Writing with Authority

Writing with Authority
  • Description


 The best advice on writing I’ve ever received is: “Write with authority.” ~ Cynthia Ozick

 The term “authority” can carry various meanings depending on a writer’s purpose, his or her target audience, and the situation being addressed. Even when a writer understands the kind of “authority” he or she is aiming for in a particular writing project, he or she needs to determine which strategies will help to gain it, especially since—as we have come to understand through the group presentations—writing with authority within an academic setting, and more specifically with our particular discourse communities, can mean the difference between success and failure, communicating effectively or ineffectively.  Having a well-developed understanding of how to gain authority within one’s writing, therefore, becomes paramount in becoming a strong member of the college community and one’s chosen field of study since it enables students to move from merely “mimicking” the moves of an academic writer to truly embodying that knowledge.

Assignment Description:

Drawing on the knowledge you have gained through various class discussions, readings, and course assignments, develop a thorough and nuanced 3-4 page essay that explores what it means to write with authority within a college setting.  As you write, consider not only providing readers with a definition of the notion of “authority” as it pertains to writing but also clearly delineate for readers how one achieves authority within his or her writing, specifically in relation to the academic discourse community that you inhabit.  As you write, consider the following:

  • What does “writing with authority” mean? How would you define the term “authority” as it relates to writing?
  • How does one achieve authority in writing within a college setting? Within your discourse community?
  • What specific strategies must one employ to gain this authority?
  • How do you know when someone does—or does not—have authority within his or her writing?

Readings that may assist you in developing your response include: O’Conner, Bartholomae, Penrose and Geisler, Berkenkotter, McCarthy, Schneider and Andre, Wardle, Kant, Harris, and Grant-Davie.  Additional readings, such as those by Pinker and Birk & Birk, may also provide assistance. Finally, please also consult at least 2 outside sources for supplementary ideas.

Formatting Guidelines: 

  • Essays should be approximately 3-4 pages in length and use a minimum of five sources total, two of which much be outside sources
  • Double-spaced with 1’’ margins, MLA format, font size 11-12 point in Times New Roman
  • Note: Definitions from the dictionary or quotes merely used as introductory material, and not as support within a body paragraph, do not count towards the overall source total.  Please also feel free to use more than the minimum required number of sources. 


Activity One: Preliminary Freewrite (10 points)

Activity Two:  Strategies/Organizer Lists (10 points)

Activity Three: Thesis and Outline Draft w/ Workshop Participation (15 points)

Activity Four: Writer’s Workshop #1 and Participation (25 points)

Activity Five: Revision Plan (10 points)

Activity Six: Writer’s Workshop #2 and Participation (25 points)

Final Draft                                                      100 points

Activities 1-6                                                     5 points

SACCT SUBMISSION* AND PORTFOLIO DUE DATE:                                                                         

Assessment Guidelines/Rubric:

Effective papers will develop a thoughtfully developed essay that posits a sophisticated main argument/claim, establishes a solid definition of the term “authority” and its relation to writing, and provides specific strategies for gaining authority within writing, especially as it relates to writing within the author’s discourse community. In addition, successful papers will demonstrate keen audience awareness; provide an adequate structure or platform for writing through the creation of an efficient organizational pattern; utilize thoughtful, well-integrated support/evidence for the author’s assertions; and focus on clarity and flow through the use of transition statements and topic sentences.  Further assessment guidelines will be discussed in class.

*To be considered on time, final essays must be uploaded to SacCT before the end of class on the official due date.

[i] Assignment adapted from Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. “Writing about Authority: Assignments and Advice” in Writing

      about Writing.  NY: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2011. 713-714. Print.


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