Office: 335 New North

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David Lipscomb

WRIT 015, section 11

Class location: Writing Center, 217a Lau

Office: 335 New North

Office hrs: Tue, 11am-1pm and by appt.

Phone: 862-252-0781


Joining the Conversation

Spring 2016

This writing course will enable you to enter ongoing discussions with academic, non-profit, and general public audiences. You’ll learn how to summarize complex arguments and ideas so you can respond to them with your own arguments and ideas. We’ll study ways to listen to, empathize with, and respond to the needs and quirks of specific communities of readers. We’ll ask how -- even as our increasingly digital world changes the ways we read -- do we write with others and for others. By the end of the course, you will identify the writing habits, strategies, and tricks that work best for you. We will read great fiction (such as Joyce's Dubliners) and award-winning nonfiction to learn the power of voice, storytelling, and vivid nouns and verbs; and we will write and then respond to each other's writing. 
Course Goals:

You will learn to:

  • Read critically, paying attention to a text’s context, purpose, and audience(s)

  • Analyze audiences and the responses you hope your writing prompts

  • Write clear and compelling prose

  • Adapt your writing for specific audiences, genres, styles, and technologies

  • Tap language’s many resources, including its figurative power and its conventions (grammar, punctuation, syntax, and semantics)

  • Edit to ensure your reader will find your writing clear, coherent, correct and compelling

  • Research, evaluate, and synthesize evidence to build effective analyses and arguments 


The principal text in the course will be your own writing. Drafts are required, but not graded. I will not accept final papers that were not posted in draft form according to our schedule. These required texts are available at the Georgetown University Book Store:

  • Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say, I Say: Moves that Matter in Academic Writing

  • James Joyce, Dubliners, Viking Critical Edition

  • Joseph Williams, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace

I will make other assigned readings available on our class site:


  • Three essays (55% total):

    • Op-ed (15%)

    • Literary analysis of Joyce’s Dubliners (20%)

    • Web content for the Red Cross or Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (20%)

  • Final portfolio (20%), which will consist of revised versions of your three essays along with your own writing tool and a short introduction to your portfolio.

  • Your blog (15%): your posts and your responses to others’ blogs. When Daniel or I assign a blog post, please make sure to post by 6pm the night before class – so that Daniel and I, as well as you classmates, can read your post and comment.

  • Class participation (10%): attendance is required. Two late arrivals (of five minutes or more) count as an absence. If you have more than three (3) absences your grade will suffer. If you have more than five (5) absences you will fail the course.

The analytic work and editing your students did for us last fall transformed our Online Donation Processing Guide.  Their work was reviewed at high levels at the Red Cross, and everyone was impressed and grateful.  What’s more, we reworked the Online Guide based on their recommendations.  Please let your students know they really made a difference in an organization that prides itself on making a difference for people in need."

-Director, Donor Customer Service at American Red Cross

Honor System

I expect you to follow the GU Honor System:

Graduate Writing Assistant: We are lucky to have a talented and experienced graduate student, Daniel Atherton, to help us in this class. Daniel will periodically attend class, comment on your blogs and essays, run his own office hours before essays are due, and occasionally lead class. Think of Daniel as another teacher in this class, only a lot younger and more culturally savvy.
Writing Center: In this class, I’m hoping you will approach writing as a process, one that is social, not solitary. A great way to make writing social is to visit the Writing Center (217a Lauinger) and talk with one of the Center’s trained tutors.  While you will always be solely responsible for the writing you submit and the Center’s tutors won’t do your work for you, tutors can talk you through any stage of your writing process, from brainstorming a thesis and organizing your thoughts to revising, editing and proofreading. To set up an appointment, visit

Tentative Schedule

(This will likely change, so see our class blog for the most current info:

Th 1/14

Introduction: the syllabus, the class blog, and your blog

Tu 1/19

Read Graff and Birkenstein, “They Say, I Say,” Intro and ch 1-3 (pp. 1-51)

Th 1/21

Read the op-eds on torture (Sullivan and Krauthammer, available on our class blog). On your own blog, summarize Sullivan or Krauthammer (200 words) following the advice of Graff and Birkenstein.

Th 1/26

Read Graff and Birkenstein Part 2: “I Say”: ch 4-7 (pp. 55-101) and read the op-eds published by students (on class blog). On your blog, tell us (roughly 200 words) which student(s) did the best job of answering the reader’s question, “Why should we care?”

Tu 1/28

Identify your op-ed topic and your target publication. On your blog, tell us about your topic, your current opinion on the topic, and where you aim to publish it (roughly 300 words). Read your classmates’ blog posts on their planned op-eds. Comment on at least five posts.

