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English Composition

Writing Competencies

Minimum writing requirement for each class: 5,000 words of to-be-graded public discourse. Ungraded earlier drafts, revised versions of already-graded essays, and journal entries, exercises, etc., shouldn’t be counted toward this total. Most of the graded writing for each course should involve multiple drafts and the full writing process, but at least 10% of the grade for each course should come from in-class, single-period, graded writings—essay exams, impromptu essays, etc.

I. Writing Process

College Writing

  1. Aware that it usually takes multiple drafts to complete a successful text.
  2. Aware that the process is recursive, not linear, so that the writing process should not be viewed (or taught) as a series of discrete “steps.”
  3. Aware of their own processes and of what does and doesn’t work for them.
  4. Aware of strategies for inventing, drafting, revising, editing.

Expository Writing

Expository Writing teachers may find it useful to review briefly points about the writing process, but for the most part should expect students to be familiar with these concepts already. Of course, the structure of the course and the nature of the assignments should reinforce awareness of the writing process.

II. Rhetorical Knowledge

College Writing

  1. Aware of the concept of purpose in writing and of ways one’s purpose influences one’s other choices, such as style, tone, etc.
  2. Aware of the concept of audience and of ways writers can adjust their strategies to meet the specific needs of various audiences.

Expository Writing

  1. Aware of what genres are, how they differ, and how they can have different rhetorical purposes.
  2. Able to treat the same information in multiple formats, multiple genres, for multiple audiences, etc.
  3. Aware of differences among various academic discourse communities and the genre conventions of those communities.

III. Structure

College Writing

  1. Aware of the concept of thesis and able to create essays unified in support of clear, sharply focused thesis statements.
  2. Aware of the widely-used organization of introduction-development-conclusion and able to use the organizational form appropriately.
  3. Aware that in certain situations the form described in III.B. is inappropriate and able to adjust to these situations.
  4. Able to produce unified, coherent, appropriately developed paragraphs, placed in a logical order to develop the ideas of the essay to optimum effect.

Expository Writing

While certain students may need individual help with these matters, and certain assignments may require instruction about structure for that particular assignment, Expository Writing teachers should be able to assume that the class as a whole needs relatively little instruction about structure in general.

IV. Style

College Writing
  1. Able to use transitions appropriately to underscore the structure of an essay and the links among the essay’s ideas.
  2. Able to vary sentence length, sentence beginnings, and sentence structure.
  3. Able to use elements of emphasis—parallelism, figurative language, etc.—appropriately.
  4. Able to write concisely and to edit out verbal clutter.
  5. Able to choose words precisely to achieve an appropriate tone and level of formality, increase reader interest, etc.

Expository Writing

Most students will continue to need individual help in these areas, and whole-class exercises may continue to be appropriate and helpful. But Expository Writing teachers should be able to assume that their students have had some instruction in these areas.

V. Conventions of Standard English

College Writing

A. Aware of the basic conventions of punctuation, grammar, and usage, and able to adhere to those conventions when producing written texts. While some teachers will cover these elements for the entire class and others will cover them purely in the context of the individual student’s writing, any student completing College Writing should have received instruction in any of the following which have given him or her difficulty:

  1. Sentence boundaries (avoiding fragments, comma splices, fused sentences, except as
    intentional stylistic choices in special situations)
  2. Subject-verb agreement
  3. Pronoun matters, including
    --pronoun case, especially in compound constructions;
    --pronoun-antecedent agreement, including recognition that the “rules” are
    changing in this area, so that some choices aren’t so much flat-out incorrect as
    indicative of an informality which may not be appropriate in college essays;
    --use of “person,” as in avoiding questionable use of “you,” again including
    recognition that this may at times be a matter of levels of formality rather than
    of simple correct/incorrect choices.
  4. Comma rules
  5. Other punctuation—colons, semicolons, dashes, etc.
  6. Dangling and misplaced modifiers
  7. Homonyms and near-homonyms (effect/affect, etc.)

Expository Writing

Review of these elements as needed. Presumably, most instruction in these areas in Expository Writing is individualized, within the context of the student’s own writing.

VI. Writing and Personal Experience

College Writing

  1. Able to write lively, interesting accounts of the student’s personal experiences, accounts which also reflect insightfully on that experience and its effect on the student’s developing character or its lesson for the student, etc.
  2. Aware of writing’s enormous potential for exploring a field of knowledge and for exploring oneself.

Expository Writing

  1. Able to employ personal experience as evidence, perhaps in combination with material from more traditional forms of research, to support a point which transcends the purely personal.

