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Using Your Voice and Organizing Your Ideas

Using Your Voice and Organizing Your Ideas

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Using Your Voice and Organizing Your Ideas

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Developing Effective Teams

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what's covered
In this lesson, you will be introduced to the 10 essential employability skills and explore the specific skills you will be learning more about in this course. Specifically, this lesson will cover:
  1. An overview of the 10 skills
  2. The skills that are part of this course
  3. The skills you will focus on in the first unit

  1. Introduction to the 10 Skills

The jobs of today look very different from the jobs our parents had. Whether you work in a cubicle or on a construction site, technology has changed — and is continuing to change — the ways we connect, communicate, and create in our careers. In the past, a college degree was enough to set you up for professional success. Today, employers want job candidates who also have the right skills to succeed.

That‘s why we’ve partnered with top employers, business leaders, and recruiters to identify 10 SKILLS that are critical to performing your best — not just in one field, but across all industries. These are skills that will prepare you for the needs of any future employer and set you up for success in a world that is constantly evolving.

As you work through this and other courses, consider how you can use these 10 Skills to achieve your personal, academic, and professional goals.

2. Skills in This Course We write in English nearly every day of our lives, but are we communicating in writing as effectively as we possibly can? Your voice, the way that you communicate, is one of the most powerful tools for your success in school, on the job, and in your personal life. This course specifically focuses upon expressing your personal voice through writing.

Deciding how to use your voice and writing skills effectively are the major focus of this course. You’ll also practice four of the essential employability skills that will help you invest in yourself and your future. They are:

● Communication to effectively write about information, your ideas, and your perspective.

● Productivity to plan and organize your ideas as changing conditions and needs emerge.

● Technology to use digital tools and devices to document your writing efficiently and effectively.

● Innovation to use strategies to develop your ideas and create change.

As you practice these skills, you will begin to learn the tools a good writer uses to both inform, engage and persuade. You’ll also learn how to integrate what you’ve learned into effective communication for the workplace and present your ideas with the impact and confidence to ensure that your voice is heard

3. Skills in Unit 1 As you begin with this first unit, you will explore these skills in relation to written communication, the foundations of English Composition and methods of informative and persuasive writing. You will begin to understand how you can use these skills to better express your ideas and persuade others of the value of those ideas. You will look deeper at how improving your skills can help you understand how you currently communicate and the steps you need to take to become an effective writer and presenter

In particular, we will focus on the following:


● Understanding audience, purpose and tone to communicate your ideas effectively in writing ● Distinguish the different types of writing and composition to communicate in the most appropriate manner for the appropriate situation.

Innovation ● Using strategies to develop your ideas and create change. ● Being able to recognize various categories of organizational innovation ● Having the skills to discuss (in writing) the effects and consequences of a particular workplace innovation you have researched.


● Organizing ideas and key points to logically and cogently sway an audience ● Using technology tools to create a plan and to set writing goals 4. Media As you begin to look at the power of your voice in ENG 1010, consider the importance of writing well, not just for your education, but in your personal and professional life as well. It’s a skill that matters well beyond school and can make a huge difference in the workplace.

● Video – Your Words, Your Power (Strayer ENG 115 Week 1) Summary of media: This video introduces using the written word through the stories of prominent individuals.

In this lesson, you received an introduction to the 10 skills. Employers seek individuals who possess these skills and continue to work to strengthen them. These skills cut across all professions and career paths. You learned how communication, technology, productivity, and innovation will be the skills incorporated into this course and why they are valuable. The skills in Unit 1 will include communication, innovation and productivity. Best of luck in your learning!

  1.1.2 Explain the Purpose of Your Writing

what's covered
This lesson covers tone in writing—how a text’s purpose and audience influence its tone and how to assess tone in paragraphs. The specific areas of focus include: 1. Getting Started with Your Writing 2. Establishing Tone a. Word Choice b. Level of Formality c. Sentence Structure 3. Identifying Tone in a Piece of Writing

1. Getting Started with Your Writing Many students think that writing is something that "just happens." If you're "good at writing," you do it well; if you're not, you don't. This couldn't be further from the truth. Any experienced writer will tell you that writing is a process, one in which you'll often have to repeat and restart many times as you work on a project.

Although some experienced writers have internalized the writing process to the extent that they seem to work "by instinct" rather than as a result of conscious thought, it's important for novice writers to learn how the process works.

