Adventures in Writing


Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences



Welcome to Adventures in Writing, a series of graphic-novel style learning modules designed to help you learn more about and practice a range of effective written communication skills. You'll immerse yourself in the adventures of Maya and Chris, using each module's interactive exercises to apply what you've learned. Writing instructors in Stanford's Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) designed the modules to reflect PWR's philosophy that the best academic and real world communication practices require us to think about more than "correctness" or just getting things right-we must actively consider what we're trying to achieve with a specific audience for a specific purpose. Through joining Maya and Chris on their adventures, you'll develop your abilities to communicate in writing-from punctuation and style to argument-increasing the power of your language in the classroom and beyond.


While there are many challenges related to writing well for specific external audiences, we've chosen to focus on the following issues, crucial to your writing success in a university setting:

1. Introduction to Academic Language

This module works from the premise that effective language users develop conscious awareness of how they use language in making sense of and interacting with the world, and that academic communications have specific expectations about language usage that may differ from other.  Join our characters Maya, Chris, and Josh at a baseball game and learn how to make a successful academic writing pitch.

2. Audience, Purpose, and Context: Language as Communication

This module complicates the personal, individual relationship with language, taking into account the needs and expectations of others.  Join Maya and Chris on their adventure through an amusement park, and learn the importance of "Who," "Why," and "What" to effective communication.

3. Passive and Active Constructions

This module focuses on the effect of using passive constructions purposefully and on revising such constructions when appropriate to emphasize agency and action.  Join Maya and Chris as they watch a zombie movie, and learn the importance of understanding when to be passive – and when being passive puts you in danger of being eaten by zombies.

4. Punctuation: Signposts to Guide Readers

This module explains punctuation as a communication tool that increases the clarity and precision of language.  Join Maya, Chris, and Vlad as they rush to try to get Vlad to his orchestra rehearsal on time, and learn how to use punctuation to help you hit the correct notes in your writing.

5. Argument: Making and Supporting Claims

This module focuses on elements of effective academic argumentation, highlighting a central claim that sets up reader expectations that must be met and supported with appropriate evidence.  Join Maya, Chris, and Fiona in their quest to establish a community garden at their university and learn what it means to get arguments to effectively take root in academic contexts.

Course Authors

  • Christine Alfano, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Christine specializes in teaching courses on digital communication, gaming, and online communities. The co-author of the Envision textbook series, Christine has published on a variety of topics related to visual rhetoric, pedagogy, and online learning. She currently is working on a project funded by Stanford's Vice Provost for Online Learning, designing video activities for helping students develop effective writing practices.
  • Erik Ellis, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Erik has taught courses on picture books, the rhetoric of words and images, and multimedia essays. His essay "Back to the Future?: The Pedagogical Promise of the (Multimedia) Essay" appears in the collection Multimodal Literacies and Emerging Genres.
  • Wendy Goldberg, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Wendy teaches writing and rhetoric courses focused on musical theater, performance studies, and psychology. She was formerly the Assistant Director of the Stanford Writing Center, and her essay "Center Stage: Performing the Culture of Writing at Stanford" appeared in Creative Approaches to Writing Center Work.
  • Sohui Lee, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Sohui Lee teaches courses on visual design and multimodal communication as well as researches design and multimodal composition pedagogy. She is co-editor with Russell Carpenter of The Routledge Reader on Writing Center and New Media A (2013) and her article "Situated Design for Multiliteracy Centers: A Rhetorical Approach to Visual Design" appeared in SDC: A Journal of Multiliteracy and Innovation (Fall 2014). Currently, she is writing a textbook focusing on introducing composition students to multimodal rhetoric and design called Design for Composition (Parlor Press).
  • Megan O'Connor, Academic Technology Specialist, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Megan develops innovative ways to apply interactive, multimedia technology to the classroom experience, both on campus and online. As an artist and videographer, Megan previously produced the Stuart Collection's public art video podcast series at UC San Diego, directed the documentary "Finding Home," and was an artist-in-residence at the Homestead National Monument of America.
  • John Peterson, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. John teaches writing and rhetoric courses focused on arts, culture, and education. He is coordinator of Writing and Rhetoric 1, the first-year composition course at Stanford. His current book project, About Free Speech and Improvisation, investigates how improvisation can be taught in an age of asynchronous electronic education.
  • Carolyn Ross, Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Carolyn teaches multimodal composition, including audio and video podcasting, in courses that focus on community-based research and writing, environmental rhetoric, and science communication. She is a photographer, poet, and short story writer and has published two writing textbooks: Writing Nature (1995) and Writing for Real (2002).
  • Zach Waggoner, Associate Director, Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Zach Waggoner has worked as an administrator, a teacher, and a mentor for college-level writing. His research interests focus on video games, rhetoric, and identity; his publications include My Avatar, My Self: Identity in Role-Playing Games (2009) and the edited collection Terms of Play: Essays on Words that Matter in Videogame Theory (2013).

Stanford Student Illustrators

  • Dennis Johnson, Illustrator of Punctuation: Signposts to Guide Readers
  • M.J. Ma, Illustrator of Purpose, Audience, and Context: Language as Communication
  • Serenity Nguyen, Illustrator of Identifying Passive and Active Voice
  • Emma Steinkellner, Illustrator of Academic Language
  • Lilith Wu, Illustrator of Argument: Making and Supporting Claims
  • Holly Hernandez, Colorist
  • Maia Paroginog, Colorist

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