Classical rhetoric consists of five canons that order the rhetorician's task. The first three - Invention, Arrangement, and Elocution - define the writing process and are the foundation of The Lost Tools of Writing

If we were to ask you what you find challenging about the writing process, what would you say? When we ask this question during workshop we hear answers like these: 

  • Getting started
  • Finding facts
  • Defending an argument
  • Moving the reader
  • Arranging ideas
  • Transitioning from one thought to the next
  • Having enough to say
  • Not saying too much
  • Saying things just right

Sound familiar? Do you notice that each of these fit into one of three broad categories: coming up with ideas, putting ideas in order, and expressing ideas appropriately. 

These are the universal writing challenges every writer faces. If you can solve them, you can write effectively. Put simply, to write well is to come up with something to say, to put your materials in the best order, and to express your thoughts appropriately. 

Solving these challenges was the goal of classical rhetoricians like Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintillian. They noticed that people overcome them by working through three stages, one for each challenge. They gave these stages names, translate to English as follows: 

  • Invention (coming up with ideas)
  • Arrangement (ordering your ideas)
  • Elocution (expressing your ideas appropriately)

These solutions comprise the three canons of classical composition that you will find in The Lost Tools of Writing. 

In each essay (or lesson, if you will), your student will practice Invention, Arrangement, and Elocution separately and in that order, acquiring tools for each canon, then putting them together in a new essay. 

In short, writing students learn to discover material, to arrange this material, and to communicate appropriately. Simple. But not always easy. Each takes practice, which must be guided and coached. And that's where you come in.