Tu 2/2

Post a draft of your op-ed on your blog (as a blog post, not as an attachment) by class time on Thursday, 9/18. Read the material on peer review (class blog)

Th 2/4

Essay # 1: Before class, post your op-ed on your blog as a downloadable attachment.

Tu 2/9

Read Joyce’s Dubliners: “Araby,” “A Painful Case” and “A Mother.” On your blog, post at least one passage that surprised you, something that made you say, “That’s odd” or “I wonder why Joyce used those words?”

Th 2/11

Read Joyce’s Dubliners: “Eveline, “A Little Cloud,” and “Counterparts.” Blog assignment to be announced on class blog.

Tu 2/16

Read Joyce’s Dubliners: “The Dead.” On your blog, post at least one passage that surprised you, something that made you say, “That’s odd” or “I wonder why Joyce used those words?”

Th 2/18

In your Viking Critical edition of Dubliners, read the essays by Scholes, Miller, Burke, Loomis. Free blog day.

Tu 2/23

Read the essays by previous students (Our class blog). On your own blog briefly summarize a point made in one of the essays we read, and then state your opinion on the same issue. In other words, do a “They Say, I Say” move.

Th 2/25

Post a draft of your Joyce paper due on your blog (as an attachment). Please bring a hard copy of your Joyce draft to class on Thursday. We will workshop the drafts in class.

Tu 3/1

Revise your essay as you see fit and repost it. Read your classmates’ drafts. Post comments on at least five drafts. Please bring a hard copy of your Joyce draft to class on Friday. We will workshop the essays in class.

Th 3/3

Essay # 2: Before class, post your Joyce essay on your blog as a downloadable attachment

Tu 3/15

Joseph Williams, Style. Lessons 3-6 (Actions, Characters, Cohesion and Coherence, and Emphasis)

Th 3/17

Joseph Williams, Style. Lessons 7-12 (Motivation, Global Coherence, Concision, Shape, Elegance and Ethics)

Tu 3/22

Read Jakob Nielsen “How People Read on the Web” (1-122, 158-192 and 306-345)

Tu 3/29

Following Jakob Nielsen’s web writing guidelines, create a webpage that teaches college students what you think is the most useful element (or are the most useful elements) from Williams’ Style. Assume your college student readers have not read Williams and have not been assigned to read your page (in other words, they don’t have to read this).  So be selective, not comprehensive — and think about how you are going to engage and move this audience.

You may create your page as a Word file (or any other readable file format) and attach it to a blog post, or you may create a “page” on your own blog (a short cut is to edit the “sample page” that was initially included on your blog).  You can answer every other question you might have about format by thinking about your audience and your job.  As to the question of length, for example, think about how long you could hold the attention of a typical college student when giving advice about style.

Th 3/31

Read “Troublesome Gulch” by Matt Bai (handout); this is the first chapter in Matt Bai’s book All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid.  Then read the adaptation of the book published in The New York Times Sunday Magazine“How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics.”

The NYT piece draws from many parts of Matt Bai’s book, not just the chapter you’re reading.  In fact, from the book’s 80K words, the NYT editors identified passages totaling about 18K words that they wanted to excerpt. Then they challenged him to weave those 18K words into a coherent magazine piece totaling roughly 8K words.  No easy task.  So look through the NYT Magazine piece for echoes from the book’s first chapter.  Then:

Post on your blog your thoughts/reflections/questions about how Matt Bai adapted the portions from the book’s first chapter that made their way into the NYT piece.  What do you notice about how he re-arranged the order, how he reworded passages, what he deleted, and any other changes he made? At the end of your blog post, write one question that you would like to ask Matt.

Tu 4/5


  • Suzanne Cooper, VP, American Red Cross

Th 4/7

  • Marybeth McMahon, VP of Communications, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, will visit class.


  • Suzanne Cooper, VP, American Red Cross

Tu 4/12

Post draft of the Proposal section of your CFF or Red Cross project; in-class workshop

Th 4/14

Post draft of the “Sample content” of your CFF or Red Cross project; in-class workshop

Tu 4/19

Essay # 3: Post your CFF or Red Cross project before class.

Th 4/21

Post a revised version of one of your essays to your blog as an attachment. Bring a hard copy of this revised version to class on Thursday, where we will workshop it.

Tu 4/26

Post a revised version of another one of your essays to your blog as an attachment (a different assignment than the one you posted for Thursday). Bring a hard copy of this revised version to class on Friday, where we will workshop it.

Th 4/28

Draft your own one-page writing tool. Post it to your blog so you can present it and explain it.

Exam period

Final Portfolios submitted on your blog.

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