ENGL 420

Business Writing ENGL 420

This overview of English 420 (Business Writing) provides core information about the course used by instructors to design individual sections. It is primarily a resource for Purdue students, faculty, and academic advisors who have general questions about the course. Questions about a specific section of the course should be directed to the individual instructor. English 420 is also offered as an online course (ENGL 420Y). Visitors and prospective students can read our Guide to Online Courses in Professional Writing to learn about how this online version of the course is structured.

Course Background

English 420, Business Writing, is a course offered by the Department of English every Fall, Spring, Maymester, and Summer semester. Professional Writing serves about 1800 Purdue students per year in 420 general education classes (in about 90 sections), students chiefly majoring in the areas of technology, management, consumer and family sciences, liberal arts, and agriculture. The course is taught by faculty and graduate teaching assistants, most of whom are PhD students in the Department of English. All new teachers of business writing complete a graduate practicum in the teaching of professional writing and attend regular professional development workshops. A small number of sections are designated as 420E every spring and fall, Business Writing for Entrepreneurs.

Official Course Description

English 420 teaches students rhetorical principles and writing practices necessary for producing effective business letters, memos, reports, and collaborative projects in professional contexts. The curriculum is informed by current research in rhetoric and professional writing and is guided by the needs and practices of business, industry, and society at large, as well as by the expectations of Purdue students and programs. All sections of English 420 are offered in networked computer classrooms or exclusively online to ensure that students taking the course are prepared for the writing environment of the high-technology workplace. The course teaches the rhetorical principles that help students shape their business writing ethically, for multiple audiences, in a variety of professional situations.

Course Goals

These are general course goals outlined by the Professional Writing Program. Instructors will articulate how each specific project incorporates the course goals.

Writing in Context

Analyze professional cultures, social contexts, and audiences to determine how they shape the various purposes and forms of workplace writing, such as persuasion, organizational communication, and public discourse, with an emphasis on
• writing for a range of defined audiences and stakeholders
• negotiating the ethical dimensions of workplace communication

Project Management

• understand, develop and deploy various strategies for planning, researching, drafting, revising, and editing documents both individually and collaboratively
• select and use appropriate technologies that effectively and ethically address professional situations and audiences
• build professional ethos through documentation and accountability

Document Design

Make rhetorical design decisions about workplace documents, including
• understanding and adapting to genre conventions and audience expectations
• understanding and implementing design principles of format and layout
• interpreting and arguing with design
• drafting, researching, testing, and revising visual designs and information architecture


Learn and apply strategies for successful teamwork and collaboration, such as
• working online with colleagues
• determining roles and responsibilities
• managing team conflicts constructively
• responding constructively to peers’ work
• soliciting and using peer feedback effectively
• achieving team goals


Understand and use various research methods to produce professional documents, including
• analyzing professional contexts
• locating, evaluating, and using print and online information selectively for particular audiences and purposes
• triangulating sources of evidence
• selecting appropriate primary research methods, such as interviews, observations, focus groups, and surveys to collect data
• working ethically with research participants


Use and evaluate the writing technologies frequently used in the workplace, such as emailing, instant messaging, image editing, video editing, presentation design and delivery, HTML editing, Web browsing, content management, and desktop publishing technologies.