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How Writing Works

A Guide to Composing Genres, With Readings

Second Edition

Author Jordynn Jack and Katie Rose Guest Pryal

Publication Date - 21 March 2022

ISBN: 9780197619216

592 pages

Helps students learn the transferable skills that they'll need to tackle any writing situation that they encounter--at school, at work, in their communities, or at home


College students are expected to master new genres in every course they take. Yet composition instructors can't possibly teach students every genre they will need for their college courses or careers. Instead of telling students how to write a genre, authors Jack and Pryal help students learn how a genre works using a genre toolkit that asks three questions: "What is it?" "Who reads it?" and "What's it for?" By taking this problem-solving approach to writing, How Writing Works: With Readings prepares students for any writing situation that they may encounter at school, home, or work.

New to this Edition

  • Each element of the Genre Toolkit now has its own chapter in Part 1
  • Contains fewer project chapters to include the greatest hits. Each project chapter has been reduced from four genres to three coordinated examples that lead up to a chapter project.
  • A simplified design provides a more open appearance, with shorter paragraphs, more headings, and more visual content to break up the writing
  • Each chapter now includes learning objectives in the introduction and a recap of those objectives in the conclusion, providing students a clear idea of what they will be learning
  • Includes even more voices from a wide range of writers
  • More examples of exercises, sample readings, and advice on collaborative writing and multimedia composition


  • The Genre Toolkit helps students identify a genre's structure, audience, and purpose
  • Integrated Assignments show students how to construct a series of small assignments that lead up to a major chapter project
  • Individual, Team, and Multimedia Projects draw from a variety of popular, professional, and academic examples to address rhetorical challenges of visual, written, and oral communication

About the Author(s)

Jordynn Jack, Ph.D., is Chi Omega Distinguished Term Professor in English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Katie Rose Guest Pryal, J.D., Ph.D., is a writer and keynote speaker, an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an Instructor in the Creative Writing Program at Drexel University.


"How Writing Works shows the process of writing through a variety of tools, projects, and sample readings. The idea of a toolkit is a powerful visual metaphor that helps students better understand the process of writing."--Paul Patterson, lSaint Joseph's University

"The variety of genres is the strongest feature of How Writing Works as it allows me significant space to adapt my course writing to specific cohorts and within thematic spaces. Another strength is the variety of exercises and projects that incorporate digital writing and multi-media components. The prompts open productive discussions and brainstorming sessions with students."--Corey Dosch, lSouth Puget Sound Community College

"How Writing Works is a timely and relevant text with an excellent breadth of examples. It is well-designed, focuses on beginning composition students' exploration of the writing process, and supports the writing instructor with excellent resources. I like the variety and flexibility it offers to the instructor."--Michael Johnson, Muskegon Community College

Table of Contents

    List of Genres

    Part 1: The Genre Toolkit

    1. What is it?
    What Is a Genre?
    Amy Tan, "Mother Tongue"
    Foxxy, "The Way of a Cherokee"
    Finding Samples of a Genre
    Chapter Project: Find a Target Publication

    2. Who Reads It?
    Analyze Your Audience
    Maisha, "Two Worlds, One Great Nation"
    Use Rhetorical Appeals
    Use the Genre Toolkit
    Megan Swartzfager, "We All Have Headaches, Sweetie"
    Chapter Project: Audience Analysis of Target Publication

    3. What's It For?
    Identifying a Genre's Purposes
    Claire Zhang, "Amy Tan Phase" (excerpt)
    Identify Purpose
    The Rhetorical Situation and Kairos What is Your Role?
    Chapter Project: Write a Personal Essay

    Part 2: Projects

    4. Profiles
    Profile Mini-Genre: Social Network Profile
    About Me/About Us Page
    Profile Article
    Shirley Hancock, "Oregon Ballet Theatre's Lucas Threefoot: Oregon Ballet Theatre's New Soloist Finds Comfort in Changing Roles"
    Jamie Shroeder, "Goals for Life"
    Gwendalyn Flick, "Time to Bite the Bullet (Journal)"
    How to Write a Profile Article
    Sarah Creek, "Profile of an Engineering Professor: Dr. Grace Yang"
    Chapter Project: Write a Profile Article

