Composing for a Purpose
The word composition comes from a Latin word meaning "a putting together." Today the word means "putting together a whole by combining parts." The musician who composed your favorite song did so by putting together sounds. Writers compose by joining words, sentences, and paragraphs.
In school the word composition usually means a short paper of several paragraphs.
According to your purpose in writing, compositions may be classified as narrative, descriptive, or expository. The purpose of a narrative composition is to tell a story; of a descriptive composition, to describe people, places, objects, or events; and of an expository composition, to explain something.
Musicians, artists, and writers have something in common: they decide how to put the parts together so that the whole composition achieves its purpose. In this chapter you will learn how to bring words, sentences, and paragraphs together to form a composition that achieves your purpose.
The same general subject can be used for different purposes. For example, suppose that you have had a great deal of experience as a baby-sitter. To write a descriptive composition, you might describe an unusual family you have encountered in your work. For a narrative composition you could tell about a frightening incident that happened to you one stormy night. An expository composition about baby-sitting, for instance, could explain how to be a good baby-sitter, or tell how you have begun to feel about baby-sitting as a difficult job, or show that baby-sitters are not paid enough.
Deciding on a topic
Almost any subject can become the basis for a composition. You may think of such subjects as clothes, sports, music, or movies, but thousands of books have been written on each of these subjects. Each subject is too large for a school composition, so you must decide how to narrow the subject to a topic. A topic is a limited subject that can be discussed with specific details.
Some of your ideas for writing may already be topics for a short paper. Although clothes is too large a subject for your purposes, your feelings about your school's dress code would not be. You could explain why you feel your school should (or should not) have a dress code. Sports is also too large, but one exciting event in sports is not. You might narrate the story of the frightening moments when the quarterback of the football team lay injured on the field. Likewise, the subject of music could be limited to a description of a jazz concert that you recently attended.
Before deciding on a topic for writing, ask yourself what might interest readers. A good way to begin is to think about your experience or knowledge on a subject.