It’s a Good Idea to Download This Book!

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Cover of the book Bad Ideas About WritingIf you teach writing, you have certainly heard scores of misconceptions about writing, like these:

  • America is Facing a Literacy Crisis 
  • Official American English is Best 
  • African American Language is not Good English 
  • Teaching Grammar Improves Writing
  • Formal Outlines are Always Useful
  • The Five-Paragraph Essay Transmits Knowledge
  • Machines can Evaluate Writing Well
  • Texting Ruins Students’ Grammar Skills
  • Anyone Can Teach Writing


Sometimes they’re uttered by administrators or repeated by politicians. You may hear them from colleagues in other departments who ask you for help. Occasionally you hear them from other writing teachers. Students parrot them, repeating what they have heard from family, parents, and their high school teachers. It’s possible that you may have even thought them yourself at some point.


The next time that you hear one of those misconceptions, head directly to Bad Ideas About Writing, edited by Cheryl E. Ball (co-author of Bedford/St. Martin’s Writer/Designer) and Drew M. Loewe, for a myth-busting counter-argument, ready to share with that misled colleague, administrator, or student. The collection includes over sixty essays, divided into eight categories ranging from “Bad Ideas About What Good Writing Is” to “Bad Ideas About Writing Teachers.” The text includes essays from a number of Bedford/St. Martin’s authors, including Elizabeth Wardle (Writing about Writing), Susan Naomi Bernstein (Teaching Developmental Writing), and Beth L. Hewett (The Online Writing Conference, and Reading to Learn and Writing to Teach).


Elizabeth Losh, co-author of Bedford/St. Martin’s Understanding Rhetoric, praises Bad Ideas About Writing, explaining that it “offers its readers a wealth of good ideas for countering the dangerous myths, harmful stereotypes, unfounded folklore, romantic delusions, and fanciful thinking that too often surround questions about how best to improve written expression.”


Bad Ideas About Writing provokes discussion and debate as it meets each misconception with constructive criticism and related research on writers, writing, and how writing is taught. As Ball and Loewe, the editors, explain in the book’s introduction, “We hope that the collection is a conversation-starter, not a conversation-stopper, and we hope that it provides a catalog of support for productive conversations about how and why to stop the bad ideas about writing and start the good”—and that’s why I think it’s a good idea to download this book!


Bad Ideas About Writing is published in whole by the Digital Publishing Institute at WVU Libraries and is free to download.

About the Author
Traci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.