Make the Writing Process Work for You! What makes the writing process beneficial to writers is that it encourages alternatives to standard practices and motivates you to develop your best ideas. For instance, the following approaches, done alone or in combination with others, may improve your writing and help you move forward in the writing process:
- Begin writing with the part you know the most about. The purpose of a first draft is to get ideas down on paper that can then be revised. Consider beginning with the body paragraphs and drafting the introduction and conclusion later. You can start with the third point in your outline if ideas come easily to mind, or you can start with the first or second point Although paragraphs may vary in length, keep in mind that short paragraphs may contain insufficient support. Readers may also think the writing is abrupt. Long paragraphs may be wordy and may lose your reader’s interest. As a guideline, try to write paragraphs longer than one sentence but shorter than the length of an entire double-spaced page.
- Write one supporting point at a time and then stop. As long as you complete the assignment on time, you may choose how many paragraphs you complete in one sitting. Pace yourself. On the other hand, try not to procrastinate. Writers should always meet their deadlines.
- Take short breaks to refresh your mind. This tip might be most useful if you are writing a multipage report or essay. Still, if you are antsy or cannot concentrate, take a break to let your mind rest, but do not let breaks extend too long. If you spend too much time away from your essay, you may have trouble starting again. You may forget key points or lose momentum. Try setting an alarm to limit your break, and when the time is up, return to your desk to write.
- Be reasonable with your goals. If you decide to take ten-minute breaks, try to stick to that goal. If you told yourself that you need more facts, then commit to finding them. Holding yourself to your own goals will create successful writing assignments.
- Keep your audience and purpose in mind as you write. These aspects of writing are just as important when you are writing a single paragraph for your essay as when you are considering the direction of the entire essay.
- Of all of these considerations, keeping your purpose and your audience at the front of your mind is key to writing success. If your purpose is to persuade, for example, you will present your facts and details in the most logical and convincing way you can for the particular audience you have in mind. If your audience dwells on logic, for example, points that use reason, facts, documented information, and the like, will provide the persuasion to which those readers best respond. Some writers find it useful to keep the purpose and audience at the top of every page, highlighted in some way, as a reminder of the targets of each point.
- Your purpose will guide your mind as you compose your sentences. Your audience will guide word choice. Are you writing for experts, for a general audience, for other college students, or for people who know very little about your topic? Keep asking yourself what your readers, with their background and experience, need to know to understand your ideas. How can you best express your ideas, so they are meaningful and memorable and your communication is effective?
- Write knowing that the revision and editing processes lie ahead, so leave plenty of time for those stages.
You may want to identify your purpose and audience on an index card that you clip to your paper (or keep next to your computer). On that card, you may want to write notes to yourself—perhaps about what that audience might not know or what it needs to know—so that you will be sure to address those issues when you write. It may be a good idea to state exactly what you want to explain to that audience, or the subject about which you want to inform them or persuade them.
Writing at Work
Many of the documents you produce at work target a particular audience for a particular purpose. You may find that it is highly advantageous to know as much as you can about your target audience and to prepare your message to reach that audience, even if the audience is a coworker or your boss. Menu language is a common example. Descriptions like “organic romaine” and “free-range chicken” are intended to appeal to a certain type of customer though perhaps not to the same customer who craves a thick steak. Similarly, mail-order companies research the demographics of the people who buy their merchandise. Successful vendors customize product descriptions in catalogs to appeal to their buyers’ tastes. For example, the product descriptions in a skateboarder catalog will differ from the descriptions in a clothing catalog for mature adults.
Tips to Avoid Writer's Block
Set up scheduled times to write and set deadlines to accomplish different parts of your essay, and avoid perfectionism–that comes later in the writing process.
