Daily Writing: Brief Article Summary Memo

For today’s beginning of class writing assignment, we will focus on time. Before coming into class, you should have read your article and thought about its contents. You will have 30 minutes from the beginning of class to complete and post your memo as a comment to this post. Use the following example as a guide for your memo:

TO: Professor Ellis
FROM: Your Name
DATE: Today's Date
SUBJECT: Brief Summary of an Article About X (replace X with the main topic)

One sentence describing the purpose of this memo (e.g., I wanted to bring your attention to this article about X--again, replace X with the topic).

Two-three sentences summarizing the main point of the article. These sentences should be all in your own words. No quotes and no paraphrasing.

APA citation for your article. Look at the example, "Article in a Magazine" on this page.

Daily Writing: Addressing the Needs of Your Audience

After watching the video above, your first writing task today is to summarize the magazine article that you read for today’s class or some topic found in the article for three two different audiences: a child (~10 years old) and a peer (someone your age, in college). Write your summary in a memo format and include an APA bibliographic entry at its end. You should not use any quotes. All of the summaries should be in your own words.

TO: Professor Ellis
FROM: Your Name
DATE: 10/15/2019
SUBJECT: Summarizing for Different Audiences

Write one sentence explaining what your memo is doing (see assignment above, but put in your own words).

Begin the next paragraph with: "Summary for a child:" and write a 2-3 sentence summary of the article or a topic in the article. Avoid jargon. Explain what words mean. Try to connect what you are writing about to ideas and concepts that a child might already understand.

Begin the next paragraph with: "Summary for a peer:" and write 2-3 sentence summary of the article or a topic in the article. Your language can be more advanced and employ jargon, but you might still need to define some terms or ideas. Connect what you are explaining to more advanced or relevant ideas that your audience might know.

APA Bibliographic Entry for your magazine article goes here. Open a new tab and search for "Purdue OWL APA" and then click "Reference List: Articles in Periodicals" if you need help with formatting.

Copy-and-paste your memo into a comment made to this blog post.

Notes from class:

Tips for conveying information to different audiences:

  • Breaking something complex into its constituent parts.
  • Less jargon, more description.
  • Analogies (using something familiar as a model)
  • Metaphors and similes (this is like that)
  • Examples

Daily Writing: Communicating with the 1,000 Most Used English Words

We’re going to have a fun but challenging task for today’s beginning of class writing assignment. The idea is to write a short summary of the article that you read for today’s class using only the 1,000 most used words in the English language.

Consider our current project, the 750-Word Expanded Definition. We are relying on definitions and contextual examples of a technical term to better understand it. In a sense, you are doing the work of lexicographers. Lexicographers compile lists of words, study the meanings of words, create dictionaries, and study a variety of things relating to words, including the prevalence of particular words at particular points in time–i.e., which words are used more than others.

This idea of word use in a given point of time brings us to today’s task. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary reports that there are about 470,000 defined English words. Science Magazine tells us that the average 20-year-old knows about 42,000 words.

Why restrict ourselves to using a fraction of words that we and others might know? This exercise helps us think about how to think differently about the words and the concepts that they represent. It is a metacognitive activity that helps us break down more complicated words into less complicated descriptions. Also, it might be beneficial to think about how to use a simplified vocabulary to communicate with someone who doesn’t yet have your level of expertise in the English language.

The idea is to use only the most used 1,000 words comes from the webcomic artist Randal Monroe, who has done this on xkcd.com with the Up Goer Five (or the Saturn V rocket):

To help us with the task, Monroe built a tool called Simple Writer. Type your summary in that box and it will highlight in red any word that isn’t in the 1,000 most used words (according to his calculations). Think about how to break down terms into simple words. Think description. It requires thought and experimentation.

For this writing assignment, I would like you to use Simple Writer to write three or four sentences summarizing the article that you brought to class today. When you have finished writing it, copy and paste it into a memo with a memo head addressed to me and a subject (Summary of Article about X Using Only the 1,000 Most Used English Words), and write an APA Bibliographic citation for your magazine article to follow your summary. The memo header and the bibliographic entry are not bound by the 1,000 most used English words.

When you’re done, copy-and-paste your full memo into a comment to this post. Your finished memo should look like this:

TO: Prof. Jason Ellis
FROM: Your Name
DATE: 9/24/2019
SUBJECT:  Summary of Article about X Using Only the 1,000 Most Used English Words 

Use Simple Writer to help you write a brief summary of your article using only the 1,000 most used English words. Don't worry about including the author's name or title of the article. Write three or four sentences.

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages.  

If you need additional help with your APA bibliographic citation, check out their guidelines for articles appearing in periodicals here.

Daily Writing: Magazine Article Summary, Defining a Term, and Two Bibliographic Citations

For today’s beginning of class writing assignment, create a memo addressed to a co-worker whose name you make up. A suggested subject line is “Interesting article about ___”. The blank should be filled in with a term, phrase, or an example of jargon contained in the article.

In the body of your memo, write a brief summary of the article (only 2-3 sentences). In your summary, mention the term that you selected from the article.

Then, start a new paragraph and explain that you looked up the term in the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines it as: “quote from the OED” (“term”, year).

End your memo with a new section titled “References.”

Write APA citations for the article and the definition from the Oxford English Dictionary.

Here’s some information about using the Oxford English Dictionary (on-campus link or off-campus link). In the search box on OED.com, type in your term and hit enter. While the OED has most words in the English language, it might not have all technical jargon. If you can’t find a term, you can switch to a different term for the purposes of this exercise.

When you quote a definition from the OED in your memo, put quotation marks around the definition and end the sentence with a parenthetical citation like this: (“Term,” year).

