Writing About Writing: A College Reader, 3rd ed

edited by Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs

(Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017)


  • Publisher’s Representative is Jackson Tucker (Jackson.tucker@macmillan.com)
  • New print copies on Amazon for $68.39
  • Used print copies on Amazon starting at $29.98
  • E-book on Amazon for $51.67


The book has a soft, but durable cover, and high-quality pages with a smooth finish. It weighs 2.8 pounds and contains about 1,000 pages (including front- and back-matter). After Chapter 1, which introduces the idea of threshold concepts in relation to writing studies and practice, the book comprises four collections of essays focused on the topics of Literacy, Individuals and Community, Rhetoric, and Process. Each chapter contains a “First-Year Student Text” and ends with an example of a writing assignment related to the respective topic.


  • Chapter 1 – Threshold Concepts: Why Do Your Ideas About Writing Matter?
    • Introduction to the Conversation
    • Threshold Concepts of Writing
    • Threshold Concepts That Assist Academic Reading and Writing
    • A Different Kind of Research, Argument, and Reading
    • Using This Book
    • Writing About Threshold Concepts (Assignment)
  • Chapter 2 – Literacies: How Is Writing Impacted By Our Prior Experiences?
    • Essays by Deborah Brandt, Sandra Cisneros, Malcolm X, Victor Villanueva, Arturo Tejada et al., Vershawn Ashanti Young, Barbara Mellix, Liane Robertson et al., Nancy Sommers, Donald M. Murray, and Jeff Grabill et al
    • Writing About Literacies (Assignment)
  • Chapter 3 – Individual in Community: How Does Writing Help People Get Things Done?
    • Essays by James Paul Gee, Tony Mirabelli, Ann M. Johns, Perri Klass, Lucille P. McCarthy, Sean Branick, Donna Kain, Elizabeth Wardle, and Victoria Marro
    • Writing About Individuals in Community (Assignment)
  • Chapter 4 – Rhetoric: How Is Meaning Constructed In Context?
    • Essays by Doug Downs, Keith Grant-Davie, Jim Ridolfo and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss, James E. Porter, Christina Haas and Linda Flower, Margaret Kantz, Jim W. Corder, Annalise Sigona, Dennis Baron, Natasha N. Jones and Stephanie K. Wheeler, and Komysha Hassan
    • Writing About Rhetoric (Assignment)
  • Chapter 5 – Processes: How Are Texts Composed?
    • Essays by Stacey Pigg, Sondra Perl, Alcir Santos Neto, Mike Rose, Joseph M. Williams, Michael Rodgers, Carol Berkenkotter and Donald M. Murray, Anne Lamott, and Nancy Sommers
    • Writing About Processes (Assignment)
  • Glossary
  • Instructor’s Manual (with sample syllabi)


  • Designed to Be Taught
    • The book seems constructed for the explicit purpose of providing students and teachers with content for studying and practicing writing. The first chapter is written for an undergraduate audience and designed to introduce them to the frameworks for studying writing in general, but threshold concepts in particular. Every section of the book is foregrounded with paratextual markers that instruct the students on how to read what they’re about to read. Moreover, each essay ends with discussion questions for students, and each chapter ends with an example of a writing assignment based on the content of the chapter. Potentially difficult words are bolded and matched to a glossary in the back. And teachers who find the book compelling will be happy to find ready-made syllabi in the “Instructor’s Manual” at the back.
  • Essay Collections
    • The way chapters two through five are constructed—collections of essays based on a given topic—affords teachers the opportunity to pull specific essays for reading based on the idiosyncratic needs of their students. Each collection, in some ways, offers a “menu” of possible entrance points for a particular scholarly conversation.
  • Student Writing
    • The inclusion of student essays is paramount to this book’s strength, as it provides students with realistic models for scholarly work. Simply knowing that other people in their (relative) shoes produced the work they’re reading might empower them to hold themselves to those examples.


  • Overwhelming
    • As a potential handbook for a first-year composition course, this book simply has too much material to justify its inclusion as a required text. While the ambition of the text, as a kind of “writing about writing” archive, is admirable and wonderfully useful to instructors and researchers, I don’t think it’s practical or fair to ask students to purchase copies for E110.