Writing and Literacy

The Writing and Literacy concentration introduces students to:

  • the discipline of writing studies
  • the professional possibilities for writers
  • the public uses of writing
  • the social issues implicated in language use

Students write and analyze many kinds of texts, including:

  • academic papers
  • personal essays
  • non-fiction magazine articles
  • web-based documents
  • technical and business reports
  • poetry and fiction

Writing and Literacy majors prepare for careers in publishing, editing, freelance writing, journalism, business and technical writing, and grant writing, as well as (among other things) graduate study in English, law, and library and information sciences.

For more information, contact:
Steve Fox
CA 423B

Andy Buchenot
CA 502P

Writing and Literacy Courses

W210 Literacy and Public Life
An introduction to the uses of literacy in public and civic discourse, with connections made to theories of writing and professional prospects for writers; serves as the required gateway course for the Concentration in Writing and Literacy and as an exploration of this concentration for other English majors and students considering the possibility of an English major.

W262 Style and Voice in Writing
Voice pulls readers into a writer’s world, the "sound" of that writer’s voice "speaking" to readers. This course focuses on recognizing, developing, and sharpening your written voice. But how do you recognize that voice? What are its characteristics? How do you challenge yourself to experiment with language? How do you adapt to the plethora of writing you do as a student, in the workplace, or on your own, while maintaining the unique stamp that is your own? This course examines  a variety of published authors’ works, identifying the stylistic choices that shaped those works, thereby building awareness of the variety of stylistic choices available to you as a writer. You will apply that awareness to your own writing, and examine the decision making processes that equip you to "voice" your ideas in vivid and concise language, "speaking" on the page in your unique voice.

W310 Language and the Study of Writing
A course about writing using linguistic perspectives. Some of the topics discussed are writing systems and their history, a comparison of speaking and writing, the analysis of texts and their structure, the writing process and its development, and orality and literacy.

W312 Writing Biography
Write like a magazine journalist. Write about other peoples’ lives. Conduct interviews and work in the archives of University Library. Upper-division students gain experience in nonfiction life writing and research by producing four pieces of biographical writing: an obituary, a short life profile, a group-produced profile supported by University Library’s Special Collections resources and staff, and a final profile with student choice of style and subject.

W313 The Art of Fact: Writing Nonfiction Prose
Students will read and analyze professional and student work as they prepare to practice the art of fact by combining the tools of a researcher with the craft of a novelist. The final portfolio includes a stylistic analysis of the student’s and others’ nonfiction works as well as two illustrated nonfiction texts based on the student’s primary and secondary research.

W315 Writing for the Web
Introduces students to new forms of writing beyond word processing and desktop publishing made possible by computers-hypertext, electronic mail, and computer conferencing-and explores what impact these new forms have on literacy skills for writers and readers of such computer-delivered texts.

W318 Finding your E-voice (online)
This course is designed to foster the understanding of and appreciation for the differences between academic and multimedia "voice." Through reading, exploration, discussions, activities and practice, students will begin the process of finding their "e-voice." Designing and producing multimedia for the English department website will further refine this growing e-voice.

W320 Writing in the Arts and Sciences
Introduces students to scholarly reading and writing in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, focusing on the similarities and differences in the ways academic writers share knowledge in their respective fields. Using as a course text a set of scholarly articles and book chapters, the course examines how writers in different disciplines define problems, how they investigate these problems, and how they report their findings.

W331 Business and Administrative Writing
W331 teaches students the rhetorical principles and practices necessary for producing effective writing and collaborative projects in professional contexts. Students will learn to plan, produce, and mange short- and long-term writing projects, gaining experience with various writing technologies. This course emphasizes  the challenges of meeting readers’ needs while simultaneously representing the best interests of the writer and his or her employer. W331 focuses on writing ethically and responsibly as an employee and as a member of society. By the end of the semester, students should see a marked improvement in their writing and level of professionalism. Completion of W231 Professional Writing Skills is strongly encouraged before taking W331.

W365 Theories and Practices of Editing
Instruction and practice in the mechanical, stylistic, and substantive editing of English nonfiction prose, from a wide variety of genres and on a wide variety of subjects.

W366 Written Englishes: Living Cultural Realities
Is standard written English fixed and immutable or a living language variety? This course explores the definition, history, and politics of standard written English, the influence of home and community languages, and the uses and representation of linguistic diversity in both fiction and non-fiction texts.

W377 Writing for Social Change
The focus of W377 is on public discourse directed toward action, such as texts directed to the media, letters to public officials, and organizational texts. Other kinds of writing that can have social change as a major purpose may be considered, such as memoir writing, graffiti and street art, tabling, book reviews, essays, and literary works. Students apply theoretical perspectives learned in the course to analyse the rhetorical nature of texts associated with organizing and social action and to create their own texts, working individually and in small groups. Students can successfully advocate for constructive social change.

