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Adventures in Writing

Adventures in Writing

Welcome to Adventures in Writing, a series of graphic-novel style learning modules designed to help you learn more about and practice a range of effective written communication skills. You’ll immerse yourself in the adventures of Maya and Chris, using each module’s interactive exercises to apply what you’ve learned. Writing instructors in Stanford’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) designed the modules to reflect PWR’s philosophy that the best academic and real world communication practices require us to think about more than “correctness” or just getting things right—we must actively consider what we’re trying to achieve with a specific audience for a specific purpose. Through joining Maya and Chris on their adventures, you’ll develop your abilities to communicate in writing—from punctuation and style to argument—increasing the power of your language in the classroom and beyond.


While there are many challenges related to writing well, we’ve chosen to focus on the following issues, crucial to your writing success:

1. Academic Language

This module invites you to explore the way in which successful writers consciously change how they use language to work best in different contexts – from tone, to word choice, to style – focusing specifically on how to develop a strong, persuasive academic voice. Join our characters Maya, Chris, and Josh at a baseball game and learn how to make a successful academic writing pitch.

2. Purpose, Audience, and Context: Language as Communication

This module asks you to develop a nuanced understanding of how language works, suggesting that powerful communication is about more than just what you want to say; you also need to take into account your goals, your audience, and context. Join Maya and Chris on their adventure through an amusement park and learn in the importance of considering “Who,” “Why,” and “What.”

3. Identifying Passive and Active Voice

This module focuses on one of the most common stylistic choices in writing: the use of passive and active voice. Join Maya and Chris as they watch a zombie movie, and learn the importance of understanding when to be passive – and when being passive puts you in danger of being eaten by zombies.

4. Punctuation: Signposts to Guide Readers

This module explains that punctuation is more than just a set of rules; it’s a series of communication tools that you can use to increase the clarity and precision of your language. Join Maya, Chris, and Vlad as they rush to try to get Vlad to his orchestra rehearsal on time, and learn how to use punctuation to help you hit the correct notes in your writing.

5. Argument: Making and Supporting Claims

This module leads you through the steps for constructing an effective argument, from developing a central claim, to supporting it with evidence, considering diverse opinions, and even thinking about why your argument matters. Join Maya, Chris, and Fiona in their quest to establish a community garden at their university and learn what it means to get arguments to effectively take root in academic contexts.

Course Authors

  • Christine Alfano, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Christine specializes in teaching courses on digital communication, gaming, and online communities. The co-author of the Envision textbook series, Christine has published on a variety of topics related to visual rhetoric, pedagogy, and online learning. She currently is working on a project funded by Stanford’s Vice Provost for Online Learning, designing video activities for helping students develop effective writing practices.
  • Erik Ellis, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Erik has taught courses on picture books, the rhetoric of words and images, and multimedia essays. His essay “Back to the Future?: The Pedagogical Promise of the (Multimedia) Essay” appears in the collection Multimodal Literacies and Emerging Genres.
  • Wendy Goldberg, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Wendy teaches writing and rhetoric courses focused on musical theater, performance studies, and psychology. She was formerly the Assistant Director of the Stanford Writing Center, and her essay “Center Stage: Performing the Culture of Writing at Stanford” appeared in Creative Approaches to Writing Center Work.
  • Sohui Lee, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Sohui Lee teaches courses on visual design and multimodal communication as well as researches design and multimodal composition pedagogy. She is co-editor with Russell Carpenter of The Routledge Reader on Writing Center and New Media A (2013) and her article “Situated Design for Multiliteracy Centers: A Rhetorical Approach to Visual Design” appeared in SDC: A Journal of Multiliteracy and Innovation (Fall 2014). Currently, she is writing a textbook focusing on introducing composition students to multimodal rhetoric and design called Design for Composition (Parlor Press).
  • Megan O’Connor, Academic Technology Specialist, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Megan develops innovative ways to apply interactive, multimedia technology to the classroom experience, both on campus and online. As an artist and videographer, Megan previously produced the Stuart Collection’s public art video podcast series at UC San Diego, directed the documentary “Finding Home,” and was an artist-in-residence at the Homestead National Monument of America.
  • John Peterson, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. John teaches writing and rhetoric courses focused on arts, culture, and education. He is coordinator of Writing and Rhetoric 1, the first-year composition course at Stanford. His current book project, About Free Speech and Improvisation, investigates how improvisation can be taught in an age of asynchronous electronic education.
  • Carolyn Ross, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Carolyn teaches multimodal composition, including audio and video podcasting, in courses that focus on community-based research and writing, environmental rhetoric, and science communication. She is a photographer, poet, and short story writer and has published two writing textbooks: Writing Nature (1995) and Writing for Real (2002).
  • Zach Waggoner, Associate Director, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Zach Waggoner has worked as an administrator, a teacher, and a mentor for college-level writing. His research interests focus on video games, rhetoric, and identity; his publications include My Avatar, My Self: Identity in Role-Playing Games (2009) and the edited collection Terms of Play: Essays on Words that Matter in Videogame Theory (2013).

Stanford Student Illustrators

  • Dennis Johnson, Illustrator of Punctuation: Signposts to Guide Readers
  • M.J. Ma, Illustrator of Purpose, Audience, and Context: Language as Communication
  • Serenity Nguyen, Illustrator of Identifying Passive and Active Voice
  • Emma Steinkellner, Illustrator of Academic Language
  • Lilith Wu, Illustrator of Argument: Making and Supporting Claims
  • Holly Hernandez, Colorist
  • Maia Paroginog, Colorist


What are the prerequisites for this course?

No prerequisites are required to experience these learning modules.  The modules can be taken in any order you like, as many times as you like.

Who is this course for?

Any writer who hopes to improve their writing skills, particularly in relationship to the specific topics covered in these five modules.

How long will this course take?

This course will take 4-6 hours to complete.

What is the course structure?

This course contains five modules, each built around a single writing theme or concept.

What is the pace of the course?

Each module is self-paced.

How will I be assessed?

Each module contains interactive exercises, designed to allow students to test their knowledge of the topic at hand. While these exercises will reveal correct and incorrect answers to help maximize student learning they are not scored.

Does this course carry any kind of Stanford University credit or a Statement of Accomplishment?

No, but students can track their progress through the modules and exercises.

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