Words convey meaning. And when you use words intentionally to communicate meaning, you practice written rhetoric.

We practice written rhetoric in nearly every single course at Calvin College. Written rhetoric assignments include informal writing (journal entries, written responses to in-class quizzes, etc.) and formal writing (business reports, lab reports, research papers, review essays, argumentative papers, analytical essays, written text for posters, and on and on).

Our focus here is on your more formal writing tasks—those that your teachers expect you to plan, draft, revise, and edit.

Throughout the subcategories of written rhetoric that you’ll find here ( writing process, organization, revision, and written style) we assume the general questions from Student Resources as your starting point:

  • What purpose do I want to accomplish for my audience?
  • How can I use my knowledge of my audience to write effectively?
  • How can I improve my audience’s sense of my expertise and character through my words?
  • How do I convey and maintain focus on a central idea?
  • What is the essential content that I need to convey, and how can I arrange the parts of that content to be most effective?

And, as the Student Resources page advises, you’ll need to be certain of the genre that your teacher has assigned.

Don’t forget to stop in the Rhetoric Center for help with written rhetoric!

Click on specific questions in this FAQ grid, and it will take you where you need to be. If you want to explore the resources on your own, click on one of the categories on the right side of the page (Writing Process, Organization, Revision, and Style).

Frequently asked questions

Subject-specific writing

A good writer can write well in a variety of different forms and subjects. This is why most of our resources, so far, are aimed at writing in general, rather than subject-specific writing (such as an engineering lab report or a historical analysis).

However, you’ll have to write for specific fields and within specific genres. And at the Rhetoric Center, we believe that asking questions about your audience, genre, and subject will improve your writing on any specific assignment.

Below, you will find questions to ask and resources related to subject-specific writing.

Questions to ask
  • What does this subject value? For example, the sciences tend to value data, while the humanities tend to value people (such as history).
  • What is the genre of your assignment, and what has your instructor told you about the conventions of the genre?
  • Does this subject require a particular format/citation style? If so, am I aware of it?
  • What makes writing in this subject different from other subjects?