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Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions




What is your level of college writing?



This chapter shows the three typical stages of the American university and college writer.  The stages probably describe 90% or more of writers in college and are based on extensive research on how writers transfer their writing knowledge from one level to another.  This chapter has  been presented in another form at several regional and national conferences for writing instructors.  


The Three Stages of a College Writer—Grade Levels
A Handout for Students
(vers. 24 Mar. ‘12; chart subt. rev. 8-12)

(Quotations and paraphrases are from David Bartholomae's "Inventing the University" in Literacy: A Critical Sourcebook.)

Grade Levels: K-12

The K-12 writer is in the early stages of learning writing awareness and skills, culminating in being able to comment on literature and to offer an essay that is "a Lesson on Life" (513) using everyday language (519).

Grade Levels: 9-13

Beginning College Writer: The beginning college writer (and successful basic-developmental or high school writer) is one who can "hear the 'melody of formal English'" (523) and imagine being an "insider" (516), able to use this formal tone someday (521).

Grade Level: 12-15

Intermediate College Writer: The intermediate college writer (at end of or after College Comp I) can, in a formal academic tone, sustain a logical argument using quality research (521).

Grade Range: 15-17+
Advanced College Writer/Beginning Professional:
The advanced college writer (or beginning professional) is "dramatically conscious of forming" something to say, can take a position against "common" ideas, and can sing the "song" of a discipline's or profession's pattern and style of writing (521).


The Three Stages of the College Writer—More Description

(Quotations are from Lee Ann Carroll's How College Students Develop as Writers.)

(A) The beginning college writer (and successful basic-developmental or high school writer) is learning "new 'basic skills'" (119) with a "desire to produce writing . . . 'good enough' for success'" and a "growing awareness of different types of writing" (85).

Successful Types of Writing: self-expression, descriptions, 5-paragraph themes, reports, and journal writing

Audience: little or no conscious recognition of—or attention to—the concept of "audience"

Voice/tone/style: informal, informative, or storytelling ("once upon a time . . . .") with sense of immediacy/relevancy

Method of Writing Arguments: simple arguments, especially in "five-star" (five-paragraph) format using personal anecdotes, along with general/common-knowledge ideas and quotations, for support

(B)  The intermediate college writer (near the end of or after a 1st 1000-level college composition class) can "accommodate . . . expectations of . . . professor readers" (23) and has knowledge of "rewriting" (73) and "writing strategies . . . related to research, style, audience, organization, and analysis" (74).

Successful Types of Writing: academic essays using argument, analysis, and/or research writing

Audience: the academic teacher as audience

Voice/tone/style: academic, logical, balanced, and persuasive with sense of authority and appropriateness

Method of Writing Arguments: extended, cohesive argument and/or analysis using academic/professional resources; ability to examine an issue from opposing sides with general fairness and balance

(C) The advanced-college (or beginning-professional) writer can both hear and sing the “song” of academic and/or professional writing, is "aware of the disciplinary conventions in [the] major" (89), and is skilled in producing "texts . . . intended to do work in the 'real' world" (126).

Successful Types of Writing: critical arguments, reviews, deep research, logical summaries and analyses, and/or evaluations in one or more specific academic disciplines or professions

Audience: an academic or professional group as the readers

Voice/tone/style: logical, fair, and thoughtful with conscious use of the writing patterns of a discipline or profession (e.g., a business proposal, a science report, a play review) and a sense of balanced presentation of multiple viewpoints

Method of Writing Arguments: a research paper with support of a specific subject using accurate, convincing, reliable resources, a unique viewpoint, and detailed consideration—and logical rejection—of valuable alternatives


An MS Word version of this, along with a separate version for instructors and, may be found at


Conclusion: What Is Your Own Level? (new 8-12)

What is your own writing level?  What, in the above lists, makes you think that you are at that level?  Do you stand somewhere in the middle of one of these levels, at its beginning, or at its end?  In other words, where do you stand in this spectrum:

Beginning College Writer:

low level
middle level
high level

Intermediate College Writer:

low level
middle level
high level

Advanced College Writer:

low level
middle level
high level

Understanding where you are, now, means understanding where you have been.  And it also means you now have a guide for where you will go in the future. 


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21. What is "College Writing"

22. Levels of College Writer

23. Resources & Readings



 Related Links in

Perfect Papers?

12. Types of Papers

20. Writing in Disciplines


Updated 1 Aug. 2013

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Previous editions: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted
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