Date of Award

Fall 12-5-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Professional Writing (MAPW)




Dr. Laura McGrath


Dr. M. Todd Harper


Many college students arrive in first-year composition classrooms lacking sufficient sentence-level proficiency. Although syntactically challenged writers are often evaluated harshly in academic, professional, and other writing contexts, sentence-based pedagogies that can help students write more clearly and effectively have been sidelined in composition studies amid grammar debates and theoretical divergences within the discipline. This capstone examines how writing instructors have recognized the rhetorical function of sentence-based pedagogies from the classical era to the present, including those extolled by Robert Connors in “The Erasure of the Sentence”: Francis Christensen’s generative rhetoric, classical imitation practices, and sentence-combining exercises. These methods, used widely and successfully in composition classrooms between the 1960s and early 1980s, were largely abandoned as process- and theory-oriented pedagogies gained traction in the late twentieth century. Composition instructors of the twenty-first century should revisit these sentence-based pedagogies, as have several contemporary scholar-teachers who observe that sentence-level choices can help writers make meaning with language and enhance their ability to communicate for a variety of discursive purposes. An annotated bibliography identifies syntactic resources that can complement a variety of first-year composition pedagogical frameworks.