Tuesday October 23

We’re writing today and we will discuss the due date for the essay.

Made with Padlet

The Writing Process

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.

Terry Pratchett

The concept that writing is a process is likely not new to you, but it’s important to review that process so that you can make your writing stronger and clearer.

Prewriting

In this stage you brainstorm, plan, and organize your thoughts. Some people like using a graphic organizer like a mind map, while others prefer to make lists, or even launch into full paragraphs. It’s very important at this stage to keep in mind that many of the ideas you come up with in your prewriting may never make it to your final draft so don’t censor your ideas. A “bad” idea that you end up discarding may lead to a “good” idea that you keep. This is writing as thinking. You are not writing for anyone else at this point. It’s fine if it only makes sense to you. Think about your audience and purpose. By the end of this process you should know, based on your audience, purpose and topic, what type of essay you want to write (narrative, persuasive, argument, or descriptive), and you’ll have some sense of the different kinds of proof you plan on using.

Drafting

Good writers know that their best writing comes after multiple drafts where they play with structure, refine ideas, and experiment with words and phrases until they find the best possible way to communicate their ideas to their readers. In this stage, you will create your thesis statement. Bear in mind that if you’re choosing to write a narrative or descriptive essay, your thesis may be implied rather than explicit. However, if your thesis is implied, then you have to be even clearer about your thesis. The thesis, even if not explicit, is the foundation for the entire essay.

Creating a Strong Thesis Statement

While the criteria for a good thesis statement may differ depending on the type of essay you are writing, it will still have the same general characteristics:

  1. It will make a claim. A claim is different from an observation. An observation might be, “The manufacturing industry in Canada is in decline.” A claim, on the other hand, would be, “Since the manufacturing industry in Canada is in decline, the Canadian government needs to provide more funding for training to encourage workers to enter skilled trades.” This thesis is clearly more appropriate for a persuasive essay or an essay of argument, but a descriptive or narrative essay should still make a claim.
  2. A good thesis will define the scope of your essay. Using the above example, you can see that the scope is defined. The writer will be talking about Canada, and specifically focusing on funding for training. This is important because if you don’t define the scope of your essay, you may not have enough evidence to adequately support your thesis. Think about what you are able to support and what you’re not able to support. If you find that your thesis requires proof or support that you’re not able to provide, then see if you can narrow or refine the scope of your essay.
  3. A good thesis shouldn’t make the reader say “So what?” Another way to think of this in an essay of argument or persuasive essay is: Is your thesis arguable? If it’s unlikely that any reasonable person could argue against your thesis, then what’s the point in writing an essay? In a narrative essay or descriptive essay, this might be a little different because you’re not necessarily “arguing” anything, but you can still avoid the “so what?” factor by ensuring that the thesis you’re presenting avoids the obvious. Consider the difference between the following statements:
    1. I believe that overcoming hardships makes you a stronger person.
    2. While many would expect that the destructive relationship I had with my father might have set me on a path for failure, in actuality, I developed the perseverance, compassion, and resilience that led to my success today.

In addition to making a claim and defining the scope of the essay, the second statement, avoids the “so what?” factor by pointing out something surprising or unusual.

As you write your first draft, don’t be concerned with the mechanics of writing: spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure. Instead, focus on developing your ideas.

Revise

The writing process is not, strictly speaking, a linear process. You will often cycle back through different stages multiple times as you work on different drafts of your essay. As you revise your draft, check for the following:

  1. Thesis statement: Do your paragraphs support your thesis statement? Do they stay within the scope you’ve presented? If you’re finding that the answer is no, then you either need to refine your thesis statement, or revise your paragraphs.
  2. Topic sentences: Each paragraph should contain a topic sentence that signals to the reader the aspect of your thesis you will be addressing.
  3. Sufficient support: Remember that different types of essays require different types of proofs (or support). While appeal to emotion may be appropriate in a persuasive essay, it is not appropriate for an essay of argument. Regardless of the type of proof you use, you must ensure that it sufficiently supports the point you made in your topic sentence. A good pattern to keep in mind is “state, illustrate, explain.” State your point, illustrate it with your chosen method of proof, and then explain how that illustration supports your point.
  4. Coherence: Make sure that each paragraph logically follows from the previous one. If that’s not happening, you may need to change the order of your paragraphs.
  5. Unity: Always check to ensure that your ideas are not veering away from the parameters you set up within your thesis statement. This is especially true in a narrative or descriptive essay where you may feel compelled to include details that you remember but that may not support your thesis.
This is a picture of an eye

Proofreading and Editing

At this point, you can start looking for errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Reading aloud at this stage or any other stage of the revision process can help you focus more carefully on your work.

Try the following steps:

To proof for spelling…

  • begin with the last word of your draft.
  • read backwards word by word, checking each for correct spelling.

To proof for sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, and phrasing…

  • begin with the last sentence of your draft and read that sentence from start to finish to find any errors.
  • read the second-last sentence from start to finish and note any errors.
  • continue reading each sentence until you have reached the beginning of your piece of writing.

To proof for overall tone and meaning…

  • read from the beginning to the end, checking for meaning and flow.
  • Correct your errors.

Adapted from http://www.middlebury.edu/ and Think Literacy: Cross-Curricular Approaches, Grades 7-12

This is a picture of a magnifying glass.

Using Feedback to Improve Writing

One of the reasons why it’s important to get another person’s feedback on your writing is because you know what you meant to say, but that may not come across in your writing. That’s a difficult thing to catch on your own. When incorporating feedback from your teacher and peers, don’t just focus on correcting the spelling and punctuation errors (proofreading), but pay attention to whether or not your teacher/peers were able to understand the main ideas you were trying to get across. Are there lots of places that seemed unclear to them? Ask yourself if you’ve overlooked important definitions or examples that would help improve the clarity of your writing (revising). If you don’t understand your peer or teacher’s feedback, then ask them if they can provide clarification. If you don’t understand their feedback, it will be difficult for you to make the necessary revisions. This is a picture of three people standing around a computer.