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The Study and Practice of Writing
The Study and Practice of Writing (SPOW) Specialization
You must complete a minimum of five courses, as outlined below, with a minimum grade of a C.
A. At least one (1) Public/Civic writing course
B. English 379: Introduction to Professional Writing
C. At least one (1) Theories of writing
D. At least two (2) Writing electives from the A, B, or C categories. An internship in writing or publishing may count toward one of these electives (requires approval), as well as English 491AC — Career Exploration for English Majors (highly recommended.)
Technology: At least one of the courses above must have a writing technology designation.
Who pursues a letter of specialization in SPOW?
The letter of specialization in SPOW can be a good fit for students who enjoy writing or who are planning to enter writing-intensive professions such as:
- writing for non-profits,
- publishing (commercial or academic),
- science or medical writing,
- legal writing,
- nonfiction writing,
- new media development,
- and others.
The specialization can also serve as preparation for graduate work in rhetoric and composition or for those who plan to teach writing.
How does SPOW differ from the Creative Writing Specialization?
SPOW coursework is not geared toward the production of fiction or poetry; students who want to focus on those types of writing should pursue the Creative Writing specialization. Students who want to develop a broad range of writing skills may choose to pursue both specializations.
What are the requirements for SPOW?
You must complete a minimum of 5 courses, following the distribution requirements below; with a minimum grade of C.
One of the five courses must have a technology designation, either marked with a double-asterisks below (**) or approved by a SPOW advisor.
What kinds of courses can I expect to take?
Course offerings vary from semester to semester; students pursuing this specialization are encouraged to choose courses that best match their interests and post-graduation goals. The courses listed below are examples only; they are included here to give you a feel for the kinds of courses that can be counted toward this specialization.
Substitutions: other 300- and 400-level courses -- including many offered in departments other than English or by the Four Colleges -- may be accepted as fulfilling requirements A, C, or D (below) with pre-approval from your SPOW advisor.
Technology requirement: At lest 1 of the 5 courses must have a "writing technologies" designation (marked below with a **), denoting a course that asks students to engage in significant/focused study of writing technologies. The technology requirement may be filled with a course from any category, as long as it has the technology designation or the approval of a specialization advisor.
Browse current course descriptions
A: Public/Civic writing (at least 1 course)
Courses in this category include, but are not limited to, writing for public audiences or writing as civic action.
- English 300 Junior Year Writing — Topic: Writing for Cyberpublics **
- English 352 Article Writing
- English 350 Expository Writing
- English 385 Creative Nonfiction
- English 391ML: Multilingualism and Literacy
- Englihs 391NM Narrative Medicine: How Writing Can Heal
- English 450 Advanced Expository Writing
- English 493G Writing in Cyberspace**
- English 497B Writing as Democratic Action: The Art of the Essay
B. Professional Writing (Engl 379 is required)
- English 379 Introduction to Professional Writing (required for all SPOW students; offered each fall semester) Orients students to the specialization and careers in writing. Introduces students to common genres of professional communication (e.g., grant proposals, memos, reports).
- English 298 Publishing and the Small Press**
- English 298H Honors Practicum: Teaching in the Writing Center
- English 391C Intro to Web Design** (offered every spring)
- English 391K/English 392H Professional Editing (offered infrequently)
- English 491R Writing & Teaching Writing
- English 493E Nonfiction Writing and Commercial Publishing
C: Theories of writing (at least 1 course)
Courses in this category introduce students to writing theories or critical perspectives on writing.
- English 300 Junior Year Writing — Topic: Race, Literacy and the American Dream
- English 300 Junior Year Writing — Topic: Historicizing Writing Technologies**
- English 301 History of the Book**
- English 329H Tutoring Writing: Theory & Practice
- Engl 388: Rhetoric, Writing, and Society
- English 391D Writing and Emerging Technologies**
- English 391ML: Multilingualism and Literacy
- English 397R Rhetoric, Writing, and Society
- English 419 Games Thinkers Play
- English 491 Gender and Writing
- English 491BB Origins of Reading
- English 491F Literacy Studies in the US
- English 491X History of the Book**
- English 494PI Prose and Cons
D: Writing Electives (2 courses)
- Electives may come from the categories (above).
- One of of the electives may be an internship in writing or publishing (with UMass Press, for example).
- English 491AC Working Yourself Up: Career Exploration for English Majors
- At least one course must have a writing technologies designation (marked with double-asterisks [**] above or approved by a SPOW advisor).
For more information or for approval of other courses that may be accepted for the requirements, contact one of the specialization advisors:
- Janine Solberg, E461 South College, email@example.com
- Donna LeCourt, W347 South College, (413) 545-6597, firstname.lastname@example.org
- David Toomey, E459 South College, (413) 545-5519, email@example.com
My SPOW coursework encouraged me to think and talk about writing critically, which gave me a lot of confidence as a writer in different contexts. I really enjoyed my classes in Tutoring Theory and Rhetoric because they gave me a broader understanding of the field of English studies, and pushed me to think about myself as a reader and a writer in a challenging way ... SPOW has also helped me in my other English courses because I was able to read the literature with a focus on the different rhetorical techniques and writing styles.
— Tim Conklin, UMass English major
I decided to pursue the SPOW specialization because I wanted to further my English degree beyond the traditional literature requirements. SPOW especially drew me because I want to pursue a career in publishing and felt that a focus on writing and rhetoric studies would be essential to my career goals.
What I was not expecting was to enjoy my SPOW coursework so much. I was able to take courses that introduced me to new and challenging ways of thinking about writing such as the Tutoring Theory and Practice courses (Engl 329H, 298H). I also was able to learn invaluable skills, such as how to write a professional grant proposal in English 379: Intro to Professional Writing, and gain some advanced software experience, such as Adobe InDesign in Topics in Digital Publishing, that will allow me to enter the business world of writing.
SPOW has been so helpful because without it I wouldn't have taken these courses and learned skills that will prove to be invaluable in the future.
— Madison Taylor, UMass English major