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English course handbook
What is college writing?
The college writing courses are designed to cultivate writing skills and introduce literacy concepts that help students successfully engage a broad array of writing challenges in their academic work and beyond. They are intended, in short, to help you improve your writing.
Of course, writing well is at the heart of what any intellectual community is about, since writing involves discovering and communicating meaning. We believe that writing is not simply recording information on paper; it requires deep probing and thinking, done always in view of a great range of competing ideas and voices. Writing is at once a tool for discovering what you know (and, often, what you don’t know) and for communicating that knowledge to others.
The most important specific skills the college writing program hopes to cultivate include the abilities to explore ideas deeply in writing, both formal and informal; to shape those ideas coherently for different audiences; to connect your articulated ideas to those of others; to evaluate different rhetorical contexts and their social stakes; to draft and revise work effectively; to reflect on and assess both your own written work and your development as a writer; and to successfully negotiate the rhetorical demands of standard written English. Concepts college writing students might well explore in their courses include theories of language and literacy; notions of textual citation and ownership; grammatical convention and dialect difference; and approaches to argumentation.
Our use of the term “college writing” should be taken to indicate our opposition to the idea, often connected with the term “composition,” that writing courses should be unreflective training in formal fluency and surface-level correctness. We want our students to think deeply in their writing and, whenever possible, to think deeply about writing.
We also believe that good writing can only be the result of meaningful intellectual engagement. Whether your writing be a lab report, a history research paper, a short story analysis – or a memo outlining a new marketing strategy for Apex thingamagigs – it should involve creative and critical effort. If you write simply to fulfill assignments, if you stop caring about how you express yourself on paper, if you just go through the motions of superficial revision, your writing will lose its life and purpose. Your best writing will record the interactions between you and your world, you and your ideas, you and your readers.