Writing Topics for Conferences and Tutorials


  1. Select one of the four composition topics below and bring your completed response to your tutoring appointment.  --OR--  Select one of the shortwrite topics listed farther down on this page.  --OR--  Select one of the writing topics found at the end of each chapter in the 20C grammar textbook, Writing Clearly.
  2. Give yourself approximately 30 minutes to write a short composition.  If you want this to serve as a practice exam, write 3 pages in 1.5 hours.
  3. Write a minimum of one full page but no more than two pages.
  4. Use a dictionary and your class notes.
  5. Write as well as you can and edit carefully.  Check for correctness, organization, and comprehensibility. 
  6. Make an appointment with your instructor or with a writing tutor, to go over your work.


In the article “The Joy of Old,” Charles Rembar, a lawyer, tries to convince the reader that the best age to be is “Old.”  He cites such advantages as half fares on buses and trains, special treatment, extra time to do things you enjoy, and added wisdom.

The thing to do about middle age is to skip it.  Middle age is signaled by larger belt size and muscles turned to pudding.  Youth, a larval stage revered by advertisers who use it as a selling tool, ends unexpectedly too soon.  The best course is to go directly to Old.  Not elderly.  Not senior.  Old.

Old—assuming reasonably good health—has many advantages.  Our language tells us this.  No one ever speaks about younger and wiser heads.

Write a short essay in which you describe what you think the best age to be is: a child, an adolescent, a teenager, a young adult, a middle aged person, an elderly person, or an old person.  To develop your essay include details from Charles Rembar’s passage, your observations of others, and specific examples from your own experience.


In interviewing people for his book Working, Studs Terkel with Eric Nesterenko, a professional hockey player who had the following thoughts on what is important in choosing a profession.

I have doubts about what I do.  I’m not that sure of myself.  It doesn’t seem clear to me at times.  I’m a man playing at a boy’s game.  Is this a valid reason for making money?  Then I turn around and think of a job.  I’ve tried to be a stockbroker…[but] I’m not good at persuading people to buy things they don’t want to buy.  I’m just not interested in the power of money.  I found that out.  That’s the way one keeps score—the amount of money you earned…I’ve worked construction and I liked that best of all…I was interested in seeing how a big building goes up—and working with my hands…A stockbroker has more status…[but] the real status is what my peers think of me and what I think of myself.

Write a short essay in which you analyze the factors that motivate one to choose a particular profession.  To develop your essay include details from Studs Terkel’s passage, your observations of others, and specific examples from your own experience.


In the article “How to Succeed in Asia” from the Los Angeles Times, Teresa Watanabe describes differing styles of communication

For 15 years, UCI professor of marketing and international business John Graham has studied American business practices and compared them to those in Asia.  His findings: Americans tend to be too blabby, too impatient, and too informal for Asian tastes.  For instance, he claims that “Americans can’t stand silence, so they often fail to give sufficient time to formulate answers or even to finish sentences.”  Also, “Americans look at their watches too often,” and they “actually can upset Asians” with their desire to remain informal, using first names and ignoring ritual.

Write a short essay in which you analyze divergent conversational styles and the results of these differing styles.  To develop your essay include details from the passage by Teresa Watanabe, your observations of others, and specific examples from your own experience. 


In the following passage Josephine Robinson discusses the reason behind our beliefs.

Few of us take the pains to study the origin of our cherished convictions.  We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true.  We can readily give what seem to us “good” reasons for being a Catholic or a Mason, a Republican or a Democrat.  But the “real” reasons are usually on quite a different plane.

The “real” reasons for our beliefs are concealed from ourselves as well as from others.  As we grow up we simply adopt the ideas presented to us in regard to such matters as religion, property, business, our country and politics.  We unconsciously absorb them from our environment.  They are persistently whispered in our ears by the group in which we happen to live.

Write a short essay in which you describe a belief that has been absorbed from the environment, unconsciously and without question, but that would be difficult to explain logically.  Analyze how this belief was acquired.  To develop your essay include details from Josephine Robinson’s passage, your observations of others, and specific examples from your own experience. 