Why Employer’s Care - Communication In the modern workplace, having a command of the English language and being able to convey your thoughts appropriately—through emails, memos, reports, and more—can mean the difference between reaching your goals and falling behind. In fact, according to the National Writing Project, writing “is the currency of the new workplace and the global economy. It is essential to communication, learning and citizenship in the digital age.”

There are three basic steps in the writing process- prewriting, drafting, and revising. You’ll cover drafting and revising in upcoming units of this course, but let’s take a look at the prewriting step for now. Prewriting consists of: ● Determining your goals in writing, as well as the audience and form your writing will take ● Brainstorming for ideas and resources to use in your writing ● Creating a writing plan and outline before starting your initial draft

For more information on the writing process, and for your reference, take a look at this infographic.

It’s important to start the writing process by thinking about the purpose and audience of a text, which are two factors that have huge effects on the way you write. The purpose of a text is what it’s meant to do, such as convince your readers to take your side in a debate or inform them about something interesting. And of course, those readers are your audience.

Together, the purpose and audience influence everything about your text, particularly: ● Word choice ● Level of formality ● Sentence structure

It’s these factors that in turn determine what your tone is.

2. Establishing Tone Tone is a writer’s attitude toward the subject, as conveyed through a piece of writing. In other words, the tone of a text is how authors express their opinion toward and attitude about the topic. Tone helps create the feel of the text—everything working together to speak in the author’s voice.

Maybe the author’s voice is negative, positive, or neutral. It could be sarcastic or angry, melancholy or exuberant, nostalgic or hopeful. Just as the inflection in the tone of a person’s voice can move from naive to jaded to sad, so too can the tone of a piece of writing.

You can describe the tone of writing in the same way that you describe the tone of voice. In this way, you can even try to hear writing as if it were being read aloud, if you want to assess its tone.

Thus, listening to the author’s voice is one great way to assess and identify the tone of a piece. You might read a text aloud to really hear how it sounds and what those sounds make you feel. But what is doing the work to make you feel? There are a few ways in which tone can be established: ● Word choice ● Level of formality ● Sentence structure These three factors work in concert with one another, like an orchestra turning out a complex melody.

term to know
Tone A writer's attitude toward the subject, as conveyed through a piece of writing.

2a. Word Choice First, tone is determined by the words the author chooses. Does the author use formal or informal language?

What level is the vocabulary—highly technical and precise or more general and casual? Think also about the connotations and denotations of these words. Has this author chosen words with heightened emotional connotations? Or has the author tried to maintain a drier tone, and use words strictly in their denotative sense?

2b. Level of Formality Look also to the level of formality the author uses. Does the text affect a formal tone or a casual one? If a piece of writing relies on the personal, uses slang, and takes a relaxed approach to grammar, then that piece is casual. Conversely, if a text remains neutral in tone, uses more complex vocabulary, and eschews the personal entirely, then it’s formal.

2c. Sentence Structure Finally, tone is determined by the complexity of the sentence structure in a text. Are the sentences short and choppy, long and complex, or a mixture? All of these factors work together to create an overall tone. Writing dominated by short sentences and highly emotional words is more casual. Formal writing, on the other hand, tends to feature longer and more complex sentences, as well as vocabulary that includes technical words.

3. Identifying Tone in a Piece of Writing How do you figure out what tone a piece is affecting? You might start by reading it aloud to yourself, but then you can also ask if what you hear is positive, negative, or neutral. Once you’ve established the text’s emotional category, you can start narrowing down to what kind of positive, negative, or neutral emotional tone it has created. Read the following text aloud to yourself and see if you can identify its tone.

The utter lack of responsibility to keep our office environmentally friendly has reached a distressing high, or, we might say, plummeted to its utter nadir. Previously, paper, aluminum cans and plastic bottles were disposed of in the proper recycling bins, but lately more and more of our office staff has been simply tossing their recyclables straight into the trash can. What will it take to get everyone recycling? Our office needs to make a sincere commitment to promoting sustainability in the workplace, and become part of the solution to global environmental problems, rather than part of the problem.

The author sounds angry and disgusted. How do you know where the tone comes from in the language? Look at the first sentence:

The utter lack of responsibility to keep our office environmentally friendly has reached a distressing high, or, we might say, plummeted to its utter nadir.

