Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Writing With Style


"All writers, by the way they use the language, reveal something of their spirits, their habits, their capacities and their biases. This is inevitable as well as enjoyable."-William Strunk jr. & E.B. White -

Through a study of grammatical rules and stylistic principles and an examination of style in others' writing, this course focuses on analyzing qualities in writing in order for the students to ¹develop an understanding of what makes an effective writing style and ² incorporate the lessons from this class to their own writing.

Recognizing the fact that the vivacity and beauty of the English language owe a lot to its complex grammar and immense, ever-changing vocabulary, we will briefly examine English grammar and syntax to understand the boundaries in our use of the language and the opportunities the knowledge of grammatical rules presents to us.

In addition to briefly revisiting the rules of English grammar and syntax, we will examine various types of texts throughout the course. These texts vary from creative prose, speeches, lyric essays,and newspaper articles that the instructor will introduce to you, to your own selections of various published texts. Writers we will examine include Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Junot Diaz, Alice Walker, and David Foster Wallace among others.

While the day-to-day focus of this class is on studying style through others' writing, it is an ongoing process for everyone in class to take note of any useful rules, techniques and advice that you may learn and recognize as a result of our course of study - whether it be from our class readings, discussions, or your peers' writing. This class will not specifically instruct you in writing a novel, a poem, or an academic essay for that matter, but it will help you use language effectively, with an awareness for style. Finally, rather than expecting the students to gain a merely objective understanding of the elements of style, I encourage the students to seek relevant points of contact between themselves as writers and any activities we have as a class, and work on their own writing style along the way. As a result, students should learn more about themselves as writers during the course.

The class structure is based on in-class discussions of assigned readings and relevant in-class and homework writing assignments.

Assessment criteria: short homework writings, class discussions, presentations and analyses, a final writing project.

Course Text:

  • Hale, Constance: Sin and Syntax - How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose

All other texts will be provided as pdfs on our course Blackboard page.

Last Update: October 16, 2013