some external research, such as visiting the company’s website.

Matching Qualifications to Job Ads

After analyzing your ad for key words, use this grid (created by Meredith Johnson) to organize these key words in the “What they want” column according to categories--skills, experiences, education, qualities & values. Then reflect on your own skills, experiences, education, and qualities & values. How do they match up with the keywords you’ve identified? You probably won’t be able to fill in all the blanks in the “What I’ve got” column, but that’s okay.


What they want as outlined in the job ad. List from most important to least important

What I’ve got

Skills (i.e. hardware/software skills, writing skills, building skills, etc.)



Java and database administration

X class at USF that covered Java and X class at USF that covered database administration


Experiences (i.e. jobs, internships, volunteering, co-ops, etc.)



0-2 years experience in  Civil Engineering

A co-op at Nederveld Associates, Inc.


Education (i.e. college, high school, seminars, workshops, etc.)



College education

B.S. from USF


Qualities and values (i.e. hard working, good communicator, etc.)



Someone who is responsible

Worked as a lifeguard


Audience Analysis: Primary, Secondary, and Hidden Audiences

"Audience Analysis: Primary, Secondary, and Hidden Audiences" was written by Deedra Wollert Hickman, University of South Florida

Learning Outcomes

  • Develop professional/technical documents with a clear awareness of ethics.
  • Recognize and discuss important elements of how culture affects communication in collaborative workplaces.
  • Illustrate and analyze audience while creating various professional/technical documents with a sophisticated awareness of audience as a reader and a writer.
  • Demonstrate audience and rhetorical awareness in visual design while creating professional/technical documents to visually appeal to appropriate audiences.

A crucial part of achieving a purpose when writing technical documents is to consider the needs and level of knowledge or expertise of your audience. Inaccurately making assumptions regarding audience creates failure in Technical Writing, not only in design, but for ethically and culturally aware content. For simple, routine messages, it is not necessary to analyze your audience in depth. However, for complex or highly technical messages, taking the time to analyze the needs and knowledge base of your audience will increase the likelihood of a successful transmission. 


How Are Your Sources Using Sources?

"How are Your Sources Using Sources" was written by Ryan Dippre, University of California, Santa Barbara


A particular difficulty that novice writers have is sticking their noses into the seemingly eternal conversation of their fields.  Ideas in a field seem to always be running beyond our grasp, expanding, twisting, and moving with the words of many faceless authors.  Even worse, these faceless authors seem to be in cahoots with one another: they reference, in passing, extremely complex ideas in what are sometimes very subtle ways, and understanding such writing—let alone writing a response to it—is very difficult. 


The Aaron Swartz Best Webtext Award 2014

The Aaron Swartz Best Webtext Award 2014

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Please try again. Thank you for your vote. Answers Votes ...

The Aaron Swartz Story

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Plugs Play Pedagogy Blog


Kyle Stedman is assistant professor of English at Rockford University, where he teaches first-year composition, digital rhetoric, and creative writing. He studies rhetorics of sound, intellectual property, and fan studies. On QuizUp, his highest scores are in Lost (the TV show)..."

Using Creative Commons to Make Stuff
Plugs, Play, Pedagogy Podcast
  Produced and recorded by Kyle Stedman (; @kstedman), assistant professor of English at Rockford University, in cooperation with KairosCast and Writing Commons. Transcript will soon be available here. My original plan was to find cool stuff for you to listen to that other people had posted--a curated collection of content from all my favorite sites. But as I dug into the advance searches of these sites and explored the various flavors of Creative Commons licenses, I knew that&n...
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