To find out the year of publication, Click the “Cite” link on each OED definition to quickly get the bibliographic information that you need, but you will need to reformat it in APA style as I have demonstrated below for your references list.

RAM, n.6. (2019). In Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/269056.


integrated, adj., b. (2019). In Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/97354.

Be sure to remove/correct the proxy information in the URL if you’re off campus.

Daily Writing: Magazine Article Summary, Cited Quote, and Bibliographic Citation

Write a memo that gives a brief summary of the article that you read for today’s class, quotes one sentence from the article with a parenthetical citation, and provides an APA-formatted bibliographic citation.

Your imagined audience for this memo is a co-worker who is collaborating on a project with you. You want to share the key information in the article with your co-worker. Make up a name for your co-worker to use in your memo.

First, begin your memo with the memo header information: TO (make up your co-worker’s name), FROM (your name), DATE, SUBJECT (make up a short, to-the-point descriptive subject).

Then, write two or three sentences summarizing the article that you read for today’s class. Among those sentences that you write in your own words, I would like you to include an important quote from the article in the following format:

According to Author’s-Last-Name, “quote” (Author’s-Last-Name, Year, p. Page-Number).

For example: According to Vader, “The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force” (Vader, 1977, p. 23).

Or, The author stated, “Students often had difficulty using APA style” (Jones, 1998, p. 199).

Then, conclude your memo with an APA-formatted bibliographic entry.

For example:

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages.


Henry, W. A., III. (1990, April). Making the grade in today’s schools. Time, 135, 28-31.

Your memo should look something like this:

TO: Kylo Ren
FROM: Jason Ellis
DATE: 9/10/2019
SUBJECT: Magazine Article About Lightsabers

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Phasellus id urna non magna bibendum placerat. Donec rhoncus maximus nulla id placerat. Nulla dictum ut orci ac dignissim. According to Clarke, “Proin a eros sodales, venenatis felis quis, imperdiet felis” (Clarke, 2012, p. 16). Quisque nec lorem velit. Cras porta sit amet nisi sed feugiat.

Clarke, C. (2012, August). New lightsaber designs are more efficient. Jedi News, 145, 16-20.

NB: I used this Lorem Ipsum generator to create the filler text above.

Daily Writing: Magazine Article Summary Memo

For this first magazine-focused daily writing assignment, you will write a short summary of the article that you read and brought to class in the form of a memo.

A memo or memorandum serves many purposes, but fundamentally, a memo serves as a reminder or a memory of something within the workplace.

The format of a memo typically looks like this:





[Write the memo’s body here.]

When you create a communication or document, there should be an audience in mind. With the memo, it is generally who you are writing the memo to. However, you should keep in mind that others who are the unintended audience might read and react to what you have written.

For today’s assignment, write the memo to an imagined manager who you want to share the content of the article that you read for today’s class. You should communicate this intent in your memo’s introduction.

TO: Your Imagined Manager

FROM: Your Name

DATE: 9/3/2019

SUBJECT: Recommended Magazine Article on THIS TOPIC

First paragraph: The intent of your memo and the main topic that the article is about.

Second paragraph: Write at least 100 words summarizing the article. First sentence, what is the article’s main point? Second-and-following sentences, what are some details in the article that support the main point?

APA Bibliographic Citation. Go here for details. Example below.

Author, A. A. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages.

Ellis, J. W. (2011). SFRA 2011. Locus, 67(3), 11.

Doctorow, C. (2001). Why should anyone care? Locus, 67(3), 31.

Type up your summary memo in Microsoft Word or Google Docs or another word processor. Save your work. Then, copy-and-paste it into a comment made to this blog post.

Daily Writing Assignment: Beginning Next Week, Bring a Magazine Article

After the first daily writing assignment, in which you write a professional email of introduction to me, we will use the first part of each subsequent class to write about a magazine article that you read and bring to class. Here are the details about what you should come to class prepared with:

  • Purchase or photocopy articles from print magazines that are relevant to your field of study or career.
  • The articles should be at least a full page or longer. Of course, longer articles are better in terms of you learning more and having more material to work with on these assignments.
  • After reading the article and making a note of its publication information (date, volume, number, title of publication), bring it to class for a short writing assignment at the beginning of class.
  • You will need a new article for each of our subsequent classes. These can come from the same or different magazine issues.

Barnes and Noble on Court Street (pictured above) has a huge selection of magazines for purchase. The City Tech Library has some magazines as do all of the NYPL and Brooklyn Public Library branches, which you can read and copy (with your phone or another device) for free or photocopy for a small fee.

Daily Writing Assignment: Introductory Email

For your first daily writing assignment, please send an email of introduction to me (Professor Ellis) before we meet next week.

  • Write an email from your City Tech email address to Prof. Ellis (jellis at citytech.cuny.edu).
  • Subject: Greetings from Your First and Last Name in ENG2575
  • Body:
    • Salutation: Dear Professor Ellis, or Hello Professor Ellis, or Hi Professor Ellis,
    • Pleasantry sentence.
    • Content paragraph:
      • Topic Sentence (Why are you writing? What is the purpose of the email? You don’t want to write: You told me to write you this stupid email. Instead: I wanted to introduce myself to you and let you know a little bit more about my interests and goals.
      • Several Supporting Sentences (Tell me about yourself)
        • What is your major?
        • What kind of job do you want to get? Not just “electrical engineer,” for example, but where do you want to work, what kind of firm, do you want to use this job to lead to something else in the long term?
        • What are your hobbies and interests?
        • What would you like to gain from our Technical Writing class? Is there a particular skill or ability that you want to focus your efforts on in our class?
    • Closing: Best wishes, Best, Sincerely, Cheers,
    • Your Name