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About SPoW

The letter of specialization in The Study and Practice of Writing (SPoW)* helps students to develop a stronger theoretical and practical understanding of writing. SPoW focuses on "everyday" forms of writing: the writing that people do in school, in the workplace, as political expression, and online.

Beginning in fall '24: English majors, primary or secondary, seeking a credential in this area should declare a Concentration in Writing, Rhetoric, and Literacy Studies (WRLS). *Also beginning in fall '24, the name of the Study and Practice of Writing specialization will be changing to Writing, Rhetoric, and Literacy Studies (WRLS).

New Requirements (5 courses) 

The following new requirements apply to students beginning SPoW/WRLS in fall '23 or after. Students who began SPoW prior to fall '23 may choose to follow either the old or the new requirements. All students must complete a minimum of 5 courses, as outlined below, with a minimum grade of a C. 

  • English 250: Introduction to Writing, Rhetoric, and Literacy Studies
  • One Public or Professional Writing course (A or B)
  • One Writing Theory or Teaching of Writing course (C)
  • 2 electives, numbered 200+, from any category below (D)

**Students are strongly encouraged to pursue at least one course with technology designation.
Students are encouraged to complete at least one relevant credited internship or practicum.


SPoW Courses

Courses with a writing technologies designation are marked with double-asterisks [**], or by approval of a SPoW advisor

Contact information

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 
  • Donna LeCourt, W347 South College, (413) 545-6597, @email (on sabbatical, spring '23)
  • David Toomey, E459 South College, (413) 545-5519, @email


Julia Dickman
Julia Dickman (BA 2022)

"SPoW has given me the opportunity to get involved in UMass’s English Department from outside the major. It’s been a great way for me to access a wide array of writing experiences (professional, theoretical) that are relevant to my career goals."

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Tess Halpern
Tess Halpern (BA 2019)

"I just knew that I loved to write and wanted to keep practicing and pushing myself as a writer. ... The classes I’ve taken for SPoW are some of the best English classes I’ve taken, and they have definitely given me the most marketable skills."

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Tim Conklin
Tim Conklin (BA 2016)

"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."

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Madison Taylor
Madison Taylor (BA 2016)

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.

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. 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.

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