11 free online writing courses for getting real good at words

Writing is a much-prized skill and a difficult one to master and, while some are naturally gifted in stringing sentences together, we all need to take the time to learn the craft.

Whether you want to write your first novel, pen a poignant poem, pull together a screenplay, or create better business content, there is a free, online course out there to help. We’ve rounded up a list of free, online writing courses so you can find the perfect program of study to help you write gooderer.

This eight-week online writing course is an introduction to the theory and practice of rhetoric, the art of persuasive writing and speech. Using selected speeches from prominent 20th-century Americans — including Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Margaret Chase Smith, and Ronald Reagan — to explore and analyze rhetorical structure and style, this course will teach you when and how to employ a variety of rhetorical devices in writing and speaking.

It also covers how to differentiate between argument and rhetorical technique, how to write a persuasive opinion editorial, and how to evaluate and identify strengths of logical fallacies in arguments.

This short course can be completed in one day and is one of five modules in Wesleyan University’s Creative Writing offerings.

In this writing course, aspiring wordsmiths will be introduced to the concept of plot. You will learn what keeps it moving and how it can manipulate readers’ feelings, expectations, and desires. The course examines the choices storytellers make to snag people’s imaginations, drag them into a fictional world, and keep them there. You will learn how to outline and structure a plot, discuss narrative arc, pacing and reversals, and reveal the inevitable surprise: connecting the beginning, middle, and end.

Do you want an intensive writing course? This class that can take up to eight hours a week for four weeks, but the learning is self-paced so you do have some flexibility. It will help you to study the different communication styles and discuss the best practices of business writing by providing real-world scenarios and applications.

You will examine how to use the six Cs (spoiler: consideration, clarity, conciseness, coherence, correctness, and confidence) to enhance your business messages. This contemporary course also looks at the proper etiquette of business writing, and examines the use of emoji in business communications.

Described as “an invitation to let your inner songwriter step into the sunlight,” this online writing class will have you singing a tune (or that’s the goal).

If you haven’t written any or many songs, it promises to show you an efficient, effective process for tailoring songs to express your ideas and emotions. If you have, you’ll look at your process differently, taking control of aspects of the process you may have not noticed. This course will get you working both lyrically and musically, although it’s not necessary that you either read music or play an instrument — the course offers you a number of musical loops to work with that you can sing your melodies over. During this course you will create lyrics and/or melodies for peer review.

People writing

Pretend you’re back in college and learn to write with your buds.

Credit: Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

This course will teach you to structure your dramatic writing to a professional standard, as well as develop professionally transferable communication skills. This course is designed to improve your understanding of how to write engaging and interesting stories in order to attract producers and directors to your work.

You will be taught how to write effective dialogue, and how to edit your work. This course looks at the work of Brecht, Richard Schechner, Augusto Boal, Japanese Noh theatre, and other forms of theatre from around the world.

You will be sent writing exercises over the course of the module, keep a creativity journal, and by the end of the course you will have completed a plan for the structure of a new play.

This course is described as an introduction to academic writing, focusing on essay development, grammatical correctness, and self-editing. This five-week course includes a review of basic grammar terminology and understanding, writing effective sentences and paragraphs, how to tackle writing introductions and conclusions, strategies for writing longer texts, and thesis statements. The course materials will be offered via readings and videos and you will participate in online discussions. You will complete an essay for this course.

This course will give you specialized knowledge of histories, forms, and traditions of writing for stand-up comedy/performance poetry, as well as the cultural contexts of innovative practitioners and practices within stand-up comedy/performance poetry. You will study contemporary critical, analytical, and narrative theories of stand-up comedy/performance poetry. It will arm you with detailed understanding of key performance components within the discipline, including ideational sources, body, space, image, sound, text, movement, and environment. This course aims to develop advanced self-management skills to include working in planned and improvisatory ways, as well as the ability to anticipate and accommodate change, ambiguity, creative risk-taking, uncertainty, and unfamiliarity.

8. Memoir and personal essay: Write about yourself (Wesleyan University)

This course will teach you “how to write about yourself … so that someone else wants to read it.” This is the heart of this specialization in memoir and personal essay from Wesleyan University.

You will get tips, prompts, exercises, readings, and challenges to help you imagine, construct, and write compelling pieces of non-fiction’s most popular form: the personal narrative. Coursera says learners will develop a toolset to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and write the story of their life. As a result of taking this course, you will collect a portfolio of work that you can use as components of your memoir or essay.

This course will teach you how to build a screenplay and the ins and outs of becoming a professional screenwriter. It’s an intermediate course that requires no previous knowledge of screenwriting. The course will focus on visual storytelling, screenplay structure, and character development and how those work together to convey the central meaning of your work. It will also teach you concrete skills like script-editing, time management, and how to work as a screenwriter. In addition you will gain knowledge the history of film and film theory.

This course is a specialization that’s part of a journalism study program from Michigan State University that’s designed to develop and enhance your understanding of the global field of journalism.

You’ll learn best practices and ethical standards for news gathering processes and compiling a news report through hands-on projects, peer-to-peer feedback, and issue exploration. You will also study journalism’s impact on societal issues and trends, plus explore career opportunities in newspapers, magazines, social media, Internet multimedia, television, radio, corporate, and community journalism.

11. Write your first novel(Michigan State University)

This is a beginner level 26-week course that will guide you through the process of writing your first novel. The course boasts that you will leave the class with a 50,000 page manuscript. By breaking down the writing process and providing you with deadlines, the course can help make writing a novel a less daunting pursuit. It even schedules writing breaks for you. Additionally, the course will provide you with the space for peer review.

This post was originally published in April 2021 and was updated in January 2022.

Additional reporting by Elena Cavender.