Help me design a course on writing
August 22, 2006 5:12 AM Subscribe
This September I'll be teaching a workshop on writing skills at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Help me design and choose some great readings for the course!
posted by josh to writing & language (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Students at KSG are in one of two programs: Masters in Public Policy or Masters in Public Administration. I've been working with them for the past year one-on-one, and they have a variety of writing tasks to perform: they write, for example, op-eds, memos, emails, academic papers, policy analysis documents, and synthetic summaries of extant research. All of them are very smart and very motivated. Every week they are reading The Economist, the WSJ, the NYT, Foreign Affairs, and so on. A lot of them are former consultants or have previously worked in a business environment.
The workshop will meet every week for about 75 minutes. I'm anticipating that different students will come on different weeks, although some students may be coming every week. I'm envisioning something like this:
- 1-30: Presentation on a particular writing strategy or challenge;
- 30-60: Workshopping of one or two pieces of student work;
- 60-75: Q&A about grammar and style.
Ideally, I'd like to present the students with some examples of really great and really bad writing from the world of news, politics, and public policy. I’ll be focusing on what I’ve perceived as weak points in the typical student’s writing arsenal. For example, I’ll be presenting on:
- common logical fallacies and failures of argument (e.g., the genetic fallacy);
- avoiding mixed metaphors, and using metaphor and simile effectively;
- dialectical argument;
- organization in memos, op-eds, and academic papers;
- using humor;
- using storytelling;
- using statistics;
- writing for oral presentation vs. writing for reading.
So, that’s the course so far! What I’m looking for are great (or horrendous) readings that relate to this kind of writing (either reading about writing, or examples of great writing). What are some truly great op-eds, for example, that you’ve admired? What are some sources for consistently shoddy writing? I’m also really interested in your personal experience with this kind of writing. What’s made you a better writer? What are some important problems or strategies that you use as a writer? As I’m just organizing the course now, I’m interested in hearing about everything. The more the better.