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Why You Should Take Your Composition Class Seriously

Pouring over grammar rules and so-called 'proper' writing style in class can seem needlessly meticulous and pedantic. But there's a reason your instructors want you to learn all these rules, and it's all about communication.

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by Eric Garneau

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Y U Shud Rite Gud

If you have any friends (or friends of friends) who act as 'grammar police' in Facebook threads or e-mail chains, you're probably already predisposed to be annoyed by teachers who want to educate you in the ways of grammar. But trust us, they have noble intentions in mind!

The thing about good writing is that it gets at the heart of what it means to communicate well. And unless we somehow develop telepathy between the time this article's written and the time it's published, composed communication (whether it's written or vocalized) is the only way we have to convey our thoughts and ideas to each other. So even though foregoing punctuation and capitalization rules may not seem like a big deal on Facebook (and honestly, it probably isn't) what about situations where your ability to express yourself is of paramount importance?

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It's Worth Your Time and Money

Depending on what career path you choose, you may have to write things a lot, or almost never. But there are situations where being able to use your words effectively comes in handy for everybody. Consider, for instance, the job application process. Do you really want to craft a cover letter for your resume that foregoes solid composition skills? Not only will it likely create a bad first impression with your potential employers, but in some cases it might totally obscure what you're trying to say. Too many run-on sentences, for example, and your thoughts will start to bleed together into an indecipherable morass of utterances. Critically misspell a word and you risk the main idea of your sentence doing a total 180. Forget about organizing your ideas into logical paragraphs and your letter becomes almost impenetrable, which is the last thing you want a document meant to sell yourself to be.

That might seem like an extreme example, but it's a situation almost everyone faces. And sure, you can pay someone to spruce up your resume and write a glowing (hopefully error-free) cover letter, but what about in interactions not based on money? For instance, in correspondence with members of your family or friends your recipients are likely to be more forgiving of errors than your employers, but don't you still want to make sure your ideas are coming across as you intend them? Why would you spend time organizing your thoughts into words for somebody if the end result just doesn't make sense?

Bottom line, the system of grammar and writing rules we have is in place to set a standard that ideally ensures smooth communication between all parties. Your teachers want you to learn that system so you can express yourself, which even Madonna can tell you is the key to living in a free, democratic society. Even if you can pay people to spruce up cover letters and edit anything else you may write, at some point doesn't it just make more sense to learn the skills yourself? You certainly have the capacity, and if you're already in a school that wants to teach them to you, why not take advantage now? Don't go for second best, baby.

Here are some helpful tips to avoid common writing mistakes.

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