Rethinking College Writing Instruction


Dear John Langan: Here’s how paying attention to style improves thinking

I’ve been doing this method for 20 years, and it’s second nature to me now. I cannot imagine going back to the old ways any more, and frankly I have to listen hard to today’s teachers telling me what they do in order to remember what I used to do, […]

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RW enlarges student empathy for reader

Readable Writing only looks odd or seems odd. In fact, it’s quite close to what we teachers currently do. The difference is this: we recombine standard elements of writing instruction into a different sequence with a slightly different target goal. We wanted students to think all the time about the […]

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How is writing like juggling on a unicycle?

An open letter to Dr. Douglas Hesse at the University of Denver. In which I complain that the composition profession doesn’t understand writing that well. In which I assert that writing is much more like juggling while on a unicycle than the composition profession thinks. I sent this on 1/18/2018. […]

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Steven Pinker on style

Pinker gave an excellent talk at Oxford a few years back. He’s completely right about almost everything he says, and his analysis of how academic writing goes wrong is spot on. Take a look.

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Philosophy prof: “I’ve been reconsidering how I teach writing.”

Here are recent emails between me and a professor of philosophy I’ll call K.F. It’s an interesting discussion and I like KF’s seriousness about writing. I share this just for camaraderie’s sake. First me, then him, then me. JM: Thanks for ordering the book yesterday. It will be mailed to […]

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Speaking in Houston TX, attending CCCC in Kansas City

Next Feb 16 (2018) I’m the keynoter at a one-day conference on writing sponsored by Houston’s Community College system. It’s a Friday and it happens at the West Loop Campus. The program begins at 8 am and I will talk at 9 am and 10 am. The event is open […]

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Karen Pryor’s shaping laws

Karen Pryor, one of the world’s best animal trainers and dog trainers, inspired key parts of this course. Look at what she has to say about reinforcing new skills, in the scanned paragraph. Though she’s talking about animals, we can easily imagine freshman writing students in this paragraph. Read the […]

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Geraldine worries about “concrete nouns”

Some teachers worry that emphasizing concrete nouns will reduce your ability to say interesting things about ideas. Geraldine A., who teaches freshman comp in Boston, expressed that worry recently.  She wrote: “I appreciate the section encouraging use of concrete nouns, but I would want to be careful not to jeopardize […]

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“If you don’t let them write full essays for a while, and make them focus on the quality of sentences, they begin to get it.” — Kim Holcomb, Ohio U.

Hi John, I’m happy to explain how we used your book in my four sections of freshman writing last year. Your idea that students need to learn how to write good sentences before they can write essays struck me as game-changing, and I immediately ordered The College Writing Guide. When […]

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If you want better writing from students, order the low-cost CWG now.

Readable Writing  gets great results—much improved student writing—in record time. Plus–it engages students, gets them completely involved, wakes them up, and lights up their eyes. Readable Writing hammers home a few key writing behaviors that make all the difference.  Its exercises build from the simple in Week 1 to quite […]

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John G. Maguire
307 Market Street, #306
Lowell MA 01852