Rethinking College Writing Instruction


Gradual shifts in a teacher’s point of view

I don’t remember just how these shifts in my beliefs happened, but they arrived at different points in the first few years of testing this method. I came to believe certain ideas because I saw them validated in the work of students in the course. o All students have something […]

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Response to teacher Tammy Tilley

Tammy Tilley asked: You outline the number of weeks for students to work on their skills, but how many minutes per lesson should I expect each lesson to take? I teach one evening per week for 4 hours, for a total of 14 weeks. I am trying to determine a […]

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Letter from a teacher in Singapore

Dear John, I’m a high school English teacher from Singapore. I read your post about using concrete nouns in writing in The Atlantic. It sounds like a great idea, but I’m a bit at a loss as to how to actually teach students to do that. Could you give some […]

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“I don’t have any good ideas.”

Instructors often hear this question. Which is more important, the ideas or the words? Or sometimes, Which comes first, the ideas or the words? How do you answer that question? The conventional idea is that you get some good ideas, and then you write them down in good clear language. […]

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How to rescue a vague passage, step by step

One would love to write in a vivid and fluent style all the time. But human beings are imperfect, and our writing is just as imperfect as anything else we do.  A key sin is over-abstraction.  Yet no matter how abstract the passage, it can be repaired.   I’ll demonstrate. The […]

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An assignment on “ambition” with concrete nouns and people

Write 600 words on ambition, taking any angle at all. Working titles or narrow topics could include any of the following: My sense of ambition How I learned what ambition really is How I learned ambition Ambition makes no sense An ambitious person I would like to imitate I am […]

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Preface to “Ten Things Successful College Writers Do Differently”

When printed letters were mysterious, I wished I could read. Was it the same for you? There’s a dark moment, before you learn any skill, when you’re all desire. It’s when you wish you could ride a two wheeler like other kids on your street, but you can’t do it […]

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The guide now has an isbn #

I have acquired ISBN numbers, and one in particular for this edition of John Maguire’s College Writing Guide. That means the college bookstore can easily order the book and have it on the shelves for your students, if you choose to use it as a textbook.

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On the 70% active verb ratio

(This is an excerpt from the verb chapter of my new book, which is addressed to students: Ten Things Successful College Writers Do Differently.)   Build most of your sentences on active verbs You’ve no doubt heard of the active verb from prior teachers, but just hearing about it is […]

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Should college comp be a straight-line extension of high-school writing? No.

The readability course goes at the problem of teaching kids to write from a different angle. Most instructors naturally enough make college comp a straight-line extension of high-school writing. The assumption often stated in the classroom goes like this:  “You’ve had some instruction in writing before, and now we are […]

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John G. Maguire
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