Open Access Textbooks

Bad Ideas About Writing

Reader Synopsis:

Bad Ideas About Writing counters major myths about writing instruction. Inspired by the provocative science- and social-science-focused book This Idea Must Die and written for a general audience, the collection offers opinionated, research-based statements intended to spark debate and to offer a better way of teaching writing. Contributors, as scholars of rhetoric and composition, provide a snapshot of and antidotes to major myths in writing instruction. This collection is published in whole by the Digital Publishing Institute at WVU Libraries and in part by Inside Higher Ed.


"The writing is accessible enough that I am already considering a couple of these for handouts to my own students . . . I recommend it to all my writing teacher friends." —Curmudgucation

"If you teach writing, you have certainly heard scores of misconceptions about writing . . . The next time you hear one of those misconceptions, head directly to Bad Ideas About Writing." —Traci Gardner

". . . already I treasure this book. I wish it'd been around years ago." —John Warner

"I just wanted to let you know that after Bad Ideas was released, and after I read it cover to cover, I decided to switch my second-semester research writing course to a Writing About Writing (WAW) course, with the Bad Ideas text as our textbook. I've been wanting to teach a WAW course for awhile, but I had a hard time finding readings that I thought my students would really get invested in. I think Bad Ideas is one of the best books out there showcasing a connection between teacher and student through the intersection of systemic issues in the writing classroom. Our concerns in that book are the punitive realities of my students' educational experiences, and they are surprised but glad to hear there are teachers fighting for them. They're getting into it! My classes are 8-9:15 and 9:30-10:45, so any thunder during those hours are rare gems...and there is some thunder. I'll tell you. When a student says, 'If they've known since the 1920s that making me do grammar sheets doesn't help me write, why the fuck are they still making me do it!' We've struck a very important chord." —Mitchell James, Lakeland Community College

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Table of Contents

Cheryl E. Ball and Drew M. Loewe

1. Bad Ideas About What Good Writing Is
Rhetoric is Synonymous with Empty Speech
Patricia Roberts-Miller
America is Facing a Literacy Crisis
Jacob Babb
First-Year Composition Prepares Students for Academic Writing
Tyler Branson
First-Year Composition Should be Skipped
Paul G. Cook
You Can Learn to Write in General
Elizabeth Wardle
Writing Knowledge Transfers Easily
Ellen C. Carillo
Reading and Writing are not Connected
Ellen C. Carillo
Good Readers are Taught, not Born
Julie Myatt Barger

2. Bad Ideas About Who Good Writers Are
Writers are Mythical, Magical, and Damaged
Teri Holbrook and Melanie Hundley
You Have to Have My Credentials to be a Writer
Ronald Clark Brooks
Only Geniuses can be Writers
Dustin Edwards and Enrique Paz
Some People are Just Born Good Writers
Jill Parrott
Failure is Not an Option
Allison D. Carr
There is One Correct Way of Writing and Speaking
Anjali Pattanayak
African American Language is not Good English
Jennifer M. Cunningham
Official American English is Best
Steven Alvarez
Writer’s Block Just Happens to People
Geoffrey V. Carter
Strong Writing and Writers Don’t Need Revision
Laura Giovanelli
The More Writing Process, the Better
Jimmy Butts

3. Bad Ideas about Style, Usage, and Grammar
Strunk and White Set the Standard
Laura Lisabeth
Good Writers Always Follow the Rules
Monique Dufour and Jennifer Ahern-Dodson
Writers Must Develop a Strong, Original Voice
Patrick Thomas
Leave Yourself Out of Your Writing
Rodrigo Joseph Rodríguez
Response: “Leave Yourself Out of Your Writing”
Kimberly N. Parker
The Passive Voice Should be Avoided
Collin Gifford Brooke
Teaching Grammar Improves Writing
Patricia A. Dunn
Good Writers Must Know Grammatical Terminology
Hannah Rule
Grammar Should be Taught Separately as Rules to Learn
Muriel Harris

4. Bad Ideas About Writing Techniques
Formal Outlines are Always Useful
Kristin Milligan
Students Should Learn About the Logical Fallacies
Daniel V. Bommarito
Logos is Synonymous with Logic
Nancy Fox

5. Bad Ideas About Genres
Excellent Academic Writing Must be Serious
Michael Theune
Creative Writing is a Unique Category
Cydney Alexis
Popular Culture is Killing Writing
Bronwyn T. Williams
Popular Culture is Only Useful as a Text for Criticism
Mark D. Pepper
The Five-Paragraph Essay is Rhetorically Sound
Quentin Vieregge
The Five-Paragraph Essay Transmits Knowledge
Susan Naomi Bernstein and Elizabeth Lowry
The Five-Paragraph Theme Teaches “Beyond the Test”
Bruce Bowles, Jr.
Research Starts with Answers
Alison C. Witte
Research Starts with a Thesis Statement
Emily A. Wierszewski
The Traditional Research Paper is Best
Alexandria Lockett
Citing Sources is a Basic Skill Learned Early On
Susanmarie Harrington
Plagiarism Deserves to be Punished
Jennifer A. Mott-Smith

6. Bad Ideas About Assessing Writing
Grading Has Always Made Writing Better
Mitchell James
Rubrics Save Time and Make Grading Criteria Visible
Anne Leahy
Rubrics Oversimplify the Writing Process
Crystal Sands
When Responding to Student Writing, More is Better
Muriel Harris
Student Writing Must be Graded by the Teacher
Christopher R. Friend
Machines can Evaluate Writing Well
Chris M. Anson and Les Perelman
Plagiarism Detection Services are Money Well-Spent
Stephanie Vie
SAT Scores are Useful for Placing Students into Writing Courses
Kristen di Gennaro

7. Bad Ideas About Writing and Digital Technologies
Texting Ruins Students’ Grammar Skills
Scott Warnock
Texting Ruins Literacy Skills
Christopher Justice
Gamification Makes Writing Fun
Joshua Daniel-Wariya
The More Digital Technology, the Better
Genesea Carter and Aurora Matzke
Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants
Phill Michael Alexander

8. Bad Ideas About Writing Teachers
You’re Going to Need This for College
Andrew Hollinger
Dual-Enrollment Writing Classes Should Always be Pursued
Caroline Wilkinson
Secondary-School English Teachers Should Only be Taught Literature
Elizabethada A. Wright
Face-to-Face Courses are Superior to Online Courses
Tiffany Bourelle and Andy Bourelle
Anyone Can Teach an Online Writing Course
Beth L. Hewett
Anyone Can Teach Writing
Seth Kahn

About Open Access Textbooks

Open Access Textbooks is an open access textbook project created through West Virginia University with the goal of producing cost-effective and high quality products that engage authors, faculty, and students. This project is supported by the Digital Publishing Institute and West Virginia University Libraries and is available in HTML, PDF, and EPub formats.

For questions, comments, or technical support, please contact Jessica McMillen.


  • Cheryl E. Ball
  • Drew M. Loewe

Associate Editors

  • Lydia Welker
  • Matt Jarrett
  • Kaitlin Licause

Assistant Editors

  • Emma DiPasquale
  • Demi Fuentes Ramirez
  • Natalie Homer
  • Ryan Kalis
  • Marjorie McAtee
  • Lauren Milici
  • Brionna Minney
  • Heather Myers
  • Abigail Palbus
  • Neetya Pandey
  • Kat Saunders
  • Taylor Staffileno


  • Teaching and Learning Commons
  • Digital Publishing Institute
  • West Virginia University Libraries
  • Inside Higher Ed
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.