For thousands of years, writing has been a powerful way for us to communicate with one another, to share our distinct thoughts and ideas through the power of words. Even in today’s technologically saturated 21st century, we still express ourselves in writing almost every single day. And oftentimes, we write to argue our viewpoints, persuade others that we’re right, and share our unique experiences and perspectives.
But all writing—whether it’s a powerful essay, a persuasive letter, a detailed business report, or an autobiographical story—is at its most effective and memorable when it’s built on the fundamental critical and analytical skills that transform your words from “good” writing to “great” writing. Regardless of your subject, your goal, or your occasion, these skills are the heart and soul of engaging and effective writing. They include the ability to
- organize your thoughts into a coherent piece that never leaves your reader behind;
- make a persuasive argument rooted in solid facts;
- draw on the styles and characteristics of various literary genres;
- make responsible use of research materials and outside resources; and
- avoid common grammatical errors that could cost you your credibility.
You’ll find the secrets to these and other concepts and methods for clear and strong writing in the 24 accessible and practical lectures of Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything. Delivered by Professor Dorsey Armstrong of Purdue University—whose work with students involves the art and craft of analytical and persuasive writing—this course immerses you in the elements of successful writing. With its engaging literary and everyday examples, inspirational prompts, and unforgettable insights, Analysis and Critique makes the perfect reference guide for both professional and casual writers.
Five Literary Genres, Endless Insights
One of the essential keys of effective writing: understanding literary genres and the ways their unique styles and characteristics can shape and inform your own voice. Professor Armstrong spends the first lectures of her course guiding you through the five major literary genres and the ways some of their most enduring examples can show you the path to stronger persuasive and critical writing.
- Fiction: By learning how to actively read a range of short stories and novels by authors including Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, you’ll strengthen your ability to understand how a writer creates his or her “voice,” and how a writer conveys particular information to his or her audience.
- Essay: Of all the literary genres, the essay is the richest resource for studying the characteristics of a powerfully written argument. You’ll discover how essays such as Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” demonstrate effective strategies for starting, organizing, supporting, and concluding your arguments.
- Poetry: Somewhat surprisingly, poetry has much to offer nonpoetic writers looking to strengthen their craft—especially its command and flexibility. In examining the work of poets such as William Carlos Williams, John Donne, and e. e. cummings, you’ll learn how to tap into the power of figurative language, careful word choices, and dramatic word ordering.
- Drama: Speeches, conference papers, and other writing intended for oral presentation offer their own set of challenges to everyday writers. By using selected excerpts by William Shakespeare, history’s greatest playwright, Professor Armstrong gives you invaluable tips for mastering the art of tone, timing, and delivery of writing meant to be spoken out loud.
- Autobiography: Writing that draws on your life to achieve a goal or enhance your credibility isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Detailed looks at excerpts from autobiographies by Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, and others offer helpful hints about how much personal information to include, how to take the most effective approach, and more.
Frequently, the lectures are enhanced with writing prompts and practice examples—such as rewriting a passage in five different styles or writing an idea from different narrative perspectives—designed to help you better understand how to use and apply the insights found in these five genres.
Explore the Fundamentals of Rhetoric
From there, Analysis and Critique turns to a series of lectures that focus on the art of rhetoric (the foundation of argumentation) and the ways it can help you adapt your writing to a variety of different situations. And make the most of them.
Rhetorical ideas are so deeply woven into the fabric of Western culture that it’s easy to miss out on opportunities to maximize their benefits in your writing. Knowing this, Professor Armstrong not only explains them thoroughly but also shows you how to use them regularly and systematically to make your writing stronger and more persuasive. Some of the most applicable rhetorical concepts you explore in this part of the course include
- deductive reasoning, a form of reasoning that moves from the knowledge you already have to the knowledge that has yet to be discovered and articulated;
- commonplaces, which are well-known words and phrases that can easily communicate your theme or topic to your audience; and
- pathos, which works to inspire emotion in your readers (particularly feelings of sympathy).
The increased awareness of classical rhetoric you gain from these particular lectures will go a long way to helping you become a stronger writer by calling your attention to the basics of compelling analytical writing. You may never use terms like “commonplaces” and “pathos” in your actual writing—but understanding how they work will enhance the importance of what you write and the way you write it.
Get a Step-by-Step Guide to the Writing Process
What about the act of writing itself, which can often be daunting to the most seasoned writer? You can be drafting a work presentation, a cover letter for a job application, an editorial for your local newspaper, or a persuasive letter for a public official—in any case, knowing how to approach the act itself can reap many rewards.
The final section of Analysis and Critique is a fascinating, step-by-step guide through the writing process. With her keen eye for providing helpful strategies and using real-world examples, Professor Armstrong provides answers to frequently asked questions about each of writing’s four major stages:
- Researching: How do you determine what your research goals are? Where should you look for reliable sources of information? How do you narrow your research focus?
- Writing a First Draft: How long does a productive brainstorming session last? Why is it OK to write a deliberately bad first draft? What are good ways to conquer writer’s block?
- Editing: How long should you wait before you start editing your writing? How can you tell when you’ve used too many quotations? What grammatical errors should you watch out for?
- Rewriting: What makes a rewrite different from an edit? What specifics should you pay attention to in rewriting? How do you recast supporting points to better fit your argument?
Writing Made Effective—and Fun
As a university professor with years of experience, the instructor of a general education writing course at Purdue University, and a distinguished editor, Professor Armstrong spends nearly every day in the company of writing—both good and bad. She knows which techniques work and which do not. She knows the common pitfalls, concerns, and fears that most writers have. And she knows just how important effective writing skills are in expressing yourself successfully to others.
But even more important than her experience working with writers and her knowledge of the craft is the way Professor Armstrong makes writing feel like a fun process of self-discovery. Her lectures are always engaging, always accessible, and always filled with information and takeaways that you can use any time you need to write.
So tap into the power of effective writing with Analysis and Critique, and learn what it’s like to have a masterful and supportive instructor standing right by your side as you learn the ways to write about practically anything.
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