VII. Argument

College Writing

  1. Able to take a clear stand on a potentially controversial topic and support that stand with appropriate evidence.

Expository Writing

  1. Able to use appeals to reason, appeals to emotion, and appeals to character/ethics (logos, ethos, and pathos) appropriately.
  2. Able to anticipate and refute the most obvious potential objections readers might have to one’s position.
  3. Able to demonstrate awareness of the complexity of the issue and to avoid sounding dogmatic and narrow-minded, while still supporting one’s argumentative point.

VIII. Writing About Reading

College Writing

  1. Able to read a piece and write reflectively about how the concepts in that piece apply (or don’t apply) to the student’s own situation, experiences, etc.
  2. Able to summarize accurately the ideas in articles up through the level of, say, Time magazine.

Expository Writing

  1. Able to read a theoretical piece of writing and use it as a “lens” through which to view data from another text.
  2. Able to write an abstract of a college-level piece of writing, accurately reproducing the central ideas and structure of the original piece but using the student’s own words.
  3. Able to critically analyze the ideas and supporting evidence in a college-level piece of writing, as well as to analyze the rhetorical strategies the piece employs, and to write an essay expressing that analysis.

IX. Inquiry

College Writing

  1. Able to locate appropriate source material in various locations, including books and periodicals in Cofrin Library and authoritative sources on the Internet.
  2. Able to recognize what is and isn’t an acceptable source for a given college-level writing assignment.
  3. Able to synthesize material from several sources into a coherent whole unified by a thesis.
  4. Able to paraphrase and summarize material and to make clear to the reader the source of the material being paraphrased or summarized; thus, able to avoid plagiarism.
  5. Aware of what and when to cite; thus, again, able to avoid plagiarism.
  6. Able to introduce quotations smoothly and appropriately; to use quotation marks (including quotes within quotes), ellipsis points, brackets, block-quotation format, and other conventions associated with quoted material in academic discourse; able to integrate quoted material into the student’s own sentence smoothly.
  7. Able to produce parenthetical citations and a Works Cited or Reference list in MLA or APA format.

Expository Writing

Expository Writing teachers will probably have to review much of the above, but should also craft assignments which require students to be

  1. Able to evaluate sources, including electronic sources, for reliability, currency, relevance, appropriately, bias or lack of bias, etc.
  2. Able to conduct original research, perhaps through “field research” (interviews, surveys, strategic and methodical observation, etc.) or through original analysis of primary texts such as historical records, etc.
  3. Able to move beyond research-based reports and summaries and into research-based argument and/or critical analysis. This might include showing relationships (possibly including contradictions) among sources, refuting sources, moving beyond the sources, etc.

X. Writing Under Time Pressure

College Writing

  1. Able to write a clear, coherent impromptu essay supporting a central thesis.
  2. Able to write clear, coherent, accurate essays in response to essay-exam questions.

Expository Writing

While Expository Writing, like College Writing, should include some writing under time pressure as a portion of the course grade, the skills taught in this area may well not differ greatly from College Writing to Expository Writing, other than that material for essay-exam units in Expository Writing may be somewhat more challenging than that in College Writing.

Typical Assignments in College Writing:

  1. Write an essay describing a person, place, or event that in some way influenced how you became the person you are today.
  2. Write an opinion/persuasive essay using personal experiences as support.
  3. Explore a possible career using personal reflection and research.
  4. Write an informative essay on the topic of your choice, synthesizing material from at least three sources to provide your information.
  5. Write a research-based essay in MLA format, using problem-solution form.
  6. Write an essay comparing and contrasting your own personal experiences with those described in an article assigned to the class.

Typical Assignments in Expository Writing:

  1. Write an abstract of an assigned essay from the textbook.
  2. Write an argument essay incorporating relevant research, using logical, emotional, and ethical appeals as appropriate, and anticipating and refuting the other side’s most important arguments if appropriate.
  3. Write a critical analysis (analyzing the substance of the piece—evidence, logic, etc.) and/or a rhetorical analysis (analyzing the author’s purpose, audience, and techniques used to achieve that purpose with that audience) of one of the essays in our textbook.
  4. Write an essay applying a theoretical perspective described in one essay discussed in class to data, events, or situations portrayed in one or more other essays from the textbook.
  5. Write an essay comparing and contrasting a film based on a historical event or adapted from another medium (novel, play, etc.) with its historical or literary source, and evaluating how successfully the film adapted the historical or literary source into cinema.
  6. Write a research paper in which, after developing expertise on a certain subject through library and/or Internet research and then conducting original research (perhaps interviews, a survey, or strategic, methodical observation) to gain further knowledge on that subject, you present your own research findings within the context of what others you encountered in your library/Internet research have found.