The Composition
Your final lesson in College English
What we will learn
A. Pre-writing strategies
B. Traditional Forms of Discourse
C.Revision strategies
A. Pre-writing strategies
The Composition
1. Brainstorming
2. Clustering/Idea mapping
3. Free writing
4. Journal writing
B. Traditional forms of discourse
1. Narration (telling the story of events)
1.1 Telling a story
1.2 Relating series of events
1.3 Narrating fictional or nonfictional events
1.4 Giving directions,
instructions, advice (writer's motives)
1.5 Focusing on the self
B. Traditional forms of discourse
2. Description (describing people, places and objects)
2.1 Telling what things are like
2.2 Using nouns, adjectives to portray something
2.3 Visualizing characters, settings, actions
2.4 Evoking mood, atmosphere through simile,
2.5 Clarifying confusion; correcting
misconceptions; setting record straight (writer's
2.6 Focusing on the self
B. Traditional forms of discourse
3. Exposition (explaining; sharing information or ideas)
3.1 Writing to inform
3.2 Using information for readers to
see, understand
3.3 Noting logic of explanation
3.4 Noting logic of description
3.5 Citing subtypes
3.6 Bearing witness; registering a
grievance (writer's motive)
3.7 Focusing on reality
B. Traditional forms of discourse
4. Argumentative (convincing by appealing to emotions
or shared values)
4.1 Convincing through logic
4.2 Presenting explicitly author's
opinion or "thesis"
4.3 Building a case to support thesis
4.4 Presenting reasons and evidence
supporting reasons
4.5 Reporting events; sharing data;
arguing a position (writer's
4.6 Focusing on the audience
Paragraphs written in the traditional forms of discourse
Almost every detail of that night stands out very clearly in
memory. I even remember the name of the movie we saw because
its title impressed me as being so patly ironical. It was a movie
about the German occupation of France, starring Maureen O'Hara
and Charles Laughton and called "This Land Is Mine." I remember
the name of the diner we walked into when the movie ended: it was
the "American Diner." When we walked in the counterman asked
what we wanted and I remember answering with the casual
sharpness which had become my habit: "We want a hamburger and
a cup of coffee, what do you think we wnat?" I do not know why,
after a year of such rebuffs, I so completely failed to anticipate his
answer, which was, of course, "We don't serve Negroes here." This
reply failed to discompose me, at least at the moment. I made
some sardonic comment about the name of the diner and we
walked out into the streets.
--James Baldwin, "Notes of a Native Son"
Clouds are streaming off the ocean, and the metal legs of the
tripod are cold against my hands as I set up the spotting scope. I'm
out for birds, and the lagoon is thick with them. Grebes and
canvasbacks, buffleheads and mergansers work the shallow water for
fish, and coots honk and dodge like little black taxicabs in the reeds
along the shore.
Across the lagoon, a great blue heron flaps and glides along the
shoreline, scouting a likely feeding station. Its thin, improbable legs
trail out behind -- tools of the trade, in tow from one fishing spot to
the next. It lands now, gracefully, delicately for a bird the height of a
six-year-old child. Herons are all stilts and feathers and this old giant
-- which looks as if it could wrap its wings around a Honda -- is likely
no heavier than a wailing human newborn. Fiddling with the scope
until the bird fills my vision, I find it transfixed, surveying the
shallows for frogs or cruising fish.
William E. Poole, "For the Birds,”
The importation of plants is the primary agent in the
modern spread of species, for animals have almost
invariably gone along with the plants, quarantine being a
comparatively recent and not completely effective
innovation. The United States Office of Plant Introduction
alone has introduced almost 200,000 species and varieties
of plants from all over the world. Nearly half of the 180 or
so major insect enemies of plants in the United States are
accidental imports from abroad, and most of them have
come as hitchhikers on plants. In new territory, out of
reach of the restraining hand of the natural enemies that
kept down its numbers in its native land, an invading plant
or animal is able to become enormously abundant. Thus it
is no accident that our most troublesome insects are
introduced species.
Rachel Carson, "Silent Spring"
In a recent year, 65 percent of the murders, 63 percent of
the robberies, and 24 percent of the aggravated assaults
involved guns. A government commission found that parts of
the country with the highest level of gun ownership have the
highest incidence of gun-related violence. When stronger gun
control laws are enacted, robberies and homicides tend to
decrease. When Massachusetts enacted a stricter gun control
law, homicides decreased an unbelievable 55 percent during the
two following years. Our rate of violent crimes is 100 percent
higher than that of Great Britain, which has stricter gun control
laws, and it is 200 percent higher than that of Japan, which
outlaws private ownership of handguns. All the available
evidence shows that the easy availability of handguns in this
country is one of the main causes of violent crime.
Revising the Draft
- entails looking at your paper
with a “fresh pair of eyes”
Revising for content
– re-examining the supporting evidence
you’ve provided in order to explore or
explain your topic.