The phase “utter lack of responsibility” is saying that office workers are not being held accountable for their behavior. That’s a pretty divisive argument, but the tone of the phrase itself indicates the author’s feelings. This author could have said something more neutral, and the meaning would’ve been the same. But with intense words, you can tell that this is angrier. Here are some other words and phrases that seem charged with intensity, anger, or even disgust:

● distressing ● plummeted ● utter nadir ● simply tossing their recyclables straight into the trash can ● what will it take ● become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem

In this context, it’s hard to say any of these words in a happy tone. Thus, the author’s reason for using this tone is to make the readers get angry and be spurred to action. All of that language and tone is meant to drive readers to action by making them want to change the situation. The following piece of writing has a very different tone:

I saw the craziest scene at work the other day! I came into the office earlier than usual to make some copies for an important meeting. Most people had not come in yet, but I noticed that Walter, my supervisor, had parked in the parking lot and was no doubt in his office even at this hour. I went to his door, and as I opened it to give a quick greeting, I was shocked- and amused by what I saw! Walter had the window to his office wide open, and a small flock of pigeons had gathered on his windowsill. Walter had a bag of peanuts he was feeding them, and they flocked around him as if he was their leader. Walter was making friends with the pigeons!

This is lighthearted, and even funny in places. It’s also written in an entirely narrative manner. Given the style, the author’s purpose is to tell an entertaining story. Do you see the ways that the tone reflects this? Look at how the story is framed:

I saw the craziest scene at work the other day!

That first sentence tells you that the purpose is hilarity. You can also notice spots like these that indicate a more casual, lighthearted tone:

● I was shocked- and amused by what I saw! ● Walter was making friends with the pigeons!

See the exclamation point and the dash that indicates a kind of interruption or realization? All that makes this sound more conversational.

Finally, this text has another tone entirely:

A recent study shows that the office building itself has a clear impact on the comfort level of the building user. Also, the positive impact of certain features, such as operable windows and the absence of air conditioning, can be clearly identified. While productivity is not directly correlated to comfort levels, work engagement is. Generally, the analysis shows that specific building aspects seem to have an influence on user comfort and with that, also an impact on productivity; however, this impact appears to be limited.

This is a fairly academic piece. You see an argument about creating comfort and sustainability in office buildings, so you know that this is meant to convince the reader of something. But how does it differ from the first example, which was also trying to persuade the reader of something?

Unlike the first example, this piece isn’t appealing to your emotions by using inflammatory words and intensely evocative description. Instead, this uses a more neutral tone and walks through the implications of its claims with a gentler, unemotional affect:

Generally, the analysis shows that specific building aspects seem to have an influence on user comfort and with that, also an impact on productivity.

Think about how different this would be if the text instead made the same point this way:

Office workers need comfort to function productively in the modern workplace; denying them this essential right to a work environment that does not stress them out will only drive productivity further down in this kind of toxic work environment.

That latter sentence is intense and emotional again. That kind of argumentation would work well on a debate stage or maybe on a talk radio show. But the original tone would work better in an academic setting where you know that the tone is usually meant to eschew bias and be more neutral.

In this lesson, you learned that once you determine the purpose and audience of your text, you can start to think about establishing tone. Tone is the writer’s attitude toward a particular subject, and there are three main factors that should be considered when establishing tone: word choice, level of formality, and sentence structure. Considering all three of these will help you choose the most effective tone for your particular purpose and audience. Finally, you practiced identifying tone in a piece of writing. When trying to determine the tone, it’s often helpful to read the piece aloud and look for tonal clues, such as whether the author uses emotional or unemotional language, and how the argument or main point is framed. Good luck!

1.1.3 Discuss Your Ideas for Innovation

what's covered
In the assignments presented later in the course, you’ll be asked to research and present ways to make your school or workplace more environmentally friendly, writing to both inform (through an informative report) and persuade (through a pitch email), and presenting your findings in a recorded presentation.

Innovation is the ability to envision, ideate around, and generate creative ideas and solutions outside of routine perspectives.

