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Twenty-One Genres and How to Write Them

By Brock Dethier

Publication Year: 2013

In this classroom-tested approach to writing, Brock Dethier teaches readers how to analyze and write twenty-one genres that students are likely to encounter in college and beyond. This practical, student-friendly, task-oriented text confidently guides writers through step-by-step processes, reducing the anxiety commonly associated with writing tasks.

In the first section, Dethier efficiently presents each genre, providing models, a description of the genres’ purpose, context, and discourse; and suggestions for writing activities or “moves” that writers can use to get words on the page and accomplish their writing tasks. The second section explains these moves, over two hundred of them, in chapters ranging from “Solve Your Process Problems” and “Discover” to “Revise” and “Present.” Applicable to any writing task or genre, these moves help students overcome writing blocks and develop a piece of writing from the first glimmers of an idea to its presentation.

This approach to managing the complexity and challenge of writing in college strives to be useful, flexible, eclectic, and brief—a valuable resource for students learning to negotiate unfamiliar writing situations.

Published by: Utah State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-xvii

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pp. xix-23

The thinking of Donald M. Murray underlies my whole approach. I’d be flattered if people saw this book as an extension of or a distillation of Don’s work. Don loved to share, so I know he’d be happy to have me pass on to others ideas he sowed in my mind. ...

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pp. 1-2

What’s the hardest part of writing for you? Sitting restlessly in front of your computer, your head full of worry but not words? Trying to come up with a flashy opening? Knowing when it’s time to stop? Finding something new to say during the dry endless middle? This book offers you 228 writing moves— tools for your writer’s toolbox, steps to revive your mind and your momentum, ...

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Part I Genres

The next twenty-one chapters present, in alphabetical order, twenty-one common genres or types of writing. Each chapter starts with an example or two, briefly describes and defines the genre, then suggests a series of moves that might be helpful if you need to write in the particular genre. ...

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1 Abstract

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pp. 5-10

Twenty-One Genres strives to be the smallest, most inexpensive all-purpose writing text on the college composition market. Author Brock Dethier, director of the composition program at Utah State University, offers descriptions of twenty-one common genres, from abstract to wiki, and suggests for each genre a series of writing “moves.” The book presents over two hundred such ...

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2 Annotated Bibliography

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pp. 11-18

Bell’s article argues that ghosts are part of our everyday lives. Their presence exists even if their physical body does not. He goes on to describe how ghosts set boundaries of possession and ownership of place. A ghost will let a human know when his or her presence is not wanted by making them feel frightened, disturbed, or unsafe. Bell also explains his belief that we experience places socially, similarly to how we experience other people. Because ghosts are a ...

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3 Application Essay

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pp. 19-26

The following essay was written as part of a successful application to Harvard University. It was included in the book 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays 2nd ed. (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2005). It is followed by an analysis by one of the staff members of Harvard’s student newspaper. ...

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4 Application Letter

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pp. 27-32

... I would like to apply for a position as a face character at Fantasyland, USA. I have experience3 at two other theme parks, where I played first a coachman for Cinderella, then the Headless Horseman. I have also had many speaking and singing parts in plays and musicals at my high school, most notably the announcer in Wonderful Town. My resume4 lists all the roles I have played as ...

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5 Argument

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pp. 33-44

The federal government is a bull that has found yet another china shop, this time in Arizona. It seems determined to inflict, for angelic motives and progressive goals, economic damage on this state. And economic and social damage on Native Americans, who over the years have experienced quite enough of that at Washington’s hands. ...

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6 Blog

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pp. 45-50

... I’ve been thinking, again, about the weather. This time, though, I mean the external meteorology, climate change, not the solipsistic this-is-how-it-looksinside- so-that’s-how-I-see-the-outside stuff. I know I’ve written about things climatic before, at least tangentially, but it’s getting harder to deny that we’re entering a strange new world unless you’re a multi-billionaire already, someone ...

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7 Email

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pp. 51-54


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8 Gripe Letter

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pp. 55-59

... I am enclosing two tickets1 to Fantasyland, USA, for which I paid a total of $135.63 on December 9, 2009.2 I deserve a refund for the full amount paid3 because of my bad experiences at your park on that day. ...

