Scott Postma

A blog about the Great Books, the Craft of Writing, and Human Flourishing.

Saturday School: Lesson #2 – Elements of Composition


Lesson #2 – Elements of Composition

  1. Complete the reading assignment
  2. Complete the writing exercise
  3. Post your assignment in the comments
  4. Share the lesson with a friend


Today’s lesson is extremely simple, and should only take you a few minutes. Last week we discussed the difference between sophistry and rhetoric. We learned that rhetoric rightly understood, is not sophistry, but the principled process of crafting a valid and compelling message.

This week, I want to do two things: clarify what I mean by message, then introduce you to the three parts of rhetoric you need to know to write well.

First, hopefully you are saying this in your sleep by now: rhetoric rightly understood, is not sophistry, but the principled process of crafting a valid and compelling message.

While memorizing and conceptualizing this principle is essential, it is necessary to think of the words compelling message as argument. This doesn’t change anything; it just highlights an important distinction.

Good writing doesn’t just tell the facts, it makes an assertion. In other words, all good writing argues a point. Your argument is your compelling message.

Second, there are three parts to rhetoric as it pertains to writing, and  you should memorize these too: invention, organization, and style.

Invention is the message you plan to argue.

Organization is the order in which you plan to argue your message.

Style is how you plan to argue your message.

Writing Exercise

Pick a topic that interests you, then write a single sentence that argues a point you want to make. Share your sentence in the comments. For example: Every Christian has a moral obligation to be a proficient writer. 

Do you want to touch readers with your words, learn the craft of writing, or simply improve your writing skills from a classical perspective? Join me each week for Saturday (Writing) School. Every Saturday I’ll send a lesson to your inbox you can complete in an hour, or you can work on it at your leisure. It’s free!


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About Scott Postma

Scott is a writer and teacher living in North Idaho. He loves teaching the Great Books, writing and blogging, and collecting more books than he’ll ever read in a lifetime. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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2 Replies

  1. Sherwood MacRae

    Excellent thoughts – may have been known, but as time passes we tend to get enamored with our own thoughts and processes. Well timed reminder.

    1. Yes, Sherwood. Like sports or music, good writing requires us to remember and practice the basics.