When proposing a change or innovation in the workplace, one usually knows the particular purpose and audience of the innovation, and thus can establish tone when pitching that innovation. It’s also useful to be aware of the kind of innovation you’ll be proposing, to pitch that innovation more effectively. The four types of organizational innovations are:

1. Incremental Innovation 2. Disruptive Innovation 3. Architectural Innovation 4. Radical Innovation

Knowing the type of innovation, you are proposing, and more importantly, what kind of innovation has succeeded the most in your organization, is essential.

1. Incremental Innovation

Incremental Innovation is the most common form of innovation. It utilizes your existing systems and increases value (features, design changes, etc.) within your existing structure. Almost all companies engage in incremental innovation in one form or another.

Nearly all software companies engage in incremental innovation of their products, through software updates and new versions of existing applications.


Adding new features to existing systems or procedures or even removing features (value through simplification). Even small updates to user experience can add value.

2. Disruptive Innovation Disruptive innovation, also known as stealth innovation, refers to a technology whose application significantly affects the way a market or industry functions. An example of modern disruptive innovation is the Internet, which significantly altered the way companies did business and which negatively impacted companies that were unwilling to adapt to it.

One of the most prominent disruptive innovations is Apple’s iPhone disruption of the mobile phone market. Prior to the iPhone, most popular phones relied on buttons, keypads or scroll wheels for user input. In order to disrupt the mobile phone market, Apple had to cobble together an amazing touch screen that had a simple to use interface, and provide users access to a large assortment of built-in and third-party mobile applications.

3. Architectural Innovation Architectural innovation is simply taking the lessons, skills and overall systems and applying them within a different area. Most of the time, the risk involved in architectural innovation is low due to the reliance and reintroduction of proven processes, though most of the time it requires tweaking to match the requirements of the new conditions of innovation.

In 1966, NASA’s Ames Research Center attempted to improve the safety of aircraft cushions. They succeeded by creating a new type of foam, which reacts to the pressure applied to it, yet magically forms back to its original shape. This “memory foam” technology, now commonly used in mattresses, falls under architectural innovation.

4. Radical Innovation Radical innovation is what we think of mostly when considering innovation. It gives birth to new organizations (or swallows existing ones) and involves creating revolutionary processes.

The airplane, for example, was not the first mode of transportation, but it is revolutionary as it allowed commercialized air travel to develop and prosper.

Later in this unit, you will propose your own organizational innovation to help promote an environmentally-sound workplace. One important thing is to think about the type(s) of innovation that suit your company and how to turn those into success.

Skill in Action - Innovation Employees who have strong innovation skills frequently think of new ideas and processes, create different ways of doing work to improve the business, and are open to learn new things and have new experiences. As you think ahead to the Touchstones in this course, use your innovation skill to ask questions and keep an open mind to what’s possible to make a positive change!

In this lesson, you studied four types of innovations, and how they make an impact. This analysis is to help you begin to discuss your own proposed environmentally friendly workplace innovation later in this unit.

1.1.4 Effective and Coherent Composition

what's covered
This lesson examines the goals of English Composition, and the skills and competencies used to achieve them. It addresses the importance of engaged reading, and how it is connected to writing, and describes the three main types of academic writing. The ways in which writing skills can be applied to accomplish goals outside college are also considered.

This tutorial provides an introduction to English Composition in four parts:

1. Goals of English Composition 2. Types of Academic Writing a. Personal Narratives b. Expository Writing c. Persuasive Writing 3. Writing Beyond the Academy

1. Goals of English Composition Four primary goals have been established for students of English Composition: ● Developing writing skills, including the process of creating essays through brainstorming, research, drafting, revision, and proofreading ● Learning to read and write in an academic context ● Becoming an engaged reader ● Thinking critically

In some very important ways, this class prepares you for all of your college coursework. English Composition provides training that will help you to succeed in your other classes.

think about it
All academic fields, and many jobs, require reading and writing ability. Effective business documents (e.g., email messages, project reports, etc.) are produced by those who are competent readers and writers. For example, think about those who work in marketing or human resources. Do they write business memos? Do they read resumes and cover letters? Almost all careers begin with written applications. An employer's first impressions of jobseekers are often the result of their writing ability (or lack of it). Remember, it's important to make a good first impression!

2. Types of Academic Writing What kind of writing must you learn how to do? Academic writing is used to make assertions that are supported by research, and which contribute to the advance of knowledge in a particular area. There are three main types of academic writing: ● Personal narratives ● Informative or expository writing ● Persuasive or argumentative writing

term to know
Academic Writing Writing that makes assertions, supported by research, that contribute to the advance of knowledge in a particular area.

