College Writing


Authored by Simone Pilon


Course Code: OLART-111

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.

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– Somerset Maugham

When you write, you are essentially entering into a conversation with yourself and with your reader. Sometimes you are initiating this conversation. Other times you are starting in the middle, in which case you need to recognize previous discussions on the topic and set a path for the future. Learning how to navigate various situations and participate in written conversations is essential to your academic, professional, and personal success.

Think about when you apply for a job, for college, or for a grant. Your résumé, cover letter, or proposal are the first glimpse your future employer, your admissions officer, or the granting agency will get of you. Were you polite and respectful? Did you show an attention to detail by using proper punctuation and spelling? Did you show that you are organized by having a well-structured letter or proposal? How you present yourself in these materials could make (or break) your chances.

In this course, we will explore the writing process as a tool for thinking and a mode of exploration. And we will work on helping you develop a strong, individual, and creative voice.

The overall focus of College Writing is for you to develop academic writing and expository prose techniques for creating clear and coherent written works. The course covers a wide range of skills necessary for college-level work including elements of argumentation, sentence-level issues, paragraph structure, organization, form, and style. Additional lessons will focus on writing styles appropriate to audience and purpose, and the process of writing and revision. We will also work on developing critical thinking skills as we look at how to evaluate, utilize, and cite printed and electronic sources.

It’s also worth noting that this is not just any writing course, but a Berklee Online writing course. We will, therefore, use music and art as the inspiration for our studies, and the focus of our work.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Apply conventions of academic writing to a variety of texts and styles
  • Clearly articulate your ideas in your own voice
  • Understand that writing and other creative outputs are recursive processes
  • Demonstrate critical reading comprehension and evaluation skills
  • Show an understanding of authorship and academic honesty
  • Formulate and defend a thesis
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Lesson 1: Getting Started: The Basics

  • Writing and Speaking in Different Contexts
  • Words that Are Commonly Confused
  • Editing Commonly Confused Words
  • Tips for Writing a Letter
  • Assignment 1: Write a Basic Letter

Lesson 2: Writing Contexts

  • Understanding Different Rhetorical Contexts
  • Applying These Rhetorical Elements to Written Texts
  • Generating Ideas
  • Understanding the Components of a Sentence
  • Organizing and Drafting a Response
  • Assignment 2: Selected Author’s Response

Lesson 3: Recording and Developing Ideas

  • Recording Ideas
  • Diaries
  • Concision vs. Lengthiness
  • Understanding Commas
  • Understanding Verbs and Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Assignment 3: Selected Author Response Revision

Lesson 4: Exploring Personal Narratives

  • Key Elements of a Personal Narrative
  • Analyzing a Personal Narrative
  • Understanding Pronouns
  • Grammatical Tools to Best Express Ideas
  • Assignment 4: Moth Radio Hour Assessment

Lesson 5: Writing a Personal Narrative

  • Opening Sentences
  • Organizing a Personal Narrative
  • Developing Paragraphs
  • Connecting Paragraphs
  • Choosing the Right Words
  • Assignment 5: Personal Narrative

Lesson 6: Talking about Literature

  • Literary Vocabulary
  • Editing Sentences
  • Reading a Text
  • Analyzing a Text
  • Assignment 6: Personal Narrative Analysis and New Versions

Lesson 7: Thesis Statements

  • What Is a Thesis?
  • Analyzing a Text
  • Developing a Thesis Statement
  • Writing a Literary Analysis
  • Assignment 7: Revised Thesis Statement and Outline

Lesson 8: Exploring Poetry

  • Poetry
  • Analyzing Poems in Verse
  • Quoting
  • Assignment 8: Essay Submission

Lesson 9: Making an Argument 

  • Elements of Argumentation
  • Analyzing a Text for Argumentation
  • Editing Pronouns
  • Editing Verbs
  • Assignment 9: Essay Revisions

Lesson 10: Supporting Your Argument

  • Setting the Stage
  • Finding Sources
  • Integrating Other People's Ideas into Your Text
  • Applying These Concepts
  • Assignment 10: Article Analysis

Lesson 11: Documenting Your Sources

  • How Authors Use and Document Their Sources
  • Style Guidelines
  • Chicago Manual of Style
  • Style Guidelines in Relation to Quoting and Paraphrasing Texts
  • Assignment 11: Revised Thesis Statement and Final Essay Outline

Lesson 12: Other Forms of Writing

  • The Critique
  • The Proposal
  • The Report
  • Bringing It All Together
  • Assignment 12: Final Essay


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Students should have native or near-native fluency in English.
Notice to Berklee Boston and Berklee Valencia students:
LENG-106 (ESL-3) or native fluency are prerequisites for transferring this course to the Berklee Boston or Valencia campuses. This means that before you take this course you must either be a native English speaker, have successfully completed ESL-3, or have taken the Berklee English Placement Exam and demonstrated English proficiency sufficient to enroll in College Writing. For more details, please review the online equivalencies information on the Berklee Registrar's Office site.




Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Simone Pilon


Simone Pilon is the executive director for Berklee Valencia, responsible for the vision, strategic direction, and day-to-day operations of all areas of the Valencia campus. She is charged with the development and execution of Berklee’s academic strategy on the Valencia campus, including new programs and partnerships, career development and student success efforts, and community outreach. Prior to assuming this role, Pilon served as dean of academic affairs at the Valencia campus, where she played a leading role in academic strategy, overseeing the graduate and undergraduate programs, academic records and services, library, and technology. She previously served as chair of Berklee’s Liberal Arts Department in Boston, serving students at both Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Pilon has been a Fulbright-Hays scholar to Morocco and Tunisia, has published in international journals, and has presented at national and international conferences. She has served as technical reviewer for Cliffs, Dummies, and Everything books; published a student edition of Louis Hémon's canonical novel Maria Chapdelaine, with Molière and Company; and co-edited the book Woodstock Then and Now: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Clemson University Press) with Berklee faculty member Alex Ludwig. Simone holds a PhD from Université Laval and an MA from McGill University.

Mark Polanzak


Mark Polanzak is the author of POP! (Stillhouse Press), a hybrid work of memoir and fiction. His short stories have appeared in The Southern Review, The American Scholar, and elsewhere. His story "Giant" will be included in the anthology Best American Nonrequired Reading, 2017. A runner-up for the Italo Calvino Prize for Fabulist Fiction, Mark is a founding editor for draft: the journal of process, and a producer for The Fail Safe podcast. He received an MFA from the University of Arizona. Mark teaches Literature, Composition, and Creative Writing at Berklee in Boston. He lives in Salem, MA.

Gretchen Shae


Gretchen Shae Moore teaches writing in the Liberal Arts department at Berklee College of Music. In addition to teaching, she also enjoys performing, writing songs, and singing with her own band: Gretchen Shae & The MIddle Eight, as well as Gretchen & The Banshees (A SIouxsie & The Banshees tribute).  In 2014, she performed with U2 at the TD Bank Garden in Boston, MA. Boston's WZLX named Shae's song “Dionysius” in its Top Ten Local Picks of the year. Another passion of Shae’s is working with New Beginnings Re-entry Services as a board member.  Founded in 2016, New Beginnings Reentry Services, Inc., is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization working in partnership with community agencies to empower and provide supportive services to formerly incarcerated women to successfully rejoin their communities; it is the first in the state of Massachuesetts. Her course on Mass Incarceration combines all of her passion to end mass incarceration, educate others, and inspire artists to create thoughtful works in response to this topic. Shae received a Berklee Urban Service award in 2019 for her work.


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