    5. Analyses
    Analysis Mini-Genre: Keyword Analysis
    Literary Analysis
    Hillary Muller, "The Mother Country: Feminizing the Land as Propaganda in Dryden's Annus Mirabilis"
    Ellen Chapman, "Women's Roles in Elizabeth Cary's The Tragedy of Mariam"
    Mark Washington, "Household Battles in 1616 as Shown in Anne Clifford's Diary
    Rhetorical Analysis
    Cody M. Poplin, "Rhetorical Strategies and Effectiveness in the Declaration of Independence"
    Kelly Simpson, "Kairos, Violence, and The Hunger Games"
    Carlos Fernandez-Smith, "Appraising The Help: Ethos and Logos in Critical Accounts"
    How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis
    Association of Black Women Historians, "An Open Statement to the Fans of the Help" (excerpt)
    Chapter Project: Write a Rhetorical Analysis

    6. Reviews
    Review Mini-Genre: Online Product Review
    Petra V., "So-so coffee, grinder stops working!"
    Keno, "Does what it does, well."
    jojo23, "This is a great eReader for indoors and out!"
    Film, Art, or Performance Review
    Sapna P. Singh, "Ackland's Kaleidoscope of Many Colors"
    Katie Fennelly, "Of Montreal's New Album: A Mix of Weird Sounds and Intrigue"
    Nathan Cook, "Film Review: "Epic" "Sweater Pillow Tutorial"
    Book Review
    Antoinette Scully, "A Butler-Sized Book Hangover"
    Risa Applegarth, "Review of The Changeover by Margaret Mahy"
    Adriana Lorenzini, "Gertruda's Oath by Ram Oren and Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye: A Book Review Essay"
    Strategies for Reviews
    Chapter Project: Write a Book Review

    7. Argumentative Genres
    Argumentative Mini-Genre: Print Advertisement
    Pia DiGiulio, "Uncontrolled Study Orgies Break Out in Gender-Neutral Dorm"
    Henry Block, "The Nation Must Prioritize The Opening of Indoor Trampoline Parks by The Kid You Babysit"
    The Onion, "Professor Deeply Hurt by Student's Evaluation"
    Column, Op-Ed, or Letter to the Editor
    Persephone Yang, "Barring felons from voting sounds tough on crime, but it's quietly destroying American communities
    Rini Sampath, "Insults Against Disabled People Must Be Eradicated"
    Maya Rosenberg, "UMD Followed Protocol Before Olivia Paregol's Death - But That Isn't Enough"
    Strategies for Argumentative Genres
    Chapter Project: Write an Op-Ed

    8. Academic Research Genres
    Analysis Mini-Genre: Keyword Analysis
    M. Navarrete, G. Perea, D. Fernandez de Sevilla, M. Gómez-Gonzalo, A. Núñez, et al., "Astrocytes Mediate In Vivo Cholinergic-Induced Synaptic Plasticity,"
    Mike Duncan, "Polemical Ambiguity and the Composite Audience: Bush's 20 September 2001 Speech to Congress and the Epistle of 1 John"
    Jessica Ross, "Closing Guantanamo Bay: The Future of Detainees"
    Annotated Bibliography
    Chris Clayman, "Annotated Bibliography"
    Lisa Garmire, "Resisting the Apocalypse: Telling Time in American Novels about AIDS, 1982-1992"
    Darnell L. Moore, "A Ferguson Syllabus: Reading a Movement"
    Research Articles
    Kristine Thompson, "Wait, You Stormed Franklin Street? The Social and Psychological Motivations of UNC Sports Fans"
    Rick Ingram, "Gender Discrimination and the Movement towards Equality in the Workforce"
    Penelope Edwards, "Purity and Corruption: Reading Harriet Jacobs through the Lens of the Bathsheba Tale"
    Strategies for Academic Research Genres
    Chapter Project: Write a Research Genre

    9. Workplace Genres
    Workplace Mini-Genre: Company Slogan
    Professional Correspondence
    Jessica Wang, "Cover Letter for a Student Job Application"
    Joe Smith, "Thank-you Letter to a Professor"
    Chapter Project: Write a Resume

