The Penn State Program in Writing and Rhetoric has a long history of high-quality writing instruction and teacher preparation. Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the program has demonstrated a commitment to understanding composition as a rhetorical art—one that can be taught and practiced in many ways, but always best with attention to foundational rhetorical concepts.

A Rhetorically-Based Approach

The program’s rhetorically-based approach has allowed it to respond creatively to changing rhetorical situations for learning and teaching. The program has, over the years, confirmed its commitment to process-oriented pedagogy by supporting the entire Penn State community with one-on-one undergraduate tutoring and by pioneering graduate writing consultation with the Penn State Graduate Writing Center.

Two-Part Writing Sequence

A central part of Penn State education, the Program in Writing and Rhetoric reaches every student—without exception—through its two-part writing sequence. The first portion of the sequence focuses on Rhetoric and Composition and prepares students for college-level writing; the second portion of the sequence allows students to choose from one of five advanced Rhetoric and Writing electives, each with a unique disciplinary focus (202A: Writing in the Social Sciences, 202B: Writing in the Humanities, 202C: Technical Writing, 202D: Business Writing, and 202H: Honors Writing in the Humanities).

As a result, every Penn State student receives grounding in rhetorical principles that they can leverage as producers and consumers of writing in their personal, professional, and civic lives.

Meaningful Digital Composition Strategies

A more recent focus on digitally enhanced practices for teaching writing has resulted in instructors who teach in technology-enhanced classrooms and who meaningfully integrate digital composition and teaching strategies into their teaching portfolios. The program also supports a variety of interdisciplinary efforts, especially the cross-listed, sequenced Rhetoric and Civic Life course (137H/138H), which allows students in the College of Liberal Arts and in the Schreyer Honors College to cultivate an appreciation for communication as a written and spoken art that takes on special public significance in the digital age.

PWR Instructors

At the heart of the Penn State composition program is a dedicated, tenure-track faculty who represent some of the most prominent scholars and professional leaders in Rhetoric and Composition studies. The program in composition is organized to best tap the varied perspectives and experiences of this faculty, several of whom have authored respected textbooks and other professional pedagogical materials, while enabling vigorous and supportive teacher preparation for a large department of graduate students and lecturers.

Careful and ongoing teacher support has long been the preferred method for ensuring programmatic success and, in turn, successful students. For these reasons, the Rhetoric and Writing Program plays an integral role for the Department of English, the College of Liberal Arts, and the entire Pennsylvania State University.

See English Department People Profiles: Tenure-Line Faculty, Lecturer Faculty and Graduate Students.  See also PWR Administrators.


The PWR sponsors an annual state-wide high school essay contest. Students are presented with a writing prompt that asks them to read a recent news article and write an argumentative essay—recent prompt topics have been about student protests, social media, and technology in the classroom. After the essays are submitted, a committee of writing teachers and administrators in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Penn State choose a collection of winning essays, the authors of which are honored at a luncheon each spring. The top essay’s authors also receive a cash prize.

Penn Statements

Every year, first-year writers are able to see their work published in Penn Statements, a collection of student writing used in every first-year writing course. Compiled and edited by the Program Assistants, Penn Statements seeks to provide examples of how other students have responded to first year writing assignments that enliven classroom discussion, prompt reflective journaling, and enrich instructors’ assignment preparation.

Submit your essays for publication here.

Rhetoric and Technical Writing Minors

Rhetoric Minor

This minor provides students an opportunity to acquire special competence in the history, theory, and criticism of civic discourse and cultural practices. It combines courses from both the Department of English and the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, from which students may learn about the nature and function of rhetoric in politics, the professions, the classroom, and the media.

Required: ENGL 471 Rhetorical Traditions. Other ENGL courses that count toward this minor include 415 Advanced Nonfiction Writing, 416 Science Writing, 417 The Editorial Process, 420 Writing for the Web, 472 Current Theories of Writing and Reading, 473 Rhetorical Approaches to Discourse, and 474 Issues in Rhetoric and Composition.

Please go to the following website for more information:

Technical Writing Minor

This minor responds to the growing need in business, industry, and government for people who can communicate the results of technical work at a level of competence substantially above that usually found in beginning professionals.

Required: ENGL 418 Advanced Technical Writing and Editing. Other ENGL courses that count toward this minor include 415 Advanced Nonfiction Writing, 416 Science Writing, 417 The Editorial Process, 421 Advanced Expository Writing, 470 Rhetorical Theory and Practice, 471 Rhetorical Traditions, 472 Current Theories of Writing and Reading, 473 Rhetorical Approaches to Discourse, 474 Issues in Rhetoric and Composition, 495.

Please go to Room 434 Burrowes Building for additional information.

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