The Power of the Personal Essay For Persuading People in Blogs, Columns, and Admission Applications Premium class

Duncan Koerber, University Professor

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9 Videos (47m)
    • Welcome to the Course!

    • Introduction to the Personal Essay Genre

    • Specificity and Structure

    • Writer As Cultural Observer

    • Writer As Activist

    • Three Rhetorical Elements in Effective Personal Essays

    • Personal Essays and the Truth

    • Argumentative Fallacies that Make People Look Stupid

    • How to Write School Admissions Personal Essay


About This Class

Blog posts, newspaper columns, and admission applications can often be quite lifeless, abstract, vague and thus ineffective in persuading anyone about anything

Yet great changes in people's thinking and behavior can occur with persuasion done right, particularly in writing. 

If you want to change people's opinions in the online public sphere and get them to act in new ways, you must include rhetorical elements and take on approaches that I describe in detail in this course. 

Incorporate those elements in the personal essay – and avoid logical problems listed in the lectures – and you can make your writing more powerful

In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How a personal essay is nothing like an academic school paper;
  • The roles of Cultural Observer and Activist common to almost all personal essays;
  • Three rhetorical devices that – when combined – can influence people profoundly;
  • Ways to identify and remove logical problems from your arguments;
  • How to see and break down false assumptions in your opponent’s arguments; and,
  • The basics of an admissions essay.

This course is useful for anyone looking to improve the impact of his or her writing, particularly on the Internet.





Duncan Koerber

University Professor

Dr. Duncan Koerber has taught writing and communications courses for the past 10 years at six Canadian universities to thousands of students.

Currently a full-time assistant professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, Duncan Koerber worked for nearly 10 years in reporting and editing roles for the London Free Press, the Mississauga News, and the University of Toronto Medium. He has freelanced for magazines and newspapers, including the Toronto Star.

Oxford University Press recently published his writing textbook, Clear, Precise, Direct: Strategies for Writing (2015). Available on Amazon, the book considers the seven most common errors (interfering factors) in writing and how to improve them (enhancing factors). His second book, Crisis Communication in Canada, is in the revision process for University of Toronto Press.

Duncan Koerber has been a successful freelance editor, reaching the top 0.01% of editors on Elance. Now, his freelance editing and proofreading agency on Upwork is in the "top rated" category.

Duncan Koerber has a bachelor of arts degree in English, Professional Writing, and Political Science from the University of Toronto (2001), a master of arts degree in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario (2003), and a Ph.D. in Communication and Culture from York University and Ryerson University (2009).

His academic writing, which focuses on media and journalism history, writing pedagogy, and public relations crisis communication, has been published in the Canadian Journal of Communication, the Journal of Canadian Studies, Journalism History, Media History, Composition Studies, Canadian Journal of Media Studies, and Sport History Review.