The writing requirements for a PhD can take you on an arduous, taxing journey. I've been there, and I know how challenging it feels. Hi! i'm Will Penman. I founded Composition Coaching in mid-2020 to improve people's PhD experience by helping them achieve their writing goals. Whether you're just starting a PhD or are a seasoned group leader, I can help.


I received my Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA in 2018. Then, I taught research writing at Princeton University for four years. Together, I gained 10 years of experience teaching research writing ing technical and non-technical disciplines.

My own research involved anti-racism, religion, and artificial intelligence from a rhetorical perspective. I published four articles in peer-reviewed journals, presented at more than a dozen conferences, and I was awarded multiple grants.

My favorite publication was probably “A field-based rhetorical critique of ethical accountability,” which was published in 2018 in Quarterly Journal of Speech, because the reviewers were excited about its potential, and because QJS has high status in the field of rhetoric. As I left academia, I was sad that a few important projects were still unfinished.

Experience teaching and coaching

In my teaching life until 2022, I was an award-winning teacher. I guided over 300 writing projects from start to finish, including personal meetings with each writer and detailed, individualized comments on each draft. I led special sections for multilingual students. I developed new concepts and processes for research writing including the “four opportunities” of research writing, and my inclusive approach helps all writers attend to systemic nuances of academic writing. I additionally consulted one-on-one with almost 100 students (undergraduate, Masters, and PhD) on their existing writing projects in fields as diverse as business, architecture, rhetoric, engineering, history, molecular biophysics, theology, and machine learning.

Now as a writing coach I've worked with people from bioengineering to literature. 

Awards and accomplishments

In 2017 I was awarded a Graduate Student Teaching Award from Carnegie Mellon's English Department.

In my teaching role, I was proudest of what my students were able to accomplish in their research projects.

Several of my students developed extremely successful projects. For instance:

  • In early 2020, my student Grace Liu, a first-year at Princeton, had her seminar paper accepted for presentation at the British Society for the History of Science conference (canceled due to coronavirus). Titled “‘A Few Small Inconveniences’: Environmental, Ethical, and Socioeconomic Anxieties over Personal Transportation Technologies in 1830s British Caricature,” Grace's paper was conceptualized, carried out, drafted, and revised in my class.
  • In summer 2020, Rebecka Mähring, a rising sophomore at Princeton, saw her seminar paper from my class accepted for presentation at the Northeast Popular and American Culture Association (NEPCA) annual conference: “Reshaping Sociotechnical Imaginaries in Cold War Era Ads.” Her presentation was even nominated for an NEPCA student paper award.
  • And in early 2021, my former student Byulorm Park presented a version of her seminar paper at the Eastern Communication Association annual conference: “Countervisuality For a Gentrifying City Center: Structuring Systems of Surveillance Through Architecture.” That paper received a runner-up prize at the national level from the National Communication Association. 

Their success attests to the quality of the guidance I offer.

In 2018, my student Epifanio Torres conceptualized and carried out a paper in my class that compared frameworks for regulating AI. From 2019-2020, I mentored Epifanio weekly to revise the paper, submit it to a scholarly journal, and navigate revisions. I came alongside as a co-author in the process. In early 2020, while Epifanio was a sophomore, our paper was accepted for publication in the interdisciplinary journal AI & Society, as “An emerging AI mainstream: Deepening our comparisons of AI frameworks through rhetorical analysis.”

Will with a former student, Epi Torres

I helped Epifanio publish in a peer-reviewed journal based on his first-year seminar paper.


I received consistently enthusiastic feedback on my teaching through course evaluations. (Research shows that students tend not to give women and people of color their due in course evaluations, so my high scores should be read with that in mind.) At Carnegie Mellon, my sections stood out even in a college and department that emphasizes teaching.

Across all nine measures of teaching, my research writing courses from Fall 2013 through Spring 2017 received higher scores on average than even the Carnegie Mellon English Department.

Graphic showing Will's positive course evaluations

Likewise, at Princeton my students were extremely positive in assessing my ability to support their research writing. Their comments emphasize how much I cared and how helpful our sessions were:

  • “I definitely understand the writing process better after this class. My writing has become a lot more methodical and I'm able to better understand what techniques of writing work and which don't through critiquing the work of me and my classmates.”
  • “The feedback was very useful, and consistently struck a balance between highlighting exemplary ideas and pushing for more through constructive criticism”
  • “The feedback was very useful. Dr. Penman did a great job stimulating my thinking and leading me in productive directions without ever giving me one 'right answer,' and leaving me to make important discoveries on my own.”
  • “I've really loved the stakes, research gap, thesis architecture that we've used this semester. I think this has been the most fundamental change for me in my writing, and it has really improved. I also really appreciated Dr. Penman's help in allowing me to organize/structure my methodology and analysis, really helping me tell a concrete story.”