W390 Topics in Writing
Topics will vary each time this course is offered, and the department will specify which area of the concentration in Writing and Literacy each offering will count toward. May be repeated once for credit.

W390 Topics in Writing: Introduction to Health Literacy 
This course will introduce students to the role of health literacy in our multicultural society and how to apply it to health communication. The course is designed to appeal to students in the following fields: composition and literacy, public health, pre-med, nursing, bioethics, sociology, applied and sociolinguistics, interpretation, and journalism. Specific topics will be selected based on participants’ areas of interest.

W400 Issues in the Teaching of Writing
Focuses on the content of rhetoric and composition and considers fundamental theoretical and practical issues in the teaching of writing. Reviews rhetorical and compositional principles that influence writing instruction, textbook selection, and curriculum development.

W412 Technology and Literacy
Literacy and technology have multifaceted relationships with each other. This course explores the effects of technologies ranging from clay tablets to the printing press to computers on literate practices and the teaching of reading and writing. It prepares students to think critically about the possibilities and limitations associated with different technologies and their impact on literacy over time, and to analyze educational uses of technology connected with literacy.

W426 Writing Nonfiction for Popular and Professional Publication
"I’ve been writing constantly for years but I don’t have any idea how to make the transition from academic to workplace writing."  Sound familiar? If so, let the experiences of W426 help you to integrate and apply the academic writing skills you have gained during your undergraduate work in multiple disciplines. Write for Liberal Arts publications to gain experience and writing samples for your job portfolio. And, meet an array of professionals who bring their experience and expertise to the classroom to help you understand the current job market for students with strong writing skills.

W496 Writing Fellows Seminar
Undergraduates interested in becoming tutors in the University Writing Center (UWC) enroll in W496 to learn about tutoring ethics, professionalism, and strategies for working with student writers. During the W496 internship, students learn to serve as a "practice audience" through critical thinking, analysis, and problem solving. W496 students also apply their learning through an internship of 6 hours a week in the UWC, with the support of veteran tutors. Each student who successfully earns a grade of "A" in ENG-W496, may then become a paid UWC employee at the beginning of the following semester.

Z204 Rhetorical Issues in Grammar and Usage
What in blazes is "rhetorical grammar"?  "Rhetoric" is the "art or study of using language effectively and persuasively," but in this course, we will work to regard grammar as more than "a prescriptive set of rules setting forth the current standard."  The course will examine the ways in which the words writers and speakers choose impact readers and listeners by analyzing readings and speeches.  It will consider the role of "correctness" in discourse communities, and the connections between writing and usage guides.  Students will analyze their own use of language by writing short papers and by working with papers of their choice that they have written in the past.  The goal of the course will be to foster students’ conceptualization of "grammar" as not a rigid set of rules, but as a tool that allows writers and speakers rich flexibility of expression. 

Z301 History of the English Language
This course traces the development of English, looking at the language itself (its sounds, its vocabulary, its dialects) and the social and political forces that have influenced the English language and those who use it in speech and writing. Three basic themes provide the structure for our semester: history, diversity, and change. We’ll examine the history of English as it developed in England, the United States, and other parts of the world. We’ll explore the diversity of English, a language now used by millions (billions?) of speakers, yet paradoxically viewed by some in the US as a language so threatened that it needs government protection in the form of English-Only laws. We’ll touch on some ways English as it’s spoken in the USA differs from that spoken in the United Kingdom, Canada, the Caribbean, India, Nigeria, and other countries in which English is either an official language or a common second language. We will explore diversity historically, tracing the development of English dialects as well as attitudes about those dialects. Finally, we’ll look at language change, exploring the ways in which English, like any language, has evolved. My overall goal for the semester is that you’ll acquire historical perspectives on current English language issues, and that you’ll be able to use historical and current language reference works to answer questions you may have. G301 requires regular homework (with some choices about when it’s due), an individual project towards the end of the semester, and weekly in-class discussion or group problem-solving. Whether your primary interest is in writing.

G310 Social Speech Patterns
An introduction to English grammar and usage that studies the rhetorical impact of grammatical structures such as noun phrases, prepositional phrases, and different sentence patterns. This course considers language trends and issues, the role of correctness in discourse communities, and the relations between writing in context and descriptive and prescriptive grammars and usage guides.

TCM 32000  Written Communication in Science and Industry
Analysis of current writing practices in technology and science, especially in organizational settings. Practice in designing and preparing reports for a variety of purposes and audiences.

TCM 34000 Correspondence in Business and Industry
The development and application of strategies and skills for writing letters for business and industry in technology and engineering. Applications may include resumes and letters of application, informational and persuasive letters, and in-house memoranda.

