Cover Photo: A leatherbound notebook with a speech bubble on the cover and the words "Write ideas."
Photograph by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

Teaching Freshman Comp Was the Best Writing Education I Ever Got

As part of our Education Week series, Jaime Green describes how teaching the fundamentals in undergrad writing comp made her a better writer.

I likedI didn’t likeI wonderedI wantedyou should trywhy

Why do I need to know this? I’m gonna be an engineer! Why do I need to know this? I already know how to write well!

I felt confused here.The end of this paragraph is about X, so I expected the next paragraph to develop that idea, but you instead move on to Y and bring X back three paragraphs later.

This is goodHere’s what you did and why it worked.

They Say / I Say


They-say/I-sayOkay??they-say/I-sayUnless . . .


What presumptions does my reader have about this topic?I found it!!!



The Philosophy of Literary Form

And every time I read that quote, the vision crystallizes. The parlor walls become more solid; the dim lighting takes a clearer, warmer hue. Thanks to everything I learned teaching comp, I can feel myself more solidly within this metaphorical conversation—the heated discussion, the flowing river into which I dip my nonliteral oar. There’s much, as Burke says, to do before it’s time to depart.

Jaime Green is a full-time freelance writer and editor. She received her MFA in Nonfiction from Columbia, and she has taught writing at Columbia, The New School, and the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, BuzzFeed, The Cut,, Popular Science, Backstage, American Theatre online, and elsewhere. She is associate editor at Future Tense and series editor for Best American Science and Nature Writing. Her book, The Possibility of Life, will be published in 2023 by Hanover Square Press.