According to a recent manifesto titled Manifest Nederlands op School, the secondary school subject Dutch Language and Literature is incoherent, unchallenging and unscientific. In order to solve this problem, the school subject should strive to reach levels of conscious language proficiency (‘bewuste taalvaardigheid’), for example by drawing on insights from the related academic discipline. By doing so, the school subject and the discipline of Dutch Language and Literature (‘neerlandistiek’) could engage in a perspective of cooperation. There have been several proposals for ways of achieving both a more conscious level of language proficiency as well as the subsequent state of cooperation. One such proposal argues that scientific insights fostered from classical rhetoric could well be used to achieve conscious writing proficiency (Jansen 2016). However, empirical evidence to support this claim is lacking. Therefore, in this exploratory study, we investigated Jansen’s assertion by looking at the effect lessons based on classical rhetoric have on secondary school pupil’s use of tropes, such as irony or antithesis. We judged the quality of their tropes and additionally, we looked at whether or not pupils could use them consciously. Results support Jansen’s claim and reveal that classical rhetoric can indeed be used to achieve greater conscious proficiency in writing.