Why take English courses first?

Cynthia Becerra, Dean of Undergraduate Studies

Having been a professor at Humphreys for thirty-eight years and an academic advisor for most of that time, I have discovered that students resist taking certain courses because they label them as too hard; these normally include math and English classes. Actually, you should take these courses right at the beginning of your college career. For now, let’s focus on why you should take English courses, including ENGL 101 Written Communications, ENGL 102 Advanced Written Communications, and ENGL 103 Intensive Grammar.

Almost every single college course will require some degree of writing. The writing assignment could be one short essay or a ten-page research project. But you will need to have proficient writing skills to do well on the assignment. That means using punctuation correctly.

As I tell my students in ENGL  103, if someone—a professor or your boss—asks you why you put the comma in the sentence, and you reply, “because the comma follows an introductory adverb clause,” that person will probably not question you again about comma usage.

Modern communication requires that you have a command of the English language, so in taking your English courses, you improve your reading skills, expand your vocabulary, and learn how to document your sources. These learning objectives are not only important in the English courses, but they are tantamount for your success in your management, legal studies, criminal justice courses as well as many others. Recently, I saw one of my former students, who is now an elementary school teacher, and was reminded of the time when she complained about one of her paralegal professors.

She exclaimed, “He keeps marking up my papers and giving me a C. What gives! This isn’t an English course.” Of course, I told her of how important it was that legal communication be expressed clearly and correctly. And that a semicolon misplaced could alter the whole meaning of the sentence. My final declarative statement was, “By the way, do you know what his bachelor’s is in? English!” Please note: that former paralegal instructor is now a Superior Court Judge.

Although many grumble at taking ENGL103 Intensive Grammar, which is appropriately named, on college surveys most graduates list this course as one of their most important in their academic careers.  With over thirty chapters on punctuation, word choice, grammar, and sentence structure, this demanding course requires that successful students dream of who/whom, affect/effect, the comma or the semicolon, verbal phrases, and lie/lay to pass the comprehensive exam—just kidding. They don’t dream of those key topics; they have nightmares about them. All kidding aside, good grammar makes the difference—fairly often—between whether you or someone else is hired for a job. So taking the course prior to MGT270 or HIST201 or CRIM230 or ECE250 may make the difference between a C and a B at Humphreys, but upon graduation, it may determine whether or not you are hired for that important aftercollege position.

So don’t delay. Take your English courses first and use those skills to earn the grades that your good writing deserves.