What is English Composition?

What is English Composition?

8 minute read

No matter what you major in or the career path you choose, you’ll likely have to take English Composition I and II at some point in college. But why? What can you possibly learn from an English composition class? Let’s find out what an English Comp class is, what it’s for, and how it can help you in college and beyond.

What is English Composition?

Composition is a fundamental writing skill you’ll use throughout college and into your career, no matter what path you choose. A writing composition puts several ideas in order so readers can understand an idea or argument. Generally speaking, careers that require college degrees also require a great deal of writing. Effective writing skills are a core function of any executive or research position:

  • Nurses have to write patient reports
  • HR managers have to provide employees with company handbooks
  • IT professionals have to communicate with a team about projects

Those are just a few ways in which different careers utilize the skills you develop in an English composition class.

Examples of Coursework & Assignments in English Composition

What types of assignments will you do in your English composition class? Here’s what to expect when assigned an essay:

  • Review and understand the assigned topic. What is the core writing exercise you’ll do as a result of this assignment?
  • Brainstorm topics you’ll introduce and write about. What points do you want to make, and what areas will you cover?
  • Craft a strong thesis statement. What will you cover in your composition? What is the main topic point you’re making?
  • Write an outline. Plan out how and when you’ll address certain ideas in your composition. Take notes for paragraph structures and where you’ll introduce evidence.
  • Write the first draft. Write complete sentences and follow your outline. If you think your paper is falling apart, go back and improve your outline, then improve your draft.
  • Include sources and evidence. Don’t simply say the drought in the Southeastern U.S. is historically bad; include sources and evidence. You’ll need to cite these sources when you turn in your work.
  • Anticipate further questions your writing might inspire. Ask and answer the questions your target audience will likely have.
  • Be specific and go into detail. Don’t assume your reader already knows what you’re talking about or referring to. Don’t gloss over important information.
  • Get a first review and feedback. Let someone else read what you’ve written. Don’t take their suggestions personally: their constructive criticism is intended  to help you improve.
  • Rewrite and revise. Learn to incorporate edits and suggestions that make sense and improve your composition.
  • Write a final draft and proofread. Now is the time to correct grammar, spelling, verb tense, etc. Read your final draft out loud as this helps identify problem areas.

Skills You'll Develop in an English Composition Class

In English Composition, you’ll learn how to “compose” or put together different elements to write clearly. You’ll develop the skills to write persuasively, logically, and in as few words as possible for a target audience. You’ll also learn how to organize your writing so that it flows.

Communication Skills

The ability to communicate clearly, concisely, and correctly is a life skill. Your English composition class is designed to help you learn and develop this skill so that you can succeed in your chosen career. You’ll learn how to get your point across to a target audience in a way that’s persuasive, engaging, and appealing.  By the time you finish your English composition class, you should be able to process information, no matter what form that information comes in, perform a critical analysis of that information, and communicate your thought process and conclusions effectively in words.

Writing Skills

As we’ve said, writing is expected in many careers. An English composition class will help you develop your writing skills, which is part of effective communication.  You'll need to learn and use industry-specific jargon as you dig into your degree field and be able to communicate complex ideas and analytical concepts in writing. You’ll need to increase your writing skills to successfully communicate at higher levels, both for college professors and potential employers.

Research Skills

Since you're writing more sophisticated and polished analytical content, your sources should be reliable and you should have a variety of them. You'll need to hone your research skills as you write more complicated papers.  A large component of college English classes is teaching you how to find the appropriate resources, use them correctly, and form and effectively communicate your conclusions. As you advance in your career, solid research skills are highly valued by employers because they display your “attention to detail, time management, and problem solving” abilities.

Rhetoric Skills

You’ll learn how to use persuasive, motivational, and informative techniques so an audience will take the action you’re calling for or support your article’s topic. You’ll also learn how to anticipate audience reactions, including questions or counter-arguments, and be able to address them clearly and effectively. English composition will also teach you how to use ethical, logical, and/or emotional language to persuade your audience.

Why English Composition Is Important

English composition courses are structured to help you transition to college-level research and academic requirements. The objective is to improve your ability to effectively communicate in an elevated learning environment, so you can better convey your thoughts. Through English Comp I and II, you’ll enhance your writing skills at higher levels of education.

Perform Better Academically & Professionally

Employers want to hire people who know how to express themselves effectively. They also want employees who can sell or describe products and services to a target market. When problems arise, you’ll be expected to describe the problem and potential solutions clearly.  More than that, the skills you acquire in English composition will translate to other life skills, like critical thinking and analytical reasoning.

Learn Your Audience

The world is made up of a wide variety of people with differing viewpoints, education levels, and needs. English comp helps you learn how to communicate with different audiences. A paper for your college professor won’t require the same tone and style as a memo to your IT team, for example. You’ll learn how to take certain factors into consideration when you write such as:

  • What does your audience care about?
  • What do they need to know?
  • What do you want your audience to take away from your writing?
  • What style of writing will work best for this audience: an emotional appeal? Logical facts? Or something else?

Apply Across Your Courses

You’ll likely take your English composition class during your first few semesters of college. This is intended to help you adjust to the academic environment and expectations of college. You’ll need to write in an academic style in many of your other classes. English comp will get you there.

How to Take English Composition

English composition is a general education requirement for most U.S. colleges and universities. As we’ve seen, it helps you develop the skills you’ll need for other college courses as well as your career. If you’ve passed an AP-level English class in high school as well as the AP exam, your school of choice may accept those credits in place of taking English Comp I and/or English Comp II. Another way to get your English composition credits without taking them at college is to fulfill the requirements through an online course and transfer the credits. This may save you both time and money so you can focus on the classes you want to take in college. StraighterLine offers both English Composition I and English Composition II at a cost far below that of college tuition with credits that are guaranteed to transfer to over 150 of our partner schools.

Get Started on General Education Requirements with StraighterLine

In addition to English Comp I and II, StraighterLine offers many other courses that can fulfill your school’s general education requirements. Our courses are affordable, online, and can be taken on your own time and at your own pace.  Start exploring our courses to see how StraighterLine can help you get ahead in your college education.

Enroll in one of StraighterLine's online english composition courses for college credit here.

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