TCM 35000 Visual Elements of Technical Documents
Methods and principles of illustrating technical reports and manuals, the role of the technical writer in the company, basics of visual design, visuals for manuals, visualization of technical data, and modern technology available to technical writers.

TCM 42500 Managing Document Quality
Examines and applies principles of creating technical publications with a focus on quality management of the process. Students will create effective publications by identifying and intervening at crucial points in the documentation cycle - planning, researching, designing, drafting, reviewing, testing, editing, and revising.

TCM 45000 Research Approaches for Technical and Professional Communication
Examines quantitative and qualitative research techniques practiced by professionals working in technical and business communication. Explores both primary (i.e., field) and secondary (i.e., library) research approaches for learning about content, audience, and publication design.

E398 Internship in English
A supervised internship in the use of English in a workplace. Apply during semester before desired internship.

E450 Capstone Seminar
This senior capstone for all English majors integrates students’ undergraduate study through writing and reading projects, faculty and student presentations, and creation of capstone portfolios. Students apply linguistic, literary, and rhetorical knowledge in culminating projects and learning portfolios. The course looks back at accomplishments and forward to postgraduation planning.

Writing and Literacy Requirements

English majors must take at least 15 hours of 300/400 level courses in the major. A minimum grade of C is required in each course in this concentration.

Gateway Course (3 cr.)
W210 Literacy and Public Life 

Concentration Core (18 cr.): 

  • Understanding Literacy and Language (6 cr.)
    Choose two (At least one must be a W course):
    - W262 Style and Voice for Writers
    - W310 Language and the Study of Writing
    - W366 Written Englishes: Living Cultural Realities
    - W390 Topics in Writing & Literacy (Health Literacy)
    - W412 Technology and Literacy
    - Z204 Rhetorical Issues in Grammar
    - Z301 History of the English Language
  • The Practice of Writing (12 cr.) (No more than 6 TCM credits):
    Group 1: Writing in Context (at least 3 cr.):
    - W312 Writing Biography
    - W313 The Art of Fact: Writing Nonfiction Prose
    - W320 Advanced Writing in the Arts and Sciences
    - W331 Business and Administrative Writing
    - W377 Writing for Social Change
    - W390 Writing for Social Change (or topics as appropriate)
    - TCM 32000 Written Communication in Science and Industry
    - TCM 34000 Correspondence in Business and Industry
    - TCM 35000 Visual Elements of Technical Documents
    - TCM 45000 Research Approaches

    Group 2: Editing, Teaching, and Publishing (at least 3 cr.)
    - W280 Literary Editing and Publishing
    - W315 Writing for the Web
    - W318 Finding Your E-voice
    - W365 Theories and Practice of Editing
    - W390 Topics in Writing and Literacy (Second Language Writing)
    - W400 Issues in Teaching Writing
    - W426 Writing Nonfiction: Popular and Professional Publication
    - W496 Writing Tutor Training Seminar
    - TCM 42500 Managing Document Quality 

English Experience (9 cr.)
Film Studies or Literature (3 cr.): Choose one 200- or higher level course
Linguistics (3 cr.): Choose one 200- or higher (or elective if a linguistics course has been taken as part of the core)
Elective (other than Writing & Literacy) (3 cr.): Choose one 200- or higher level course in another area of the department

Capstone (3 cr.)
Recommended capstone options:
- E398 Internship in English
- E450 Capstone Seminar
- W426 Writing Nonfiction: Popular and Professional Publication

Other capstone options:
- L440 Senior Seminar in English and American Literature
- L433 Conversations with Shakespeare

Interested in a Minor in Writing and Literacy? There are several to choose from:

Writing and Literacy

Professional and Public Writing

Proressional and Digital Writing

Writing and Literacy Opportunities

The term ‘literacy’ comprises multiple aspects and degrees of culture, learning, and language. Literacy, then, is more than the ability to read and write: it encompasses, among other things, analysis, synthesis, text production, creative thinking, and understanding how language works. Rapid-changing technology-which is producing new ways to communicate, to learn, and to view the world around us-opens up new meanings for literacy, as well.

The Writing and Literacy track provides students with expertise in such matters of literacy, and it allows students to apply that knowledge to dramatic and exciting new literacy opportunities.

As a result, students who complete a concentration in Writing and Literacy have a number of options open to them. Some alumni become professional writers for corporations; others work as proofreaders, editors or copy-editors for book publishers. Some hold technical writing jobs, or they work as freelancers, writing in such genres as film review. Others apply their communication expertise to work in professions like human resources and public relations.

Some graduates may adapt the literacy practices of critical creative thinking to gain entry into high-level professional positions in which the ability to connect with colleagues across cultures and socio-economic boundaries is key.

Others view the concentration as an important foundation for graduate or law school, or simply to prepare them for diversity in their community and workplace. Here is what a few students, alumni, and faculty say about the Writing and Literacy concentration.