3 Arts of Writing

Writing is essential to living.

Nearly every career requires at least minimal ability to write. Police officers write tickets. Scientists write lab reviews. Stay-at-home moms write Christmas cards.

Writing is everywhere.


In medieval times, writing centered around three arts:

  1. Art of Preaching
  2. Art of Letter Writing
  3. Art of Poetry

Although altered and/or transformed, the three medieval rhetorical arts still exist today and people still rely on the them to live.

1. Art of Preaching

With religion a centerpiece of life, preaching was a vital medieval rhetorical art. This art was so popular and essential there was Preaching for Dummies, the holy how-to book – preaching manuals.

After brushing up on the latest preaching methods, the consensus focused on the structure of their sermons by using a tradition three-part sermon, still used today.

At a time where widespread literacy was still not quite tangible, some members of the audience were illiterate and the preachers had to devise ways to alleviate this minor problem.

While some preachers used cleaver hooks to get the attention of the audience, other preachers attempted to win audiences and get their attention with charm or scare tactics.

(Perhaps Courtney would have been won over by the medieval preachers.)

Even in today’s society, preaching still weighs heavily in people’s lives. Although religion may have taken a backburner, people still attend church and Billy Graham is a pulpithousehold name.

If we stretch our imagination, we can draw parallels between the art of medieval preaching and today’s advertisements.

The same way people would flock to church and listen to a sermon, today people watch and/or listen to advertisements and then flock to stores to get their retail therapy.

Moreover, students frequently listen to the art of preaching in their classes. Some teachers and professors adhere to the art of preaching while giving lectures. If there weren’t pencil sharpeners, it may be difficult to tell the two apart.

Can I get an Amen!?

2. Art of Letter Writing

Do you remember when you first discovered the U.S. Postal Service?

I was only a few years old and when I saw my mom getting notes through the mailbox outside of our home. When I did, I immediately wanted my own letter. I begged my mom, my grandparents, my neighbors, and my friends to write me letters so the mailman would deliver a letter with my name on it to our mailbox.

Mom would always shake her head and say mail is undesirable, full of junk mail and bills, but I did not heed to her advice. If Steve and Blue on Blue’s Clues could get fun letters every day, so could I.

Medieval letter writing was usually in the form of official letters, complete with a unique wax seal. Most of earliest Christian documents are in the form of letters.

Letters were traditionally five parts: the greeting, the exordium, the body, the specific request, and the conclusion, much like today’s letters.

To this day, I still occasionally love to crack open my fountain pen and compose letters to family members. Although traditional letter writing has also fallen by the wayside, people still compose pieces to communicate with one another.

Example #1:

Official letter writing is still in existence. From life insurance documents to court documents, official letters are sent to people every day.


Example #2:

Letters have turned virtual and emails still constitute as letters. Even though all emails are not particularly formal, it is still a mode of communication for people.


Example #3:

Letters are a perfect teaching tool. Letters were used as a teaching tool for the following reasons:

        1. Provide framework for teaching prose composition
        2. Half conversation, brief, good for beginners, broadly applicable
        3. Complexity of salutations
        4. Organization
        5. Purpose

These are some of the same reasons why I want to teach the persuasive letter!

And besides, who doesn’t want to get a love letter every once in a while?


3. Art of Poetry

Ah, poetry. Although poetry isn’t in the CCSS, it was a vital piece to medieval life just as it is equally a vital piece of my life today. Back in the day, teachers used poetry as a tool to teach:

        1. Grammar
        2. Vivid metaphors
        3. Critical analysis

All three reasons are why I will bleed poetry as a teacher and why poetry altogether rocks!


(These are rocks to inspire poetry.)

The art of poetry is still in society via music. The sound of music is laced with beautiful lines of poetry.

Poetry is not dead and will continue to be an art.

Although I wouldn’t trade my millennium for the world (I love refrigerators and airplanes too much), those oldies sure did know a thing or THREE about writing!


Herrick, James A.. The History and Theory of Rhetoric. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2009. Print.

Murphy, James J.. A Short History of Writing Instruction. New York: Routledge, 2012. Print.