2a. Personal Narratives Personal narratives, which include memoirs, creative nonfiction, and other kinds writing about lives and experiences, convey information in the form of a story.

Narrative Writing Writing that conveys information in the form of a story.

Following are the first paragraphs of an essay about "my experiences while learning to ride a motorcycle." The only source of information for the essay was the narrator, since it is a story about his or her personal experience. This essay demonstrates one way in which personal narrative can be used to establish the background for an argument that will follow.

"Last summer I bought a motorcycle, learned to ride it, and crashed, in that order. During the months of my rehabilitation, I had a lot of time to think. I began to do so during the Vicodin-induced haze in which I spent the first few days after the accident. But mostly, I watched Netflix, attempted to read, and tried to find a comfortable position in which I could both eat ice cream and not bleed on my bed sheets."

Notice that the tone of the writing is personal and casual- the writer is telling a story from his or her personal experience, which is what makes it a narrative.

2b. Expository Writing The second type of academic writing you must learn is expository writing. Expository writing is informative: The writer explains his or her ideas and conveys information. It is used to analyze processes, compare and contrast concepts and ideas, and to define terms.

term to know
Expository Writing Writing that explains, defines, or describes.

Following is an informative section of the essay referenced above. This section cites some of the research that was performed to support the essay. In this section the subject of the essay has expanded beyond narration of the writer's story to a broad consideration of motorcycling. Do you see how the writer develops his or her argument using exposition?

"The type of accident involving cars and motorcycles that occurs most frequently in England is called the SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn't See You). In this type of accident, a car pulls into traffic and collides with a motorcycle because the driver of the car doesn't see the motorcycle approaching, or mistakes it for a car that's further away. In over 70% of accidents involving a car and a motorcycle in the U.S., the driver of the car was found to be at fault."

This particular section gives a definition of “SMIDSY” and provides data that explains accident statistics, making it a clear example of expository writing.

3c. Persuasive Writing The third, and perhaps the most common type of academic writing, is persuasive or argumentative writing. This is writing meant to convince readers of something; to accept a proposal, take specific action, agree with the writer's interpretation of data or research, etc.

term to know
Persuasive Writing Writing designed to convince readers to accept a proposition or take an action. Here is the final paragraph of the motorcycling essay. In it the writer presents his or her conclusion about who was to blame for the accident — and by implication, who is to blame in most motorcycle accidents. Note how the writer uses the personal narrative and exposition provided earlier in the essay to build an argument, and to convince readers to agree with the conclusion.

"Before the accident, I didn't want to admit that I was willfully ignorant of the dangers of motorcycle riding. I still sometimes try to deny it, even now. I didn't think about the dangers, because I didn't want to. This means that I am to blame for everything that happened to me, regardless of the other driver's actions. This applies to all motorcyclists as well: it's their choice to ride and, therefore, their responsibility to accept, and guard against, the dangers of doing so."

This final paragraph builds upon the previous two sections and makes an emotional and logical appeal for motorcyclists to stay aware of the dangers of riding a motorcycle. This is, without a doubt, an attempt to persuade the reader and raise awareness.

4. Writing Beyond the Academy The knowledge and competencies you'll gain while reading and writing these kinds of academic projects will help you in your college career, and outside the classroom. Solid writing and critical-thinking skills will help you to achieve your goals in life beyond school.


Newspapers and online news sources are most useful to those who are literate, and who think critically. Those who lack these skills are less likely to be well-informed (and may be misinformed) about issues and events.

Each field of work or study has its own set of assumptions about what is (and is not) acceptable communication. If, for example, you can't tell the difference between a professional memo and an inappropriate email message, you may not be able to build or maintain professional relationships in a business setting. Maybe you won't even be taken seriously. As you work to achieve academic literacy in this course, don't forget that the skills you'll acquire will continue to serve you outside the academy.

This tutorial identified reasons for studying English Composition, and the benefits of doing so. The three different types of academic writing — narrative, expository, and persuasive — were defined, as well as the ways in which writing skills can help you outside school. This kind of professional writing will be explored in upcoming assignments that will have you writing an informative report, composing a pitch email, and giving a presentation, all on the benefits of keeping an environmentally friendly workplace.