Introduction to Unit 1

Welcome to composition! You’re here to practice your writing skills and develop an understanding of writing at the college level. College-level writing may be quite different from your own writing experiences. Perhaps your writing background consists mainly in texting, or posting notes on Facebook. Maybe you have your own blog or some other social media environment in which you share your thoughts and ideas. This is the common writing experience of most people today. It works fine for your friends and family, but for college writing you have to turn your mind to a bit different focus.

In this class, you’ll be learning how to write more formally than those types of writing. You’ll learn about the “rhetorical situation,” which sounds a bit scary but isn’t. All it means is figuring out who you’re writing to and why and how to get your message across effectively to the people you’re writing to.

For example, if you want to be a nurse you need to be able to write reports to fellow nurses that use the language of nursing. You’ll listen to the technical terms the doctors and other medical staff use and then you’ll have to explain that to your patients and their family members. Your colleagues are not the same as your patients. The “rhetorical situation” is different, and you need to be aware of the differences in order to communicate clearly.

If you take your car in for repairs, the mechanic will use terms that may not be familiar to you. There’s usually an intermediary between you and the mechanic known as the “service writer.” This person knows the mechanic’s terminology and explains it to you so you understand it (like nurses explain the doctor’s terms to the patient). Get the picture? When you’re writing for college-level courses you need to learn, use, and understand the terminology of the courses in order to show you can take that material away and use it effectively. That takes practice. This class provides an opportunity for you to practice writing at various levels so you can strengthen your writing skills and use them throughout your college life and in your profession.

It’s been said that “practice makes better.” Get ready to practice writing in order to become a better writer. Consistent practice helps develop habits – working out at a gym helps you develop muscles and stamina and improves your overall physical health. You don’t hear athletes complain that exercise hurts or that they just “can’t do it,” do you? No! They sometimes use the expression “no pain/no gain,” and while writing isn’t exactly painful, it is something that you need to practice in order to improve.

Do you have trouble with grammar, spelling, punctuation, or sentence structure? Often people claim they either can’t write or don’t like to write because they lack confidence in the mechanics of writing. Again, think of the athlete. Just as the athlete uses weights to develop muscles, if you look at examples of good writing, and if you make a habit of reading clear writing every day, you’ll recognize good mechanics. Imitate those good mechanics in your own writing. Here’s another common phrase: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Practice writing clearly, using the examples of others. And if you want rules, we’ve also provided a handbook at the end of this text to help you understand some of the basic rules of mechanics.

Consider the material you’ll cover in this course as a series of exercises to help you strengthen your own writing skills. Be consistent in practicing these new skills every day. Ask questions and examine the many ways there are of writing clearly and effectively. Think about your assignments and throw your ideas down on paper. Look at them, revise them, develop them, and see them grow into strong examples that you can actually be pleased with. Pump some mental iron and make yourself proud!