Beyond rants: Mastering the skill of argumentation

A workshop with Janelle Hanchett

February 21 – March 28, 2018

This is a brand new, intensive online workshop for people who want to write valid, credible, effective arguments in essays, social media and blog posts.

In this workshop you will learn how to write about controversial subjects in a way that invites people to listen and consider your perspective.

You’ll figure out how to situate your argument in the larger discussion, see where your ideas come from, and assess them within their larger social context.

You will learn how to clarify your audience and purpose as well as tailor your message effectively to resonate with that audience. Specifically, you will learn to adjust your tone, voice, and actual content to remain in discussion with as opposed to IN ATTACK OF others.

There is a time for ranting – and god knows I do it often – but ranting is easy. We all know how to do that.

This is different.

This is hard.

This is powerful.

When we rant, we’re spewing our opinions across the page. Those who agree with us will jump up and down and high-five the air and yell “fuck yeah” into the void. Those who don’t agree, however, will send us emails letting us know our children should be removed by social services. And also, we’re fat.

More thoughtful individuals who disagree with our rants will point out the fact that we didn’t really make viable arguments, use evidence, or offer claims supported by anything beyond rampant swearing and rage.

So we rant when we really don’t care too much about changing minds or offering new ideas or affecting “the opposition.” We rant because it’s fun, and often funny as hell, and feels good to write and read. It’s a bit – dare I say it? – cathartic.

We write an actual argument, though, when a topic means enough to us that we genuinely want people to listen, understand, and consider our ideas. We are not interested in attacking, alienating, or isolating (although some people will get that from even the best arguments, and with those people, we simply do not concern ourselves).

Examples of essays I’ve written that meant a lot to me and were attempting to make sound arguments are: We Don’t Start with Needles in our Arms and How I Discovered I am White.

This workshop is to help you perfect your ability to frame and write arguments, from opinion editorials to compelling social media posts to full-blown submittable essays. I have Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English, so I’ve spent more years than I’d like to admit crafting essays, studying rhetoric, tone, language, voice, and working on the craft of argumentation.

I also fight with my husband a lot, but perhaps that doesn’t count.

It’s hard to write about things we’re passionate about that also happen to be controversial. It’s hard to do justice to topics that really matter, and we need a blueprint. We need a place to begin.

This workshop offers that. I gives you a blueprint to determine what and how much to research, who to cite, what to argue, and how. It will teach you how and why some arguments are effective and others implode. It will remind you of the most common logical fallacies that undermine credibility, as well as the myriad other ways we manage to dilute our messages.

Unlike some (most?) other types of writing, there is actually something of a method to persuasive writing. There are actual steps you can take to improve your arguments and essays, and I am in fact qualified to teach that shit.

Also, in this workshop, you will either write a piece from scratch, or you can submit to me a piece you’ve already written, and I will offer you 1:1 feedback on that work.

Please do not stress out over the writing in this workshop. It can be ONE page. It’s simply to practice forming and writing an argument/persuasive piece, and to receive feedback on it. This isn’t college. You don’t have to write some 7-page essay on some bullshit topic for some bullshit professor.

Wait. I didn’t mean that. College writing is THE BEST! (Seriously though, this isn’t school. I promise.)

Since this is the first time I’m offering this workshop, the price is significantly lower than it will be next time. We will hold weekly live video workshops, and enrollment is limited to eight people. I hope you join us.

Your voice matters, and I want to help you gain the tools to feel confident getting it out there.


Week 1: Nothing happens in a vacuum

This week we will discuss Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle and how to situate our arguments in larger discussions, as well as ways to establish credibility.

Due: Topic for argumentative essay/editorial/blog post  

Week 2: Message, Purpose & Audience

We will help you define the difference between message and purpose, and using those two pieces of analysis, we will figure out how to find your key audience, which is probably the most critical guide to how to write the essay.

Due: Outline of argumentative piece

Week 3: Tone, Voice & Content

How do we create a tone that’s appropriate for our purpose and thus effective with our audience? Of ALL the information in the world, how do we choose that which will bolster our effectiveness?

Work on argumentative piece

Week 4: Logical Fallacies and The Art of Undermining One’s self

A fun reminder of the rampant logical fallacies in our world. I promise, this is actually fun. And once you see these fallacies, you can never unsee them, and you will never watch the news or listen to holiday party political discussion with your family the same (god help us all).

Work on argumentative piece

Week 5: Self-awareness (we are all biased), reasonableness, and the ability to anticipate audience questions

How do we find the holes in our arguments? How can we create a balanced and fair discussion? How to we choose which counter-arguments to address?

Due: Second or later draft to Janelle

Week 6: The magic is in the revision

What do we look for when we revise? How do we determine what’s working in our piece, or not? How do we find places where we are undermining ourselves? What critique should we consider and learn from? And what should we ignore completely?

1:1 video consultation with Janelle re: your piece


Participants: EIGHT

Dates: February 21 – March 28, 2018, video conferences held on Wednesdays at 10am PST

Cost: $389* for workshop, which includes a 20-minute video consultation

Option 2 (workshop + extras): $499* for workshop, 1-hour video consultation, plus written feedback and direct editing on your piece

*Installment plan available, but I have to charge $10 for it as I too am charged. Apologies. Before signing up, please review the refund policy stated below. Thank you!

NOTE: This workshop is sold out. To be notified of future workshops, please sign up for my mailing list on this page. Thank you!

REFUND POLICY: I can offer a full refund up to and including January 20. I can offer a 50% refund up to and including February 5. After February 5, I cannot offer a refund. By signing up for this workshop, you agree to this refund policy. Thank you!