Welcome to your new English textbook! Now, you may be feeling like English classes should be behind you since you graduated from high school, but don’t worry. This is different. When you take an English (or “Communications”) course in college, it’s all about preparing you for the real, everyday tasks of writing and speaking in your chosen profession rather than reading literature and writing essays. Ask any professional in your field, and they’ll set you straight on the enormous importance of practical communication in the work they do. In fact, they’ll assure you that you won’t get far without workplace communication skills enabling you to apply the technical skills you’re learning in your other courses. Trust those professionals—they know what they’re talking about. You may not fully appreciate it yet, but you really need this guide to help develop those vital communication skills now and in the years ahead as you grow professionally.

This guide is free to you thanks to the people of Ontario via eCampusOntario, an initiative of the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Does this mean it’s worse than the expensive communications textbooks available? Not at all. Research shows that, compared with no-cost open textbooks, traditional commercial textbooks offer no inherent advantages that lead to greater academic success (Rockinson-Szapkiw, Courduff, Carter, & Bennett, 2013). Indeed, if an open textbook is robust and comprehensive enough, serves students’ learning needs better, and doesn’t set them back $130, then it can be better for students in every way.

A Note on Style
Whereas most commercial textbooks on communications maintain a high level of formality, this open textbook relaxes that a little to include contractions, colourful expressions, liberal use of “they” (rather than “he or she”) as a singular pronoun, and other characteristics of semi-formal or casual business writing. The idea is to model the style of a common email between work colleagues, which imitates a conversational business style of writing while still being grammatically correct. Notice in the previous sentence and section, for instance, that “email” and “internet” appear instead of the more formal, old-fashioned “e-mail” and “Internet” often used in other textbooks. For this, we take our cue from style guides in leading tech publications and international news organizations that trend towards lowercasing and de-branding the terms (Martin, 2016). See unit 13 on the formality spectrum in professional writing for more on the editorial decision to model a casual style for accessibility reasons.


This textbook is divided into nine parts and each of the corresponding units will explore a full range of topics associated with professional communications and the workplace.

Part 1: Professional Communications

  • Unit 1: Communicating in the Digital Age
  • Unit 2: The Communication Process
  • Unit 3: Troubleshooting Miscommunication
Part 2: The Writing Process 1 — Preparing
  • Unit 4: Knowing Your Purpose for Writing
  • Unit 5: Analyzing your Audience
  • Unit 6: Selecting Appropriate Channels
Part 3: The Writing Process 2 — Researching
  • Unit 7: Choosing a Research Methodology
  • Unit 8: Locating Credible Sources
  • Unit 9: Using Source Text: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing
  • Unit 10: Documenting Sources in APA, MLA, or IEEE Styles
Part 4: The Writing Process 3 — Drafting
  • Unit 11: Choosing an Organizational Pattern
  •  Unit 12: Outlining Your Message
  • Unit 13: Standard Business Style
  • Unit 14: Effective Document Design
Part 5: The Writing Process 4 — Editing
  • Unit 15: Substantial Revisions
  • Unit 16: Proofreading for Mechanics

Part 6: Electronic Written Communication

  • Unit 17: Emailing
  • Unit 18: Netiquette and Social Media
  • Unit 19: Texting and Instant Messaging
Part 7: Traditional Written Communication
  • Unit 20: Letters
  • Unit 21: Memos
  • Unit 22: Reports
  • Unit 23: Proposals
Part 8: Routine Messages
  • Unit 24: Information Shares, Action Requests, and Replies
  • Unit 25: Complaints and Claims
  • Unit 26: Negative Messages
  • Unit 27: Persuasive Messages
  • Unit 28: Goodwill Messages and Recommendations
Part 9: Group Communication
  • Unit 29: Teamwork
  • Unit 30: Conflict Resolution Strategies
  • Unit 31: Group Meetings and Web Conferencing


Martin, K. C. (2016, April 5). Should you capitalize the word Internet? Retrieved from

Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J., Courduff, J., Carter, K., & Bennett, D. (2013). Electronic versus traditional print textbooks: A comparison study on the influence of university students’ learning. Computers & Education. Retrieved from



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