Posted on May 7, 2019
I don’t know what I expected sitting in the Humanities computer lab that first week of class in late January. I knew that Writing 102 was a required class for all Stony Brook students, and I was biting the bullet and taking the class in freshman year just to check a box off of a list. However, in the three months since, I have learned a lot about myself as a writer and about the writing process as a whole.
Rhetoric, as I knew it, was the ability of a writer to convince their readers through the usage of specific textual strategies, which worked to manipulate the audience. The most commonly used terms with regards to this were ethos, logos, and pathos. Through the course, my understanding of rhetoric grew when I had to write my researched argument, convincing readers why the stance I took on an issue was important and backing it up with researched evidence and professional papers. My usage of rhetoric also changed when I had to weave narratives from documenting a search to recalling moments of education. Having worked with scientific research papers in the past, I found their implementation in my researched argument essay to be an easier task than expected.
In high school, the academic writing that I did stayed largely formal. Aside from a few lighthearted exercises such as writing satire, the essays I wrote all followed the blueprint that was most preferred by the AP exams. The mechanical nature of high school English assignments meant that I often plugged-and-played in order to write the best essays, and while it helped me get good grades, I felt the burden of its repetitive structure. In Writing 102, none of my essays followed the traditional five-paragraph structure. I used five-paragraph introductions, body paragraphs that cited multiple sources, and other techniques which would have been forbidden back in high school.
As a writer, I feel that I have developed a better grasp of my informal voice. Heavy usage of “I” pronouns would have also been frowned upon in the AP-driven courseload of high school, and I was shocked to hear my professor encourage them, especially in what I perceived to be the most formal essay, the researched argument. It felt contradictory to me; the mere presence of an “I” was enough for me to deem a paper informal. Still, the culture shock allowed me to grow and open my eyes to a style of writing that is both valid and effective. Informal writing can more easily grasp a casual audience than formal writing, which may come off as bland and pretentious to the unwelcome eye.
Before I left for college, my dad told me to make sure that I take a writing class, just to keep my writing skills sharp as I took on a difficult STEM-focused schedule. While I was a skeptic at first, thinking that I didn’t need to improve myself anymore as a writer, I now completely see what he was getting at.