Linguistic choice as empowerment - Teaching rhetorical decision-making in writing


  • Debra Myhill



writing, grammar, linguistic choice, rhetorical grammar


This article addresses the teaching of writing and examines how a rhetorical approach can generate empowerment and agency. In the context of contemporary digital modes of written communication, which have democratised access to wide networks of communication, enabling children to write well has never been more important. Yet school attainment data suggest that writing proficiency is weaker than reading proficiency. Specifically, this article will argue that a rhetorical approach to the teaching of writing helps developing writers to understand how their language choices shape the interaction between authorial intention and the intended reader, and supports young writers in making the transition, noted in research on children’s writing development, from writer-based to reader-based prose. When young writers understand the relationship between linguistic choice and rhetorical effect, they begin to recognize the place of authorship and being an author, allowing writing classrooms to be communities where children can become increasingly agentic, autonomous, and capable writers.