    Part 3: Writing Process

    10. Creating Your Writing Process

    Defining Writing as a Process
    Concretize Your Tasks
    Commit to a Plan

    11. Developing a Topic
    Genre Toolkit: What Are You Writing?
    Browse for Topics
    Confirm Topics with Initial Research
    Narrow a Topic

    12. Prewriting
    Collaborative Prewriting
    Concept Mapping

    13. Drafting
    Try Out Different Drafting Strategies
    Find Tools that Work for You
    Writing Collaboratively

    14. Generating Arguments
    What Is an Argument?
    Understanding the Issue
    Develop a Claim
    Organize Reasons and Evidence
    Address Counter-Arguments

    15. Organizing
    Discovering Organization through Genre
    Outlining Before Writing
    Using Outlines as You Draft
    Organizing Paragraphs
    Ordering Sections or Topics
    Writing Conclusions

    16. Developing Style
    Matching Style to Genre, Audience, and Purpose
    Choosing a Persona and Tone
    Use Inclusive Language
    Using Disciplinary Terminology
    Choosing a Level of Formality
    Using Rhetorical Figures

    17. Revising and Editing
    Revising Your Writing
    Editing and Proofreading
    Participating in Peer Review

    Part 4: Research

    18. Getting Started with Research
    Considering Your Genre
    Finding a Good Research Topic
    Identifying a Gap
    Developing a Research Question
    Develop a Research Plan

    19. Conducting Database Research
    Keeping Track of Your Findings
    Conducting Database Research
    Sort Through Your Findings
    Reading Secondary Sources

    20. Conducting Empirical Research
    Experimental and Observational Research
    Qualitative and Quantitative Research
    Kristine Thompson, "The Social and Psychological Motivations of UNC Sports Fans"
    Archival Research
    Empirical Research in the Humanities

    21. Avoiding Plagiarism
    What Is Plagiarism?
    Types of Plagiarism
    Keeping Track of Sources

    22. Integrating Sources
    Introducing Sources in the Text
    Ray M. Marin and Jirí Vanícek, "Optimal Use of Conservation and Accessibility Filters in MicroRNA Target Prediction"
    Shulman, J. L., Gotta, G., & Green, R., "Will Marriage Matter? Effects of Marriage Anticipated by Same-Sex Couples
    Conveying the Ideas of Others: Summary, Paraphrase, and Quotation

    23. Citing Sources
    Knowing When to Cite
    Discovering Citation Styles: MLA and APA
    Discovering Citation Guides for Other Styles
    MLA Citation Guide
    Formatting a Paper in MLA Style
    Jay Zhang, "McDonald's: A Limited Response to Increased Health Consciousness"
    APA Citation Guide
    Formatting a Paper in APA Style
    Anne Feng, "The Monsters We Create: Vaccine Hesitancy, Anti-Smoking Campaigns, and Responsibility in Rhetoric

    Part 5: Making It Public

    24. Designing Your Project . Choosing Visual Elements, Layout, and Design
    Consider Your Genre
    Matching Design to Audience, Purpose, and Situation
    Developing an Effective Layout
    Practicing Inclusive Design
    Understanding Types of Visual Elements
    Incorporating Visual Elements
    Using Electronic Tools

    25. Presenting and Publishing Your Work
    Delivering Oral Presentations
    Developing Multimedia Presentations
    Creating a Portfolio
    Submitting Your Work for Publication
    Self-Publishing Your Work


    S1. How Verbs Work
    What Is a Verb?
    Common Problems

    S2. How Nouns and Pronouns Work
    What Is a Noun?
    What Is a Pronoun?
    Common Problems

    S3. How Modifiers Work
    What Is a Modifier?
    Common Problems

    S4. How Sentences Work
    What Is a Sentence?
    Common Problems

    S5. How Punctuation Works
    What Is Punctuation?
    Common Problems

    S6. How Clarity Works
    What Is Clarity? ?
    Common Problems


    R1. Reading Personal Essays

    Juan Garcia. "Spring Broken." [Topic: College Life]
    Madeline Riskin-Kutz, "Ring"
    Maya Ghazal, "Going the Distance"
    Jonathan Corcoran, "Do I Have to Choose Between a Good Life and Good Teeth?"
    Tamara Winfrey Harris, "Nappy Love" [Topic: Gender, Race, & Culture]

