AP Language and Composition

Welcome to AP English Language and Composition!

Throughout the upcoming school year, this college-level course will ask you to dive deeply into the nuances of language, intricacies of rhetoric, and inherent biases of writers. Research and style development will be key components of our study.

In your past English courses, you have grown accustomed to studying literary works largely for their aesthetic function. In this course, you will be studying them through a different lens entirely: exploring their rhetorical function.

By the end of this course, you will become a curious, critical, and conscientious reader of diverse texts, and become a flexible, reflective writer of texts addressed to diverse audiences for diverse purposes. The reading and writing you will do in the course deepens and expands your understanding of how written language functions rhetorically: to communicate writers’ intentions and elicit readers’ responses in particular situations. The course will cultivate the rhetorical understanding and use of written language by directing your attention to writer/reader interactions.

To support these goals, rhetoric and composition courses emphasize the reading and writing of analytic and argumentative texts in combination with texts representing English-language literary traditions.  

In order to adequately prepare yourself for some of the many topics and skills we will cover together, you will need to complete a few tasks on your own before the start of the course.

1. Acquire a copy of The MLA Style Guide, 9th Edition.

No need to read this book through at the moment, but you’ll want to have this handy to make sure all of your writing adheres to MLA conventions.

2. Choose and read one of the following titles exploring the writing craft: 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott


On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

You will need to acquire the book yourself. Please read your selection thoroughly, taking notes and/or making annotations.  

After reading your book:

Please reflect on their lessons, and identify what you feel are the top ten “takeaways” from the book in a 1-2 page, double-spaced response. Rank the lessons in order of importance. Be sure to include specific examples from your own experiences as a reader and writer. Use MLA citations for citing quotations from the book. 

3.  Read and annotate a non-fiction book: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Again, please obtain a copy of the book on your own. Read this exploration of a horrific 1959 crime very carefully, annotating the work for anything you find noteworthy. Although the book remains factually accurate, the author influences our perception of events through subjective writing. Pay special attention to moments where the author demonstrates favoritism or bias in his account of events.


As you know, writers construct meaning in their works through the elements of voice: diction, detail, imagery, syntax, figurative language, and tone. Select any three of the elements of voice and write either an analytical paragraph for each or complete a chart that successfully demonstrates how Truman Capote uses those elements to reveal his personal feelings, tastes, or opinions about the events depicted in In Cold Blood. Your explanations should be several sentences each.

Feel free to create a chart using a Google Doc, such as the one below, to organize your ideas. 

Element of Voice:

(diction, detail, imagery, 

syntax, fig. lang., tone)

Evidence from Text 

(with MLA citation):


(How does the evidence suggest

 a subjective point of view?)


The above requirements are due on the first day of class. No exceptions will be made. Expect a test and further discussion on the above readings within the first two weeks of the semester. 

Assignment Reminders:

Bring with you on the first day of the semester:

  • “Top Ten Takeaways” Response Paper (based on selected Lamott or King text):  1-2 page, double-spaced response
    Your response should printed and brought to class that day (and should also be electronically available).

  • In Cold Blood Analysis Notes: Typed, double-spaced
    Your response should printed and brought to class that day (and should also be electronically available).

  • Both copies of your text with notes/annotations 

Be ready for during the first week of class:

  • In Cold Blood Test: the first week of school; includes multiple choice and constructed response items.
    Please keep in mind, if you read this book in the early summer, you are still accountable for being familiar with characters, relationships, plot events, etc. for the test during the first week of school. Therefore, you should consider taking detailed notes/annotations in order to refresh your memory closer to the test.

Have a wonderful summer — looking forward to working with you in September!

Mr. James Costanzo and Ms. Erin Powers 


If you are having difficulty finding and acquiring a text for summer reading, please click here to email Nancy Aiken in the Curriculum Department.