English Composition Program

English Composition comprises a set of university-wide required General Education courses. Each course focuses on increasingly complex writing situations with the goal of strengthening students’ flexibility and skill as writers and communicators. Our writing courses are intentional communities where students interact with one another and with their instructors on a regular basis. We hope to cultivate good writers and to inspire good writing habits that serve students well within and beyond the confines of our course sequence.

Guiding Principles

We learn to write by writing. Writing competency is cumulative: it takes practice and more practice. Daily writing activities, formal and informal, are crucial to becoming a more fluent, confident writer.

Writing is the content of composition classes. Our goal as teachers is to help you express, in writing, increasingly complex ideas. We value writing that is clear, well-organized, rhetorically aware, and critically engaged. These attributes are not specific to composition courses, but are aspects of writing valued across and beyond the academic disciplines.

Writing is a process. Writing courses provide you with opportunities for invention, drafting, editing, revising, and reflection because thoughtful writing requires time and feedback. We recognize, however, that there is no single process that fits every writer; our teachers are attentive to your different learning styles and allow for appropriate flexibility.

Writing and revision go hand-in-hand. You will have opportunities for revision in each composition course. Revising requires that writers return to a draft, rethinking and reshaping what it says. We like Joseph Harris's description of revision in his book Rewriting: "The aim of revising should not be simply to fix up or refine a text but to develop and extend what it has to say - to make your writing more precise, nuanced, inventive, and surprising" (116). Adding, cutting, moving, rethinking, and reorganizing text - these are important moves for meaningful revision. Editing, or correcting errors and improving sentences for clarity and readability, is an important part of the writing process as well, but if the "big picture" of an essay is not developed and refined, then the sentence-level changes will not make a significant difference to the essay's overall success.

Writing happens in a community. UC writing classes provide opportunities for you to share writing and to read and respond to your classmates' writing. Writing courses are discussion-based courses, not lectures, which require your involvement and participation. The writing that you do in this community should be addressed to the academic community, and not just your teacher or class. Writing for the academic community involves utilizing accepted conventions of formal writing, such as avoiding the second-person point of view. It also involves contextualizing your ideas for a diverse readership. In other words, you should provide enough information for readers who may not be familiar with the syllabus or assignment to understand your point.

Writing courses teach you how to write well with and without teachers. You'll learn how to become better readers of your own writing through teacher instruction and feedback. However, we believe that you are not served well by an approach that places all responsibility for learning on the teacher. Thus, we foster independence in student-writers through activities like peer review, reflection, and group work. Our goal is for you to leave our classrooms with a good sense of how to generate ideas for a paper, organize them in a convincing and logical way, integrate relevant research, craft an appropriate voice for an audience and purpose, and edit and revise, based on self-assessment and reader feedback.

Writing courses are not grammar courses. Our charge in English Composition is to teach you how to craft cohesive essays of increasing complexity. While grammar competency is an integral component of writing performance, writers do not learn how to write by learning grammar rules. They learn how to write by writing and reading.

Writing is an adventure! We hope that you'll learn something about yourself through the process of reading, thinking, and writing in our composition courses here at UC. We find that writing is often a means for discovery, which is why we intend our classes to help you contribute to academic writing, as well as to allow you the freedom to explore your own thinking through a variety of writing tasks and activities.