    R2. Reading Profiles
    Kayla Montgomery, "The Elephant in the Trunk" [Profile Article. Topic: College Life]
    Linda Wasmer Andrews, "Adoptive Mothers Share Stories" [Profile Article. Topic: Modern Families]
    WBALTV Baltimore, "Illegal Immigrant Becomes World-Renowned Brain Surgeon" [Profile Article. Topic: Immigration]
    Dr. Dale, "Okorodudu" [Profile Article. Topic: Health and Wellness]
    Julie Slaymaker, "Door Opener" [Profile Article. Topic: Gender, Race, & Culture]

    R3. Reading Analyses
    Anonymous, "Truth vs. Conventionality: An Exploration of Women's Agency in Jane Eyre" [Literary Analysis. Topic: College Life]
    Christina M. LaVecchia, "Of Peerenting, Trophy Wives, and Effeminate Men: Modern Family's Surprisingly Conservative Remediation of the Family Sitcom Genre" (excerpt) [Rhetorical Analysis. Topic: Modern Families]
    Debarati Bandyopadhyay. "Negotiating Borders of Culture: Jhumpa Lahiri's Fiction" (excerpt) [Literary Analysis. Topic: Immigration]
    Sam Kantner, "Rhetoric in the Red Cross Website" [Rhetorical Analysis. Topic: Health and Wellness]
    Roy Peter Clark. "Why It Worked: A Rhetorical Analysis of Obama's Speech on Race" [Rhetorical Analysis. Topic: Gender, Race, & Culture]

    R4. Reading Reviews
    Ian Flanagan, "Haze Screens at Pitt, Challenges Greek Rituals" [Film Review. Topic: College Life]
    Cleyvis Natera, "Voice Thundering: A Review of The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo" [Book Review. Topic: Modern Families]
    Karen Han, "Netflix's Tigertail Struggles to Balance the Past with the Present" [Book Review. Topic: Immigration]
    Andy Francis, "Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma" [Book Review. Topic: Health and Wellness]
    Sylvsz, "The Hate U Give" [Book review. Topic: Gender, Race, & Culture]

    R5. Reading Arguments
    Rui Dai. "Americanese: In Between the Gaps." [Op-Ed. Topic: College Life]
    Kelly Huston. "Did I Vote on Your Marriage?" [Photograph. Topic: Modern Families]
    Kristian Dougherty. "Aliens, Get Out!" [Satire. Topic: Immigration]
    Maggie Mulligan, "You Are Not Alone" [Opinion Piece. Topic: Health and Wellness]
    Aliyah White, "Breaking White Silence" [Opinion Piece. Topic: Gender, Race, & Culture]

    R6. Reading Academic Research Genres
    Han G. Tran, "Undergraduates' Grade-Point Averages Are Dependent on their Number of Friends" [Conference Poster. Topic: College Life]
    Nicole Litvan, "The Loneliness of Digital Devices: Examining "Removed" (Photo Series) by Eric Pickersgill" [Research Article. Topic: Modern Families]
    Kristin Anderson. "Coming to America." [Annotated Bibliography. Topic: Immigration]
    Abraham Rudnick and Lara Hazelton, "An Annual Creative Writing Competition in Mental Health Humanities for Students in Canada: A Descriptive Report and Thematic Analysis" [Research article. Topic: Health and Wellness]
    Elaine Chun, "Reading Race beyond Black and White." [Research Article. Topic: Gender, Race, & Culture]

    R7. Reading Workplace Genres
    Anonymous. "Open Letter to Interim Dean Brown" [Topic: College Life]
    TigerMom. "An Open Letter to the Catholic League from An Adopted Child." [Business Letter. Topic: Modern Families]
    Catholic Bishops of Wisconsin. "Traveling Together in Hope." [Business Letter. Topic: Immigration]
    Western Wisconsin Health. "An Open Letter To Our Elected Officials And The Community." [Business Letter. Topic: Health and Wellness]
    Joseph Graves and Erich D. Jarvis. "An Open Letter: Scientists and Racial Justice." [Business Letter. Topic: Race, Gender, and Culture]

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