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9 Literary Analysis

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pp. 60-66

King Lear begins the play fully clothed, not only in a crown and robes, but also with power and respect. Throughout the play, Lear’s mental and emotional states are reflected by his change in clothing. As he loses more and more control— first of the kingdom and then of his own mind—his body also becomes more exposed. At his greatest points of self-realization Lear says: “unbutton ...

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10 Literature Review

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pp. 67-72

Milk has long been hailed as a healthy, comforting, and even essential drink by the American people. However, recent research suggests that regular consumption of cow’s milk might actually be dangerous to human health. Those who oppose milk drinking claim that milk is composed of a cocktail of antibiotics, growth hormone, cholesterol, and bacteria. Most people are unaware of these ...

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11 Op-Ed Essay

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pp. 73-81

I was grading papers in the waiting room of my doctor’s office the other day, and he said, “It must be pretty eye-opening reading that stuff. Can you believe those students had four years of high school and still can’t write?” ...

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12 Personal Essay

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pp. 82-90

When I met poverty I wasn’t prepared. I was 19 and hadn’t left home more than a handful of times. And now, more than two years later, my mind still won’t let go of that word or of the meaning I saw behind it. It seems to press on me, pushing me, prodding me. The seven letters that spell poverty bring me the same guilt a boy who’s just peed in his pants feels. The word evokes a duty ...

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13 Profile

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pp. 91-97

Stephen Laurent, Abenaki, is bringing back New Hampshire’s lost first language by preserving the Abenaki language. Since 1965, he has spent countless hours translating the first written records of the Abenaki. The work, which led to a recently completed Abenaki-English dictionary, required both a speaker’s and a scholar’s knowledge of French, English, Abenaki, and Latin. ...

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14 Proposal

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pp. 98-107

ABSTRACT : I request an Undergraduate Research Grant to pursue my study of the water chemistry of Ridler Creek. By testing the creek at several points and over several weeks’ time, we can determine what effect campus has on the water in the Creek. ...

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15 Reflection

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pp. 108-111

When I was young I had a strong interest in writing. My mother encouraged this passion. I have stories that I wrote as a young child about ants and a little girl named Molly and princesses that lived in forests. I had a big imagination and I loved to write my ideas down. As I got older my creative works subsided but I started to keep a journal and I wrote in that faithfully. I wrote about my ...

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16 Report

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pp. 112-117

... TABLE OF CONTENTS: The longer the report, the more important this page is. Make it easy to understand at a glance, which generally means using dot leaders between the contents and the page number. See the table of contents for this book. ...

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17 Response to Reading

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pp. 118-121

Marvin Swift’s article proves the power of example. You can talk all day about how important writing is, and how writing IS thinking, but until you actually see someone revise their thinking as they revise their writing, you won’t really be convinced. That’s what’s magical about the article—Swift transports us inside the writing/thinking head. Swift takes as example a minor issue—use of ...

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18 Resume

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pp. 122-127

... OBJECTIVE: To be the leader of a big old band.2 ...

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19 Review

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pp. 128-136

For a small Utah college town, Logan seems quite opposite of a place that would have a wonderful, exotic restaurant like Kamin Thai Cuisine. It is everything a restaurant should be—appetizing, accessible, attentive, attractive, and affordable. It has a menu that pleases both the adventure-phobe and the investigative palate. The restaurant is easy to get to from anywhere in Logan and ...

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20 Rhetorical Analysis

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pp. 137-146

In Lars Eighner’s essay “On Dumpster Diving,” he discusses the formalities of what it takes to become a master in the art of digging through garbage. He tells his own personal story of how he became involved with dumpster diving. His story outlines everything he has learned as a scavenger and presents the information in a way that would help train someone to begin searching ...

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21 Wiki

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pp. 147-150

... I can’t explain on paper what a wiki is as well as a wiki can explain it on the web. On this subject, Wikipedia is authoritative: http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Wiki. ...

