Learning to write may be hard, but it ain’t complicated.


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I hope teachers, parents, and administrators across the United States read his trenchant book.
— Los Angeles Review of Books
Warner’s style reads like informal, intelligent conversation founded on a genuine desire to share what he knows, and his helpful book will serve as a trusty companion to writers on their own or in class.
— Publishers Weekly

We’ve been teaching writing wrong.

There seems to be widespread agreement that—when it comes to the writing skills of college students—we are in the midst of a crisis. The problem isn’t caused by a lack of rigor, or smartphones, or some generational character defect. It’s not the fault of teachers, either.

In reality, we’ve created a system that incentivizes teaching writing wrong.

Writing is thinking.

High stakes standardized assessments, accountability regimes coming from on high, and a steady erosion of instructor and student autonomy has led us to a point where multiple generations of students have completed their educations while producing not writing, but “writing-related simulations.”

Writing is thinking, and to learn to write is to practice that thinking.

We can do better…and it’s never too late.

Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities provides both a diagnosis for what ails us, and a blueprint for fixing our broken system to the benefit of students, teachers, parents, and society at large.

The Writer’s Practice: Building Confidence in Your Nonfiction Writing provides a series of experiences that allow anyone, regardless of level or expertise, to work on developing their writing practices: the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and habits of mind of a writer.

“If we really want to inspire young people to write, the tyranny of the five-paragraph essay must first be eradicated. John Warner has decades of experience turning reluctant writers into proficient and empowered ones.
— Dave Eggers, cofounder of 826 National and The International Congress of Youth Voices


John is a frequent visitor to schools, university campuses, and other organizations where he speaks on a variety of topics for both students and education professionals, including his revolutionary approach to how we should be teaching writing, and how to develop your writing practice.

Full list of available talks.


In addition to Why They Can’t Write and The Writer’s Practice, John is the author or editor of numerous other books, a weekly columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and a contributing blogger to Inside Higher Education.

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John Warner