How To Write a Composition: Writing Papers, Essays and More

Use These Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills

Writing composition

The word 'composition' may mean different things in different circumstances. It could be a personal narrative, a short work of fiction or prose, an essay, a dramatic work or a poem. Each of these works has its own set of rules. This site has articles describing the how-to process of several types of composition: poetry, the essay, and others. Here's how to write a composition.

  1. Know your purpose: What type of composition is this going to be? Make sure you understand the expectations. Typically, your teacher will provide you with an explanation and lecture on what you are to write. Read this over carefully. Ask your instructor if you have questions. You will find several helpful links at the end of this article for online resources also.
  2. Choose your topic: Decide what you will write about. Here are suggestions based on different types of compositions.
    • Essay: Practically every essay topic can be approached from multiple perspectives. When writing essays, choose a topic and take a stance; your essay will seek to convince readers of the legitimacy of your stance. Choose something that is important to you. In essay writing, it is easier to write about what you believe in. Write this in 'first person' -- 'I' (like you are talking) to 'second person'-- 'you' (a person you are speaking to).
    • how to write a compositionPersonal narrative: Personal narrative is a story about you. Choose something that made an impression on you, negative or positive. It might be a vacation, a funny experience, a crisis, a death, a dangerous or frightening situation you encountered, etc. When writing papers that are personal narratives, write in first person.
    • Play: Write about what you know. Your play could develop from a personal narrative. But regardless, include things you have some knowledge that is grounded either in personal experience or research, or both. The play is written in dialog with the speaker indicated. Stage directions - defining the elements of set and telling characters how to speak lines or move on stage - are written italicized and in parentheses.
    • Short story: This is a form of prose fiction, a creative non-poetic kind of composition. Write this in third person (as if you were a narrator) or first person if you speak as your main character. If first person voice is your choice, then your short story will read much like a narrative, but it is not necessarily something that happened to you. You can base it upon something you have experienced, but you tell it as a general story. Your options are unlimited; you could write about anything that exists in reality, or make up your own world for a short story.
    • Poetry: Poetry is focused on sound, syllabication, rhythm patterns and descriptive language. It might be free verse, or instead written in one of many rigid poetic form like sonnets or Haiku (very short Japanese poems).
  3. Write your introduction: For every composition except poetry, you will need to introduce either your topic and position (for an essay) or characters, plot and setting (for narrative, short story and play). See the article 'How to Write an Introduction.'
  4. Develop the 'body' of your work:

    • Essay

      • To start off this writing process, brainstorm a list of 10 points you want to make about your topic. Jot down ten details or ideas that will support the point you are making. These may be facts, examples, data, statistics, quotes from a source, or just common sense ideas.
      • Group the 10 points into three groups. Organize your list of details into three categories based upon similarity. Like the bicycle, these will be the supporting 'spokes' of your topic.
      • Label the three groups. The labels will ultimately become the topic sentences for each body paragraph of your essay. The three or four details in each group will be the supporting sentences. Using this outline, you will have the meat of your essay.
      • Write your three paragraphs: Write the main points and details into complete sentences. Remember to keep each organized and follow your outline. This will form the body of your essay. If you are required to make your essay 200 words long, you should have more than enough already. If it needs to be longer, make each of the three topics into two paragraphs.
    • Narrative, short story and play: Weave these details into your composition.
      • Character: Describe how your characters look, think and act. Weave these details into the story.
      • Setting: Describe time period, area, and where story takes place (house, hospital, etc.).
      • Plot: What happens in the story is basically the plot. Plots follow this sequence:
        • Situation: This is what's happening as the story opens.
        • Details of problem: Every story centers around a main problem, in literature called a 'conflict.' There are 5 basic conflict scenarios:
          • man vs. man
          • man vs. society
          • man vs. himself
          • man vs. nature
          • man vs. God or the supernatural
        • Climax: All details lead up to one confrontation, center of action, or ultimate action.
        • Denouement: This is the 'aftermath,' the tying up of loose ends, the explanation.
    • Poetry: Follow the rubric for the poetry type you need to write.
  5. Write your conclusion (for all but poetry): This simply wraps up what you have said in your composition. It can basically restate what you said in your introduction. If you composition is longer, you can sum up your main points. Try to phrase them a little differently so it will not sound repetitive.
  6. Use P-O-W-E-R: This is one of the best writing techniques out there. You have done the P-plan, O-organize and W-write components; now you will finish with E-edit and R-revise. You will do this for every type of writing. Reread your work. Look for spelling, grammar, and content problems. Use your computer spell and grammar check but use your own wisdom also. You can have someone proof-read it also. Good writing usually takes a lot of editing.

    Every good piece of writing goes through two or more revisions. Let your thoughts 'gel.' Come back to the composition and you will see improvements you might not have seen when it was still 'hot.' A composition is like a piece of pottery: first it's plastic, then its greenware, then it's bisque and finally glazeware!

  7. Rewrite your final copy. If you type your composition, be sure to save a copy for future reference. And who knows, you may submit it and find you have great potential!

Never underestimate your writing skills. Writing is 'art in words.' I always tell my students that everyone has a composition - or many - locked within. Everyone around you has a story to tell. All you need is to practice the skills to write your composition. Hopefully these writing tips have helped you start that process.


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