Revising for content : Arguments and Ideas
Revision Checklist
1. What is the thesis of the paper?
2. What supporting evidence, i.e., facts,
examples and illustrations, are provided?
3. Are these pieces of supporting evidence
4. Are they adequately and logically explained?
5. Is information obtained from scholarly
sources used correctly, and cited accurately
and completely?
6. Is the organization logical?
Revising for language and style
– allows you to make your paper more
“readable”, i.e., showing few errors in
word choice, spelling, grammar, and
sentence structure
Revising for content : Language
Revision Checklist: Words
1. Did you use specific words instead of
general ones?
2. Did you consider both the connotative
and denotative meaning of the words
you used?
3. Did you use formal language?
4. Did you use non-sexist language?
A CEO of a certain company decides to
use grammar as the litmus test for his
decision whether or not to hire an
Here’s why.
I Won't Hire People Who Use Poor
Grammar. Here's Why.
by Kyle Wiens
If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of
Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is
a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you. If
you scatter commas into a sentence with all the
discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer
before we politely escort you from the building.
Some might call my approach to grammar extreme, but I
prefer Lynne Truss's more cuddly phraseology: I am a
grammar "stickler." And, like Truss — author of Eats, Shoots
& Leaves — I have a "zero tolerance approach" to grammar
mistakes that make people look stupid.
Now, Truss and I disagree on what it means to have "zero
tolerance." She thinks that people who mix up their itses "deserve
to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an
unmarked grave," while I just think they deserve to be passed over
for a job — even if they are otherwise qualified for the position.
Everyone who applies for a position at either of my companies,
iFixit or Dozuki, takes a mandatory grammar test. Extenuating
circumstances aside (dyslexia, English language learners, etc.), if job
hopefuls can't distinguish between "to" and "too," their applications
go into the bin.
Of course, we write for a living. is the world's largest
online repair manual, and Dozuki helps companies write their
own technical documentation, like paperless work
instructions and step-by-step user manuals. So, it makes sense that
we've made a preemptive strike against groan-worthy grammar
But grammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is
constantly changing, but that doesn't make grammar unimportant.
Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts,
on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your
words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical
absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can't tell
the difference between their, there, and they're.
Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just
when it comes to hiring writers. Writing isn't in the official job
description of most people in our office. Still, we give our grammar
test to everybody, including our salespeople, our operations staff,
and our programmers.
On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar
errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do
with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?
Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to
properly use "it's,“ then that's not a learning curve I'm
comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will
pass on a great programmer who cannot write.
Grammar signifies more than just a person's ability to remember
high school English. I've found that people who make fewer mistakes
on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing
something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or
labeling parts.
In the same vein, programmers who pay attention to how they
construct written language also tend to pay a lot more attention to
how they code. You see, at its core, code is prose. Great
programmers are more than just code monkeys; according to
Stanford programming legend Donald Knuth they are "essayists who
work with traditional aesthetic and literary forms.“ The point:
programming should be easily understood by real human beings —
not just computers.
And just like good writing and good grammar, when it comes
to programming, the devil's in the details. In fact, when it comes to
my whole business, details are everything.
I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who
don't think writing is important are likely to think lots of other
(important) things also aren't important. And I guarantee that even
if other companies aren't issuing grammar tests, they pay attention
to sloppy mistakes on résumés. After all, sloppy is as sloppy does.
That's why I grammar test people who walk in the door
looking for a job. Grammar is my litmus test. All applicants say
they're detail-oriented; I just make my employees prove it.
Revising for Unity
– ensures that all your paragraphs help
develop the thesis statement and that all
sentences in each paragraph talk about
one idea or focus.
Exercise on revising for unity
Write the thesis of the paper.
Write the topic sentence of each of your paragraphs.
Answer the following questions:
Do the topic sentences illustrate, clarify, or explain the
b. Which ones do not seem to do that? Try to rewrite or revise
these topic sentences.
4. Now read each paragraph, and answer the following questions:
a. Do all the sentences in the paragraph illustrate, clarify or
explain the topic?
b. Which sentences are not directly related to the topic
sentence of the paragraph? Omit or revise the sentence.
Revising for Coherence
- ensures that the information
presented in your paper is logically
arranged and smoothly linked
Exercise on revising for coherence
Read one or two paragraphs of your research paper, and then
answer the following questions.
What is the topic sentence of the paragraph?
What details support the topic sentence?
What principle of organization was used to organize the paragraph?
Is the organization effective?
Were transitions and key words used to give variety and coherence?
What key terms are repeated or referred to by pronouns?
What transitions are used?
What (if anything) could be done to make the coherence stronger?
Now, do the same steps, this time focusing on the entire paper.
Special thanks to Prof. Lui Recillo and
Prof. Shiela Simat for sharing the material
and to Prof. Willie Remollo for sharing
the Kyle Wiens article. 
Additional reference:
Perfecto, M.R. et al. (2005). The New Anvil Guide to
Research Paper Writing. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc.
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