Professional Writing, Literacy, & Rhetoric

The Minor for Every Major!

Do you like to write? Are you inventive? Problem-solving? A collaborative experimentalist? If so, this 25-credit minor is a practical path to explore these skills. Focused on expanding rhetorical analysis and sharpening communication, this minor is an enhancement to any field of study. Currently, students in the PWLR minor represent 14 different majors, from Creative Writing to Behavioral Neuroscience to Public Relations.

What is the PWLR minor?

PWLR minors explore and amalgamate emerging reading and writing practices in response to rapid cultural, social, and technological change. From building a website to creating a podcast, PWLR courses are full of projects to help you explore your interests in an academic and professional setting.

At its core, the PWLR minor is about storytelling. PWLR courses will help you: 

  • Gain experience in professional and technical writing
  • Communicate persuasively with the public
  • Accessibly design content
  • Make and examine texts, both print and digitally

In the PWLR minor, we focus on teaching literacy and rhetoric.

What is Literacy? What is Rhetoric?

Literacy is more than knowing your ABC’s, more than reading a hundred classic novels; literacy is the ability to navigate a given context the way it requires. Problem-solving, inquisition, and awareness of the situation and medium are marks of literacy.

For most people, the term 'rhetoric' is vague and unfamiliar. As you read these words, you’re engaging with the rhetoric of them (even the bolding of the word is a rhetorical choice).

Rhetoric is the organization, presentation, and form of communication. Rhetoric is how you address others, tell stories, and persuade. Once you become aware of rhetoric, you can use it to your advantage. A written poem may have more impact if given song form; this is an example of rhetoric.

Together, literacy and rhetoric inform and persuade. Professional writing of all kinds employs literacy and rhetoric.


Some career paths focus specifically on writing–technical writing, grant writing, literary writing, feature writing, reviewing, publishing, copy editing, etc.

Employers in every industry are looking for people with the ability to write, though. PWLR students may go on to put their skills to work in any number of fields–as user-experience designers, project managers, game designers, medical professionals, engineers, teachers, small business owners–you name it.

Read more below to find out how alumni are applying the skills they've learned from PWLR courses in the "real world"!

Lily Olason graduated from WWU in 2018 with a degree in English. After this she went to work for ERM for three years working on sight for safety documentation. Now she works full-time with Microsoft doing documentation for Viva Suite, where she says she's still using skills acquired in Professor Rachel Sarkar's ENG 302 Technical Writing course.

“I’ve worked with many different types of engineers…and all those people were writing documents meaning even if they didn't major or minor in a writing field doesn't mean their job doesn't require them to write almost all the time. So if they had access to this minor I think that would really help them doing their reports or doing summaries or anything like that.”

After graduating WWU in 1999 with her Bachelor’s in English she continued her education at WWU  and obtained a Masters degree in English Studies. She has worked as a Technical Writer for multiple engineering companies. Currently she acts as the Project Manager for ERM Global overseeing Technical Writing projects.

“I think it's really valuable for both someone that might want to become a technical writer and also someone who…is in another discipline or major because there is opportunity for technical writers and editors."

“When we hire scientists and engineers it's an asset for them to have writing skills, because part of the job is writing reports...It’s such an assist to see that on a resume."

After graduating from WWU in 2012 with a degree in Creative Writing, Erik went to the Columbia School of Publishing. He now works for the bike company Old Man Mountain as a marketing coordinator. Check out some of his recent works!

Your Bike is a Bikepacking Bike: How to Get Started Bikepacking

The Definitive Guide to Biking with Kids: 2022 Edition

The Problem With Small Bikes

Stacia Scott graduated from WWU in 1996 with a degree in English Literature. She has been working at Microsoft for the past 25 years and is now their Principal Program Manager Lead.

“So the type of work I do in particular, 80% communication and–whether it’s written or verbal or a presentation–and so the technical writing classes helped me think about how to break information down in a way that made it very consumable.”

“If you want to become a leader in an area you need to be able to communicate, if you want to expand your career beyond into a more specific skill set, communication is such a critical part of that.”

Course Information

PWLR coursework focuses on developing both your theoretical understanding of and practical skill set in professional writing, literacy studies, and rhetorical practices. Different instructors will teach the same course in different ways, and some courses change topics to explore their subjects through a new lens each quarter, for example:

  • ENG 301 as Open Letters, Comics, and Video Essays
  • ENG 401 as Rhetoric of Style and Rhetoric of Entertainment
  • ENG 462 as Podcasting, Grant Writing, and UX Design

Many courses offer students a chance to develop their skills through hands-on and community-based projects. PWLR students have produced projects like:

Through ENG 461, students have also been placed with local organizations like Blind Eye Books, Children of the Setting Sun Productions, 501 Commons, SPARK Museum, and the Northwest Association for Mental Illness.

For descriptions of this quarter’s courses, visit the English Department web page.

How to Declare

Nicole Brown is the department advisor for the PWLR minor. To declare the minor, please email Professor Brown with your Western ID number (W#) and state your interest in declaring. Be sure to use your Western student email.


The courses listed below make up the PWLR program. We strongly encourage you to take at least two, if not all three, of ENG 301, 302, and 371. These courses make a great foundation for the minor, and you’ll find many of the other PWLR courses have one listed as a prerequisite.

But, so long as you take 25 credits from the courses listed, you will be approved for the PWLR minor. This flexibility allows you to tailor the minor to your needs and interests–reach out to your advisor for help in creating a plan that makes the PWLR minor work for you!

  • 301 Writing and the Public 
  • 302 Technical Writing
  • 371 Rhetorical Practices
  • 385 Sustainable Literacies II
  • 401 Seminar in Writing Studies & Rhetoric
  • 402 Professional Writing and Community Engagement
  • 442 Studies in Literacy
  • 461 Internship in English – Professional Identity
  • 462 Topics in Professional and Technical Writing

Another 300/400-level writing or media course (think podcasting, videography, etc.) that focuses on public or professional writing may be substituted with advisor approval.

Note: ENG 301, ENG 401, and ENG 462 may be repeated once for credit with a different topic and instructor. A grade of C- or higher is required for minor courses, and courses taken for credit in English Department minor programs can’t be applied toward English majors.