Rhetoric and Composition – Writing Textbook High School Extensions

The book contains a complete course in writing, from writing phases, drafting, editing, types of writing, to common phrases, word types, and improved use of English sentence structure, all explained in a simple, easy to understand way, with exercises.

The book is a composition effort by a variety of esteemed English professors, teachers, and students, produced from the online content at Wikibooks.

See more non-fiction texts from Wikibooks in our Wikibooks section.

Sample text from Rhetoric and Composition – writing textbook

Overview: The Writing Process

2.1 Overview

Writing is a complicated and often mysterious process. Although we may think of it as little
more than arranging letters and words on a page, a few moments’ reflection reveals that it
is much more than that. On the one hand, writing is an art–we don’t say Shakespeare’s
language is “correct” but rather that it is beautiful. On the other hand, writing is a science–
we want the instructions that came with our Blu-Ray player to be accurate, precise, and
easy to understand.

Then there is the matter of what makes writing “good writing.” Although we might say
that both an instruction manual and a play are “well written,” we appreciate them for
different reasons. A play written in the clear, unambiguous language of an instruction
manual would not be a hit on Broadway. In other words, writing must be judged according
to its context–what is its purpose and audience? Finally, even readers with a great deal in
common may not agree about the quality of any particular text, just as people’s opinions
differ about which bands are really great. We really don’t know why people have such
preferences and can’t make accurate predictions about what they will like or dislike. Simply
put, writing isn’t simple.

If writing is so complicated and mysterious, can it be taught? Since Aristotle, great teachers
have taught complex processes to their students by breaking them into smaller, more
understandable processes. Aristotle thought that effective communication skills, like good
math skills, can be learned and taught. Math teachers don’t teach trigonometry to their
elementary students; instead, they begin with addition and subtraction. Everything else
builds on those simple processes. No one is born a mathematician. Similarly, while luck
certainly plays a role in any successful writer’s career, successful writers (or speakers) are
not just born into the role–and everyone else is not just fated to flunk English. You can
learn to write with substance and style. It takes work, but it is within your power. You
have already taken the first step.

Most of what we know about writing is also true of speaking. Aristotle wrote a famous
treatise on the subject of effective communication called “The Rhetoric.” This book is meant
for speakers; however, teachers and students also have long used it to polish their writing.
“The Rhetoric” is still widely read and applied today by people desiring to learn how to
speak and write more convincingly to an audience. Your first-year composition course may
even have the word “rhetoric” or “rhetorical” as part of its title. Aristotle taught us that
rhetoric isn’t just about winning arguments. Instead, rhetoric is the ability to determine all
the available means of persuasion at our disposal. Ultimately, it’s up to you to guess the
best course of action, but rhetoric helps you make this a more educated guess.

<end of excerpt>

Suggested Reading

Find many more books like this one, suitable for high school study or reference in our Wikibooks section.

Review our Young Adults section for books in a similar age range.


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