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What Is English Composition?

What Is English Composition?

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Author: Sophia Tutorial
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Recognize the major goals and types of composition in academic settings.

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Tutorial

what's covered
In this lesson, you will learn about the goals of and types of writing involved in English composition, and the skills and competencies used to achieve them. Specifically, this lesson will cover:
  1. Goals of English Composition
  2. Types of Academic Writing
    1. Narrative Writing
    2. Expository Writing
    3. Persuasive Writing
  3. Writing Beyond College

1. Goals of English Composition

There are four primary goals for students of English composition:

  1. Develop writing skills through the process of creating essays.
  2. Learn to read and write in an academic context.
  3. Become an engaged reader.
  4. Think critically.
Of these goals, reading effectively is one you must be able to do first in order to succeed in a writing course. Effective reading that requires the reader's complete concentration is referred to as "engaged reading," and it can help you in many ways.

Engaged reading provides a launch point for the consideration, examination, and discussion of any subject. It enables you to identify topics for your written work, and to support those topics effectively.


2. Types of Academic Writing

So what kind of writing must you learn how to do? In this course, you will focus on academic writing. This kind of writing is often used to make assertions that are supported by research, and which contribute to the advance of knowledge in a particular area.

There are three main types of academic writing:

  • Personal narratives
  • Expository or informative writing
  • Persuasive or argumentative writing
term to know
Academic Writing
Writing that makes assertions, supported by research, that contribute to the advancement of knowledge in a particular area.

2a. Narrative Writing

Narrative writing often refers to personal narratives, which include memoirs, creative nonfiction, and other kinds writing about lives and experiences that convey information in the form of a story.

Following is the first paragraph of an essay about the writer's experiences while learning to ride a motorcycle. The only source of information for the essay is the narrator, since it is a story about her personal experience.

Last summer I bought a motorcycle, learned to ride it, and crashed, in that order. During the months of my rehabilitation, I had a lot of time to think. I began to do so during the Vicodin-induced haze in which I spent the first few days after the accident. But mostly, I watched Netflix, attempted to read, and tried to find a comfortable position in which I could both eat ice cream and not bleed on my bed sheets.

This excerpt demonstrates one way in which personal narrative can be used to establish the background for an argument that will follow.

term to know
Narrative Writing
Writing that conveys information in the form of a story.

2b. Expository Writing

The second type of academic writing you must learn is expository writing. Expository writing is informative: The writer explains her ideas in order to convey information. It is used to analyze processes, compare and contrast concepts and ideas, and to define terms.

Following is an informative section of the essay referenced above. This section cites some of the research that was performed to support the essay. In this section the subject of the essay has expanded beyond narration of the writer's story to a broad consideration of motorcycling. Do you see how the writer develops her argument using exposition?

The type of accident involving cars and motorcycles that occurs most frequently in England is called the SMIDSY (Sorry, Mate, I Didn't See You). In this type of accident, a car pulls into traffic and collides with a motorcycle because the driver of the car doesn't see the motorcycle approaching, or mistakes it for a car that's further away. In over 70% of accidents involving a car and a motorcycle in the U.S., the driver of the car was found to be at fault.

term to know
Expository Writing
Writing that explains, defines, or describes.

2c. Persuasive Writing

The third and perhaps most common type of academic writing is persuasive writing. This is writing meant to convince readers of something— to accept a proposal, take specific action, agree with the writer's interpretation of data or research, etc.

Here is the final paragraph of the motorcycling essay. In it, the writer presents her conclusion about who was to blame for the accident — and by implication, who is to blame in most motorcycle accidents. Note how the writer uses the personal narrative and exposition provided earlier in the essay to build an argument and convince readers to agree with the conclusion.

Before the accident, I didn't want to admit that I was willfully ignorant of the dangers of motorcycle riding. I still sometimes try to deny it, even now. I didn't think about the dangers, because I didn't want to. This means that I am to blame for everything that happened to me, regardless of the other driver's actions. This applies to all motorcyclists as well: It's their choice to ride and, therefore, their responsibility to accept, and guard against, the dangers of doing so.

term to know
Persuasive Writing
Writing designed to convince readers to accept a proposition or take an action.


3. Writing Beyond College

While the knowledge you'll gain through reading and in this course will help you in your college career, it will also help you outside the classroom. Solid writing and critical-thinking skills are key to achieving your goals in life beyond school.

EXAMPLE

Almost all careers begin with written applications, resumes, and cover letters. An employer's first impressions of job-seekers are often the result of their writing ability (or lack of it). It's important to make a good first impression!

Many jobs require reading and writing ability to perform their basic functions. Furthermore, each field has its own set of assumptions about what is and is not acceptable communication.

EXAMPLE

If you can't tell the difference between a professional memo and an inappropriate email message, you may not be able to build or maintain professional relationships in a business setting. You may not even be taken seriously by your colleagues or boss.

As you work to achieve academic literacy in this course, don't forget that the skills you'll acquire will continue to serve you outside of your academic context.

summary
In this lesson, you learned about the goals of English composition and explored the three different types of academic writing: narrative writing, expository writing, and persuasive writing. You also learned about the impact of writing beyond college— good writing skills are useful in almost any career field.

Best of luck in your learning!

Terms to Know
Academic Writing

Writing that makes assertions, supported by research, that contribute to the advancement of knowledge in a particular area.

Expository Writing

Writing that explains, defines, or describes.

Narrative Writing

Writing that conveys information in the form of a story.

Persuasive Writing

Writing designed to convince readers to accept a proposition or take an action.