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The Study and Practice of Writing

The letter of specialization in The Study and Practice of Writing (SPoW) allows 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.  

Requirements (5 courses)

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. 

Note: If a course meets more than one lettered category (A, B, C, D), then you must choose one category and fulfill the other category with a separate course. 

SPoW Checklist (printer-friendly PDF)

Who pursues a letter of specialization in SPoW? 

The letter of specialization in SPoW is open to students from any major. It can be an especially good fit for students who enjoy writing or plan to to enter a writing-intensive profession, such as:

  • writing for non-profits,
  • publishing (commercial or academic),
  • content strategy (planning and creating content for the web)
  • editing
  • 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 or the PWTC certificate? 

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 wish to develop marketable skills or pursue a particular career path may wish to speak with a SPoW/PWTC advisor to discuss fit. Students who want to develop a broad range of writing skills may choose to pursue more than one specializations (SPoW, CW, PWTC). 

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. 

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 least 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  /  SPoW offerings for Spring 2021 / SPoW offerings for Fall 2021

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 300: Junior Year Writing  Topic: Gender and Writing
  • English 300: Junior Year Writing  Topic: Writing Human Rights
  • English 352: Article Writing
  • English 350: Expository Writing
  • English 350H: Expository Writing Honors
  • English 385: Creative Nonfiction
  • English 386: Studies in Writing & Culture
  • English 391ML: Multilingualism and Literacy 
  • English 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 380: Intermediate Technical Writing 
  • English 381: Advanced Technical and Professional Writing
  • 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 rhetorical theory, writing studies, or critical perspectives on writing/literacy.
Does not include literary criticism or literary theory. 

  • English 300: Junior Year Writing — Topic: Race, Literacy and the American Dream
  • English 300: Junior Year Writing  Topic: Historicizing Writing Technologies**
  • English 300: Junior Year Writing  Topic: Writing Human Rights
  • English 300: Picture This: Lives in Graphic Form
  • English 301: History of the Book**
  • English 329H: Tutoring Writing: Theory & Practice
  • English 386: Studies in Writing & Culture
  • English 388: Rhetoric, Writing, and Society 
  • English 391ML: Multilingualism and Literacy 
  • English 397R: Rhetoric, Writing, and Society
  • English 412: History of the English Language
  • 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
  • English 497T: Teaching Writing in the 21st Century 

D: Writing Electives (2 courses)

  • Electives may come from the categories (above).
  • English Department Digital Communications Internship (Solberg): applications are competitive; apply to
  • One of the electives may be an internship in writing or publishing (with UMass Press, for example). 
  • English 298H: Honors Practicum: Teaching in the Writing Center
  • English 302: Studies in Textuality & New Media**
  • English 386: Writing and Culture
  • English 391D: Writing and Emerging Technologies**
  • English 391NM: Narrative Medicine: How Writing Can Heal
  • English 391GC: Video Games and Civic Action
  • English 397GS: Introduction to Video Games Studies 
  • English 491AC: The Major and Beyond: Career Exploration for English Majors 
  • English 494DS: Data Science in the Humanities**
  • English 494CI: Codes, Cyphers, Hackers & Crackers (Integrative Experience)**
  • English 494DI: Dystopian Games, Comes, Media (Integrative Experience)**
  • English 494EI: Writing, Identity, and English Studies (Fleming) (Integrative Experience, majors only)


  • At least one course must have a writing technologies designation (marked with double-asterisks [**] above or approved by 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:


Julia Dickman
Julia Dickman (BA 2022)
Study and Practice of Writing

"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."






Tess Halpern
Tess Halpern (BA 2019)
Study and Practice of Writing

"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." 






Tim Conklin
Tim Conklin (BA 2016)
Study and Practice of Writing

"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."