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Part II Moves

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pp. 152-176

You can prepare to write by analyzing and understanding the instructions you’ve been given, the models you’ve been shown, and the genre you’re supposed to use. But understanding alone doesn’t get any writing done. The next ten chapters offer 228 moves that actually DO get words on the page. About the only rule for using the moves is, if it helps get the writing done, use it. ...

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22 Solve Your Process Problems

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pp. 155-166

This section is about process. My hope is to help you become confident using a variety of writing process moves so that you will be flexible as a writer and thinker, ready with your bag of process tricks to handle whatever writing projects and situations come your way. I’ve divided the moves into ten chapters that follow a typical writing process, from discovering to presenting. But first ...

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23 Discover

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pp. 168-185

First you have an idea, a need, or an assignment . . . or a line or an image sticks in your head or two words butt up against each other in an interesting way. Every piece of writing has to start somewhere. We have to answer the question, What are we going to write about? A damaging writing myth says that great ideas appear full-blown in dreams or opium reveries like the one ...

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24 Develop

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pp. 184-199

Most wonderful ideas die, unseen, from lack of development. Development is the difference between an outline and a draft, an idea and a proposal, a thought and a plan. Many teachers try to ensure good development by giving page minimums for assignments, but usually what they really want is not a certain ...

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25 Gather

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pp. 200-209

The discovering and developing activities you’ve done so far should have given you a general sense of where your writing project is heading and of what you know and need to know about your subject. It may be time to start gathering more material. As you gather, try to stay flexible about the focus and emphasis of your project so that you can make full use of the best information you find. ...

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26 Integrate

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pp. 210-221

As you’re gathering material, you need to start thinking about how you’re going to integrate it so that facts, opinions, quotations, graphs, images, definitions will flow seamlessly together and contribute to the overall desired effect. Successfully integrating material is not just a matter of learning the conventional ways to punctuate quotations. More than perhaps any other single stylistic feature, the smooth ...

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27 Focus

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pp. 223-233

Success at a sampling of the preceding moves makes some writers anxious to write the actual draft. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re eager to flesh out a discovery, fit an expanded idea into context, or put all the information you’ve gathered to work, it may make sense to jump right into a draft. Never waste enthusiasm and momentum. Just remember that the writing process ...

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28 Organize

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pp. 235-243

You have insights into your material, you’ve developed some of your ideas, and you have at least a working focus around which all of your ideas cohere. Why not just jump into a draft? Without a sense of the organization ...

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29 Draft

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pp. 244-247

A sense of organization, of where you’re headed, may be the single most important thing to have before you start actually writing a draft. But the more you do before the draft, the less painful the draft will be. A major goal of this book is to make drafting—the most difficult part of the writing process for most people—easier, less scary, less overwhelming. I try to take the pressure ...

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30 Revise

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pp. 249-259

If you’re like me, you can keep your nit-picky, perfectionist critic from interfering in the early stages of your writing only by promising that eventually you’ll let the critic out of its cage, give it a magnifying glass and a red pen, and let it rule the day. That time is now. Whether you’re writing an important email, an essay exam, or a report, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t leave ...

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31 Present

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pp. 260-265

This is what you’ve been working toward during the whole process, your chance to share your work with the world—or at least one small part of it. It’s crazy to put in endless hours on your product and then be lazy when you’re giving it to the world. Presenting should be a time for celebration, not fear. If you’ve pursued a successful process up to this point, you’re ready, and you shouldn’t ...


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pp. 267-273


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pp. 275-276


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pp. 277-281

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About the Author

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pp. 282-305

Brock Dethier collected most of the ideas for Twenty-One Genres while working for nineteen years as an adjunct composition instructor with Don Murray at the University of New Hampshire. He is now professor of English at Utah State University, where he directs the composition program. He has published four previous books for college composition ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780874219128
E-ISBN-10: 0874219124
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874219111
Print-ISBN-10: 0874219116

Page Count: 220
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English language -- Composition and exercises -- Study and teaching.
  • Literary form -- Study and teaching.
  • Language arts.
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  • Free sample
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