Maintaining Internal Integrity of Paragraphs
|Linkages||Paragraphs with unity flow wellso that readers can follow along easily. You need to present an idea and then link the rest of the ideas in the paragraph together. Do not leave any unifying for your readers to do mentally. Do it all for them.||Not all the booths at a farmers’ market feature food. One couple has a booth that sells only fresh flowers. They display some flowers in antique containers and sell the flowers, the containers, or both. A clothesline above our heads displays a variety of dried flowers. A table holds about fifty vases of varying sizes, and they are all full of flowers. Some vases hold only one kind of long-stem flowers. Others hold mixtures of uncut flowers. Still, others display gorgeous arrangements. Both the man and the woman wear a wreath of flowers on their heads. The whole display is so attractive and smells so fabulous that it really draws people.|
|Parallelism||Parallelism means that you maintain the same general wording and format for similar situations throughout the paragraph so that once readers figure out what is going on, they can easily understand the whole paragraph.||The history of this farmers’ market followed a typical pattern. It started out in the 1970s as a co-op of local farmers, featuring a small city block of modest tables and temporary displays every Saturday morning from April to October from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. In the early 1990s, with the help of a grant from the city, the market expanded its footprint to a larger, more centrally located city block with ample parking. It benefited greatly from the installation of permanent booths, electrical outlets, and a ready water supply. These amenities drew far more customers and merchants. Its popularity reached unprecedented levels by 2000, when the city offered to help with the staffing needed to keep it open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Recently, discussions began about how to open the market on weeknights in the summer from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.|
|Consistency||A paragraph with consistency uses the same point of view and the same verb tense throughout. In other words, if you are using third person in the beginning of the paragraph, you use it throughout the paragraph. If you are using present tense to start the paragraph, you stick with it.||There comes a time each year when you must begin the all-important step of actually harvesting your vegetable garden. You will want to pick some of your vegetables before they are fully ripe. Eggplants, cucumbers, and squash fall into this category because they can further ripen once you have picked them. On the other hand, you will find that tomatoes, pumpkins, and most melons really need to ripen fully before you harvest them. You should also keep in mind that you would need plenty of storage space for your bounty. If you have a good harvest, you might want to have a few friends in mind, especially as recipients for your squash and cucumbers.|
Transitions within paragraphs are words that connect one sentence to another so that readers can follow the intended meanings of sentences and relationships between sentences. Transitions may also smooth the flow between body paragraphs. The following table shows some commonly used transition words:
Commonly Used Transition Words
|To compare/contrast||after that, again, also, although, and then, but, despite, even though, finally, first/second/third/etc., however, in contrast, in the same way, likewise, nevertheless, next, on the other hand, similarly, then|
|To signal cause and effect||as a result, because, consequently, due to, hence, since, therefore, thus|
|To show sequence or time||after, as soon as, at that time, before, during, earlier, finally, immediately, in the meantime, later, meanwhile, now, presently, simultaneously, so far, soon, until, then, thereafter, when, while|
|To indicate place or direction||above, adjacent to, below, beside, beyond, close, nearby, next to, north/south/east/west, opposite, to the left/right|
|To present examples||for example, for instance, in fact, to illustrate, specifically|
|To suggest relationships||and, also, besides, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, too|
What Point of View Should Be Used in Academic Writing?
The dominant perspective in argument writing should be third person (he, she, it, and they). What do you gain by using third person?
- Third person puts the topic and argument at the center, where they should be.
- Third person implies a critical distance between the writer and the argument, which can reassure readers who might disagree with your perspective that you are not being overly swayed by emotional attachment, i.e., that you can be objective.
What this means is that writers should minimize the first person (I, me, we, us).The use of I in writing is often a topic of debate, and the acceptance of its usage varies from instructor to instructor. Some instructors demand all removal of first person from argument writing, but other instructors do not mind it. (This is changing fast, though. Many academic journals now encourage first-person writing because it is more active, immediate, and interesting to read. The deciding factor is to follow the instructions of your instructor.) While you may feel more comfortable using first person because you still think of an argument as the same as an opinion, be aware that using first person in argument writing comes with damaging effects:
- Using I shifts the focus from the topic and argument to the one making the argument. You are not the focus of the essay; your argument and its support are. The insertion of I into a sentence alters not only the way a sentence might sound but also the composition of the sentence itself. I is often the subject of a sentence. If the subject of the essay is supposed to be, for example, smoking, then by inserting yourself into the sentence, you are effectively displacing the subject of the essay into a secondary position. Note the difference in these two sentences:
Smoking is bad.
I think smoking is bad.
In the first sentence, the rightful subject, smoking, is in the subject position in the sentence. In the second sentence, the insertion of I and think replaces smoking as the subject, which draws attention to I and away from the topic that is supposed to be discussed. Remember to keep the message (the subject) and the messenger (the writer) separate.
- Too many I-statements make your argument sound weak. Excessive repetition of “I think” or “I feel” or “I believe” will eventually make it look like you are overemphasizing your beliefs because you don’t have enough confidence in them. Perception is important. You may actually be incredibly confident in your argument, logic, and evidence, but your overuse of I-statements will undermine that.
- Too many I-statements make your argument sound biased. Too much use of I will make your readers think you cannot be objective, and they may doubt your support because they think you are too personally attached to the argument to reasonably and objectively weigh data and logic—even if you are doing that throughout the essay.
- I-statements make your sentences wordier. Good academic writing is shark-like, and when declaring arguments and supporting points, you especially want to cut through the noise and confusion with strong, straightforward, economic writing. Refer again to the two sentences above. The first is boldly declarative (Smoking is bad. Boom!). The second is wordier, which drains energy and punch from the claim.
Writers may use the first person POV in personal, reflective or narrative writing. However, the second person POV (using you) is usually avoided in any form of academic writing.
Consider adopting this rule of thumb: check with your professors for their preference, but even if they allow first person, use it sparingly.