  1. Select one of the shortwrite topics below and bring the completed response to your tutoring appointment.
  2. Give yourself approximately 15 minutes to write your response.
  3. Write a minimum of one full page double spaced.
  4. Use a dictionary and your class notes.
  5. Write as well as you can and edit carefully.  Check for correctness, organization, and comprehensibility. 
  6. Make an appointment with your instructor or with a writing tutor to go over your work.
    1. Most people have a certain routine that they follow in the morning as they prepare for the day.  Briefly describe your routine.  For how long have you followed this routine?  What parts of it have you sometimes done differently?  How is your routine changing right now?  Explain what this routine tells about you, your personality, and your priorities.  What could someone learn about you by observing your routine?
    2. Explain why you are studying English.  Be sure to include how long have you spoken or studied the language.  Describe the techniques or strategies you are currently using to improve your English.  Which are the most successful and why? 
    3. At some point in all of our lives, we leave home for the first time.  Describe the first day you lived away from your home and your family.  What was the day like, and how did you feel?  Go on to describe what you were doing before you left home.  What had happened that caused you to move away?  Did you find leaving home an easy or difficult point in your life?
    4. Throughout our lives we are influenced by the people around us.  Describe a time in your life when you were influenced by another person or group of people in either a positive or negative way.  What was happening in your life at this point?  How did this person or group change your behavior?  Were you happy with the changes in yourself?
    5. There are many beautiful places in the world, but everyone’s idea of the most beautiful place is different.  Some believe it is the beach, others say the mountains, while some think the desert or even the center of a big city is the most beautiful.  In your opinion, what is the most beautiful place in the world?  Describe this place, and explain why you think it is so beautiful.
    6. People around the world celebrate many different holidays.  We celebrate for a variety of reasons: religious, patriotic, romantic, historical, etc.  What is your favorite holiday?  In which country or countries is it celebrated?  Why is this holiday important?  What activities, people, food, and traditions are involved?
    7. In 50 years, our world will probably be a very different place to live.  What do you predict the world will be like in 50 years?  Describe areas you feel relatively certain about as well as those you are not quite so certain about.  Some things you might want to think about are the environment, technology, business, government, and family life. 
    8. Select a building, a park, a city, or any other place that you are very familiar with.  Pretend that you are taking a group of friends there for the first time.  What are you going to show them?  What will your friends do while they are there?  Why will your friends want to go to this place?  How do you hope they will feel about this place when they leave?
    9. Describe the most memorable event from your childhood or adolescence.  Why was this event significant?  How did it change you or the way you think?  How are you different today because of this event?
    10. In many families, the parents have specific plans for their children’s lives and careers.  Do you think it is better for children to follow their parents’ plan or their own?  What plan did your parents have for you when you were a child or a younger student?  Have you followed this plan so far?  Will you follow this plan?  Why or why not?
    11. What is your favorite food?  How do you prepare it?  What ingredients are needed to make it?  Do you consider this dish spicy, mild, exotic . . . ?  What is it that you like best about this food?  Is it prepared for special occasions? 
    12. We all experience new and sometimes difficult situations in life that are easier to deal with if we don’t feel alone.  When you encounter one of these situations, who do you talk to about it?  Why do you choose to talk to this person?  Describe the traits that draw you to him or her and make you feel comfortable confiding your problems.
    13. Using nicknames is a common way for friends and family members to demonstrate friendship or intimacy.  What is your nickname or the nickname of someone you know?  What does the nickname mean?  How did you or this person acquire the nickname?  Do you like it?  What significance does it have to you, your friends, or family members?
    14. Your best friend is currently attending a different school.  You would like to convince him or her to transfer to your school.  Describe the school you are at now so that your friend will be interested in visiting or even transferring.  You may want to describe the beautiful buildings and parks, the excellent faculty, the friendly students, the various social activities, or the interesting surrounding neighborhoods.
    15. Briefly summarize a movie or book you recently saw or read.  Who were the main characters?  What did they do?  Why did you like or dislike the movie or book?  Will you recommend it to your friends?  Why or why not?
    16. Describe the best teacher you have ever had.  What made him or her a good teacher?  What are the characteristics of a good teacher?  How do these characteristics of good teachers help create better students or people?
    17. The world seems to be a scary and dangerous place if we listen to television, radio, and newspaper reporters.  What should or must each of us do to make the world a better and safer place to live?  How can we eliminate problems such as racism, pollution, violence, or sex discrimination?  What could each of us contribute to help do away with these problems?
    18. There are rules or norms that children must follow and different ones for adults.  What are some rules that children should follow, and what are others that adults have to follow?  What could you do as a child that you are not allowed to do now?  And, what can you do now that you were not supposed to do as a child? [norm = standard or typical behavior expected by society]
    19. Everyone has different ways of spending his or her free time.  Write about one or more ways that you like to spend your leisure time.  Do you exercise, read, play sports, shop, sleep, study, . . . ?  How often do you do this?  Is this an activity that you do alone or with a group?  How does the activity help you relax, clear your mind or just feel better?  Explain how your leisure time is spent differently now than it was in the past.
    20. Some people prefer to live downtown in large cities, others prefer the suburbs, and many like the countryside.  Which do you prefer and why?  These places are different from one another in terms of pace of life, safety, recreational opportunities, education, and job options.  What aspects do you like about one location?  What do you dislike about others?  Tell where you live now, and where you lived in the past.  How have these locations helped you develop your preferences.
    21. Many people believe that in Western societies or countries the elderly are not treated well.  From your experiences or observations, is this true?  How are the elderly treated in another society or culture that you are familiar with?  Do you believe they are treated better or worse in one society or country compared to another?  Do you feel treatment of the elderly is improving or worsening throughout the world?
    22. People own pets for companionship, protection, or any number of other reasons.  Do you have a pet now, or did you have one in the past?  Why or why not?  What sort of joy do people gain from pet ownership?  Do you plan on having a pet in the future?  Why?  Which type of animal makes the best pet?