Writing and Rhetoric
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Information for Prospective MA-PWR Students

The MA concentration in Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) 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 in nonfiction writing complement instruction in rhetoric, editing, technical communication, digital publication, and ethnography to prepare you for the role of writer and communicator in the private and public sectors. Instruction in textual and observational research methodologies equip you 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.

Applicants to the MA/PWR submit the following documents:

  • a goals statement
  • an analytical writing sample of at least 1,000 words
  • two letters of recommendation
  • a portfolio of their professional writing or editing [optional, but recommended]
  • two official transcripts from all tertiary (college) institutions attended
  • any other materials required by Graduate Admissions.

The goals statement should focus on how you see this program fitting into your larger goals and should show that you understand what kinds of outcomes our program supports. If you relate information about your history, it should focus on your recent endeavors as they relate to education or work experience directly related to writing studies. We assume that all of our students are/will be passionate about reading and writing, so statements to that effect need not be explicitly stated.

We find that the most persuasive letters of recommendation come from former professors rather than employers.

Writing samples will be scanned; therefore they need not be elegantly bound or presented. We do recommend, however, that applicants write up a brief introduction to each of the professional samples, outlining its audience and purpose, as well as the particular challenges posed by the writing task.

We do not require GRE scores.


Moving between NonDegree, Certificate, and the MA

If you decide to transfer into the MA program from the certificate program, more than half of your course credits must be earned after admittance to the MA program. Thus, only 12 credits of coursework taken as a certificate student will count toward the MA degree, so it is important to make this decision early. If you have taken courses as a non-degree student, you should know that if you decide to switch from Certificate to MA, you may lose credit for the courses you have taken (as the total that can be applied to the MA is 12). Similarly, only 6 credits of non-degree coursework will count toward the Certificate (so be sure to apply to the Certificate program before taking that third course).

The Foreign Language Requirement

The English department requires students in some of the MA concentrations to demonstrate a basic proficiency in a foreign language (equivalent to two years of study at the undergradate level). There is currently no written rationale for this requirement but is required of students pursuing the MA in Literature, Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR), and Teaching Writing and Literature (TWL). If you have taken four semesters of foreign language in your undergraduate program, this requirement will be met upon review of your transcripts. If you have not formally studied a foreign language, you may enroll in undergraduate courses here at Mason or at NoVA or you take a reading and translation test.

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