The GMU Professional Writing programs view professional writing as a distinct field of practice: professional writers may have many different job titles, ranging from editor to technical writer, to information architect or project manager, but the core practices of the professional writer are rooted in an understanding of the rhetorical nature of communication and the development of composition, research, and problem-solving skills.

What is Professional Writing?

Anne Surma provides a comprehensive definition of professional writing that neatly sums up the Mason approach to understanding the field:

"The scope of professional writing embraces any written communication—other than that produced or circulated as art-text—disseminated or displayed in the public domain and having as one of its functions the communication of a specific intention or objective in relation to specific or general reader(s). It comprises those texts designed to affect readers directly or indirectly: to elicit response; to encourage or circumscribe action; to instruct; to persuade; to modify or extend information, knowledge, and perceptions; to affirm shared goals; and so on. Examples of professional writing would include, but not be limited to, academic writing; corporate, government, and organizational writing (internal and external documents, such as letters, reports, emails, proposals, tenders, forms, and manuals); representative texts, such as codes of ethics and service charters; corporate and government newsletters; and public notices and leaflets. Professional writing can be communicated or exchanged between individuals or groups of individuals representing themselves or writing on behalf of public or private organizations; or between organizations and their individual clients or their general publics."

PWR Programs at GMU

The English department at GMU offers four professional writing programs: a Master of Arts in Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR), a graduate certificate in Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR), an undergraduate concentration in Writing and Rhetoric in the English major, and a minor in Writing and Rhetoric (W+R).

MA Concentration in Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR)
The MA concentration in professional writing and rhetoric is oriented to workplace uses of language. In addition to training in pragmatic skills, the concentration is characterized by a self-reflexive attention to workplaces as institutions and sites for rhetorical action. Courses on research and theory in nonfiction writing complement instruction in rhetoric, editing, technical communication, digital publication, and ethnography to prepare students for roles as writers and communicators in the private and public sectors. Instruction in research methodologies melds archival research with the most current technological advances to equip students with valuable research tools and strategies, while courses in literature, media studies, folklore, and linguistics provide insight into language and writing practices across a variety of contexts.

Graduate Certificate in Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR)
Following the MA concentration in professional writing and rhetoric, the certificate is centered on workplace uses of language. Students who do not seek a full master's degree may be interested in a Certificate in Professional Writing and Rhetoric. The certificate program enables a student to attend graduate courses associated with writing and rhetoric without requiring those in the study of literature or literary research or the writing of a thesis. It is an eighteen hour program, a full and unified course of study in itself.

BA Concentration in Writing and Rhetoric (WR) for English Majors
This concentration is designed for students who want to write publishable nonfiction, write in workplace settings, or study writing and technology. Students may choose from several courses that provide instruction and guided practice in diverse types of nonfiction, including technical writing, web writing, ethnography, and various forms of essay writing. Students in this concentration will be encouraged to pursue opportunities for internship credit in writing professions.

The Writing Minor
The minor in Writing and Rhetoric provides opportunities to learn and apply advanced strategies for writing academic, professional, and civic documents. Students examine the theoretical, interdisciplinary and professional aspects of writing, and develop their expository, persuasive, organizational, and stylistic skills through close analysis of rhetorical situations and the features and approaches of successful writing. The strong communication and analytical skills developed in earning an English minor contribute to the success and advancement of students pursuing a wide variety of professional careers and graduate education.

The writing minor is a valuable asset for students interested in working in media organizations, trade and professional associations, non-profit organizations related to the arts, schools, and social change; it is also beneficial to students interested in careers in business, science, engineering, accounting and many others that demand strong writing and communication skills for promotion and advancement.

PWR Contacts

  • Contact: BA concentration in W+R & MA concentration in PWR: Douglas Eyman,