October 11, 2023

From Gerald R. Lucas

First Week Feedback: ENGL 5106

Congratulations! Way to make it through the obstacle course of week one in ENGL 5106. It’s meant to be a bit of a challenge and may be the most difficult week of the semester. Aren’t you glad to hear that? Most of you ran the course relatively free of injury. For those of you feel a bit bloodied and bruised, don’t fret: you’ll be fine. You made it this far, right?

I have read through and evaluated all of the first posts on the blog.[1] Each of you have individual feedback (via D2L) on your blog posts that I hope you have access to. If not, please let me know. Please forgive any loopy comments: I am sick this week and have been taking too many antihistamines. Here are some general observations.

First off: whenever you post anything online, ask yourself: “what is my point? Is my point clear?” Many of your posts imply points, but often I was left with just a sense of something you were trying to get at, like looking for something you lost in the back yard. This is OK for personal writing, but for us tech writers, clarity and precision is important. I recommend your writing use the inverted pyramid structure of journalism: always start with the most important element.

Use your digital tools. Remember, a blog is not paper, so things like “works cited” (while appropriate for Wikipedia) might not be the most appropriate for a blog. Linking is your friend. While we will discuss sourcing later, you might have a look at the concepts I discuss in Digital Citation. There is no absolute correct way to do this, but there are more logical ways that make our lives easier.

That reminds me of something a programmer friend of mine used to tell me: programmers are lazy, so they find the least difficult ways of doing things—especially those things they do regularly. This is a great way to think about digital writing: use strategies that are logical and easy. One method in writing is using boilerplate. Digital writing offers many more. You will develop strategies and shortcuts germane to your writing as you practice.

Remember that you should support your ideas with strong sources, like our assigned readings. Avoid citing Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, or Dictionary.com. These are reference sources and should definitely be consulted, but never cited. We’ll emphasize sourcing all semester.

Also, please do not link to our course library. Only we have access to this for obvious reasons. Instead, link to sources on Archive.org or Google scholar.

Remember that the blog is the place to show your understanding of the material you are learning. In other words: this is a digital writing space where you should practice your best digital writing. Get familiar with the digital tools Ghost gives you, and use them. Like real headers and subheads, images, links, and embeds. Have a look at Sebahat’s tutorial or see one of the many video tutorials on YouTube. Most of you have already figured out the basics, including how to use the keyword. Well done. Some of the last-minute posts not so much.

In digital writing, you only add one space after end punctuation. If you add two, it will often mess up the formatting. Two spaces is not necessary and is a remnant of the typewriter era. This statement might be controversial to some, but I don’t care. 😉

Titles should reflect what you’re writing and be dynamic and elicit a positive reader response. Don’t consider them perfunctory, but an integral part of writing. Look back over your first blog posts: how many of the titles sound the same or do not really reflect the content? Use keywords in your titles—more of this in coming weeks. You might see ENGL 5106/Research and Process Journal again for some more tips. While you’re reviewing, leave a comment or two.

Continue to think about your professional personas. All writing you do for this class should reflect your discourse communities and what they expect from their members. For example, your LitWiki user page should reflect your writing/professional persona. It’s not a Facebook page, but another facet of your persona as a media professional. Each of these, on the blog and wiki, are chances to link to your web site and reflect the persona you’re trying to establish. Some of you might consider revising what you have already posted.[2]


I apologize if the first week was more stressful than you feel it had to be. While I know that many of you would rather I stuck with a typical D2L class, I promise it’s much better for you that I do not use that CMS. Learning different platforms and techniques makes you stronger writers and more versatile professionals that are able to thrive in any situation. This is the nature of digital writing at this time. I’m glad to see that you are up to the challenge.


  1. If you have not posted yet, be sure to do so ASAP. If you post late, please send me an email when your work is ready for me to see. This week, I’ll have a look at all late work, no questions asked.
  2. Those who have not added their LitWiki user page received a fail on their Accounts grade. Once you have completed this, please email me so I can have a look. Or, if I recorded a fail in error, let me know.