Writing Skills

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”—Ernest Hemingway

The below skills are distinct, but we will often use them in conjunction. To discuss how an author communicates (rhetorical analysis), one must first understand what has been said (objective summary); to understand what has been said, one must be able to identify the premises (argument reconstruction); to analyze the efficacy of an argument (rhetorical analysis), one must first reconstruct it, and so on and so forth.

Objective Summary

See this introduction to objective summary, as well as my one-page summary of the introduction.

Read for comprehension
  1. Circle words you don’t know
  2. Look them up
  3. Record them in your word log
  4. Annotate main points in the margins as you read

These reading strategies might help you summarize more quickly.


This is the real work of summarizing. The first step, brainstorming main points, is accomplished through annotating when you read for comprehension. After that:

  1. Identify categories of main points and group accordingly.
  2. Order points within categories.
  3. Arrange material to reflect logical connection between points
    1. e.g. identify examples, contrasts, etc.

Here are two phenomenal resources on outlining, published by Purdue (a short overview) and the University of Washington (more in-depth).


Finally, write. This means dressing up your outline. Add transition words; structure your sentences; check your grammar. The more detailed your outline, the easier this will be. Here is a model objective summary of the famous play, A Christmas Carol.

Rhetorical Analysis

Check out this video introduction to rhetorical analysis. Each of the rhetorical devices we have learned should be considered a “choice” that the author (or you!) could make in writing or speech.

Here is my presentation on rhetorical analysis

Argument Analysis

See my presentations on argumentation and argument analysis.