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  Weekly Feature (June 10, 2007)


The Writing Process
Paul's Weekly Feature



Many students in our English, Literature, Social Studies, Science, and other classes, tend to start writing their paragraph or essay just as soon as a topic is assigned.  This rush to start writing not only limits the quality of a student’s written work, but also restricts the student from displaying his or her true writing potential. 

Before starting to write your first draft, be sure to take a little time to think about the topic and to devise a plan for your writing.  Otherwise, your writing will likely be inefficient and of limited quality because you’ll be constantly revising and editing while unfolding your ideas on the topic.

An important part to becoming a better writer requires you to view writing as a process, made up of steps that lead to a final copy that you’ll be proud of.  The ‘writing process’ concept is an extremely useful tool for most writing assignments.  This process can be divided into five steps: Prewriting, Writing, Revising, Editing, and Publishing.


Step 1.  Prewriting – The overall goal of this step is to come up with an outline, or a plan, for your writing.  Prewriting can be divided into four sub-steps: getting a topic, brainstorming, choosing, and last but not least, organizing.

a) getting a topic:  Your instructor at the PALC will either assign the class only one main writing topic, or give several main topics to choose from.  You may need to narrow down the main topic to make it more specific.

b) brainstorming:  Once you have the writing topic, spend a few moments coming up with thoughts, ideas, and facts about the topic.  Write these down briefly, in point form.  These thoughts, ideas, and facts should be recorded either in a list, in a chart, or in a graphic organizer such as a mind-map or a web.

c) choosing:  Now look back at your brainstormed thoughts, ideas, and facts, and choose the ones you wish to discuss in your writing.  Furthermore, where you can, add briefly a supporting example or two next to each chosen item.

d) organizing:  Finally, organize the selected items in the order that you wish to discuss them in your writing.  You are creating an outline, or a map, to guide your discussion and to help you stay on topic as your writing unfolds.

 Step 2.  Writing – In this step you write your first copy, or rough draft, of the writing assignment.  Follow the outline you developed in the Prewriting step as you develop your selected thoughts, ideas, facts, and supporting examples, into complete sentences. 

Keeping in mind that your target audience is the main consideration, focus on the writing aspects including meaning, style, form, and conventions.  Try not to stop once you start writing – revising and editing will be done next.  The goal here is to get only an initial working copy of your writing.

Step 3.  Revising – This is where you check and improve the ‘flow’ of your writing.  Read over the first draft, and look for ways to connect better with the reader.  It’s important for the reader to become interested and drawn in to your writing.

As you read your first draft, ask yourself questions such as:  Is the writing on topic everywhere?  Are the ideas and examples relevant?  Is the language clear and easy to follow?  Does the level of language and vocabulary vary?  Is there a variety of sentence structure?  Are transitions used effectively to connect ideas?  Does every paragraph have a topic sentence, supporting details, and a concluding sentence?  Does the overall writing contain a beginning, a middle, and an end?

If you answer is “no” to any of the above questions, then you’ll need to revise your writing.

 Step 4.  Editing – Also called proofreading, editing is when you look for and correct errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  This of course also includes checking for subject/verb agreement, consistency of verb tense, and completeness of sentences.

Step 5.  Publishing – This final step refers to presenting your instructor with a good copy of your writing.  You’ll need to rewrite the first draft, incorporating the corrections and changes from Revising and Editing.

So the next time you’re given an in-class or out-of-class writing assignment, be sure to apply the writing process when you can.  The amount of time and effort you spend in each of the five steps will depend on such things as your familiarity with the topic, on the amount of time you have, or on the specific writing instructions. 

In addition, keep in mind that the five steps are not independent.  In other words, since writing is a process, you can either combine the steps, or go back and forth between them, or alter them to suit the writing assignment.   Using the writing process will improve the quality of most of your writing assignments in most subject areas. 

For reference and further details, check these sites:

ABC's of the Writing Process

The Writing Process (MIT)

Starting the Writing Process

The Writing Process

Try the following quiz.  On-line quizzes follow.

Quiz on The Writing Process
(answers are given below)


1. The rush to start writing

    a) helps the writer.

    b) is done by only a few students.

    c) limits the quality of the written work.

    d) is evident only in English classes.


2. It’s important to take some time to devise a writing plan before writing.

    a) sometimes.

    b) always.

    c) never.


3. The first step in the writing process is ________, and the last step is ________.

    a) Revising, Editing.

    b) Editing, Prewriting.

    c) Prewriting, Revising.

    d) Prewriting, Publishing.


4. The goal of the Prewriting step is to come up with an outline.

    a) True.

    b) False.


5. In the organizing sub-step of Prewriting, you arrange the order of your chosen

    a) thoughts.

    b) ideas.

    c) facts.

    d) supporting examples.

    e) a, b, c, and d.


6. As you write your first draft in the Writing step, your main consideration is

    a) yourself.

    b) the target audience of your writing.

    c) the students around you.


7. In the Revising step, corrections are made to the grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

    a) True.

    b) False.


8. You would normally check for subject/verb agreement while

    a) Prewriting.

    b) Writing.

    c) Revising.

    d) Editing.

    e) Publishing.


9. A student would check for clarity, transitions, and sentence structure variety, while Revising.

    a) True.

    b) False.


10. It is stated that some of the five steps can be combined or altered to suit the writing assignment.  The verb ‘altered’ means

    a) kept the same.

    b) changed.


(Answers:  1c, 2b, 3d, 4a, 5e, 6b, 7b, 8d, 9a, 10b)

On-line quizzes you can try:

Word Order Quiz

Writing Process Quiz

Writing Quiz




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