Attaining Success in College Writing

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The Writing Process

  • Before beginning– Understand the assignment. If you have questions about the assignment, ask your instructor.
    • Each essay assignment will have specific instructions based on the rhetorical strategy of the unit. Make sure you completely understand what is being asked of you before you begin drafting the essay.
  • Choosing a topic– Some instructors and textbooks will offer suggestions about possible topic choices. If originality is required, consider objects, experiences, or ideas that are important to you.
    • When given the option, writing about topics that appeal to you is typically more stimulating.
    • Try listing some points of interest and considering which point you know the most about or which point you would like to learn more about.
  • Gathering ideas – Brainstorm, ask questions, and research information about your topic.
    • Be creative and determine a working thesis/main point for your essay.
    • Know your audience; your tone, word choice, and attitude toward your topic are some important elements affected by your understanding of your audience.
  • Map your organization/Outline– Jot down some main ideas for your essay in an order that seems both natural and logical.
    • Outlines are beneficial in plotting the course of your essay; they are, however, flexible. If the direction of your essay takes a new path, adjust your outline accordingly.
    • The organization of your essay will be affected by the rhetorical strategy. Common patterns of organization include chronological order, spatial order, least to most familiar support, similarities to difference, etc.
  • Drafting– “Don’t get it right, get it written.” The first draft or sloppy copy is an outlet to get your ideas down on paper.  Place emphasis on the natural flow of writing.
    • Create an attractive/interesting title to hook your readers. The title should announce your subject and prepare readers for the approach you take.  Do not settle on the first title that comes to mind. Be creative.
    • Write an engaging introduction that holds the readers’ attention.
    • Support the topic sentence of each paragraph with evidence, either from research or personal perceptions.
    • Conclude with a natural outgrowth of the development of your ideas. The conclusion will depend on the rhetorical strategy of the assignment.
  • Revising – Consider what is important.
    • Focus on your thesis, purpose, organization, paragraph structure, support, citations, and transitions.
    • Double-check your citations. Plagiarism is a serious academic offense. If you are unsure of when/how to cite something, check with your instructor or a professional tutor in the ACE Tutoring Center.
  • Editing and Proofreading – Once you have perfected the large elements of your essay, begin editing.
    • Focus on spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation.
    • Do not assume Microsoft has caught all of you’re* errors (*your).
    • If you know you are prone to make certain mistakes (fragments, comma splices, run-on sentences, etc.), search for these particular problems in your essay.
  • Submission – Take pride in your completed draft!