My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Four Stages of Effective Writing

Tips from Proofreading: Plain and Simple by Debra Hart May, with my own commentary:
  • "Prewriting is identifiying and refining your document's purpose and your understanding of your reader's needs, then organizing your initial ideas into a general game plan."
    • Though it is perfectly fine to organize your document in your head, it is even more helpful to write your plan down. What statement can summarize your purpose? Who is your intended audience and how will the piece cater to their needs? What kind of language and/or jargon will you use? What ideas do you want to bring up? Are there any topics you want to avoid? Narrow down your initial concept into something managable and semi-concrete.
  • "Drafting is actually writing the document. To draft effectively, write quickly, loosely following your game plan, seldom stopping to make changes."
    • The most important part of this process is to let the ideas flow. Don't worry about being consistent with style or issues with grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Allow sentence structure to take a back burner to the words and ideas you are coming up with. Start with an opening sentence (even if you know it will not even be a part of your introduction) and let your mind drift from one sentence to the next. When you let the writing flow out of you without worrying about formality, you will be suprised with what you can come up with in a relatively short period of time.
      One other idea is to write several different drafts. Start at one point with the first draft, then start with a different idea for the second, and so on. This way, when you go back to edit and refine your essay into a single piece, you have many different options to draw from. Also, each train of thought could lead you to an idea you want to mention but would not hae thought about otherwise.
  • "Editing is clarifying, strenghtening, and condensing the communication you attempted at the drafting stage."
    • This stage should take most of your time. Go back to your first draft and rework it to make it follow the conventions of your genre. Rearrange your sentences so they fit a logical order and check for consistency. If you wrote several completely different drafts, see if there are any points you want to combine into a single, concise essay. Do this several times, going through many new rough drafts, until you have one that you are happy with.
  • "Proofreading is polishing the final draft, ensuring that no errors in communication, however small or seemingly insignificant, make it through to the intended reader."
    • Now is the time to focus on the small things. You have turned your intial rough draft into a worthy document by looking at the bigger picture. Go back through your final work and check for grammar, punctuaction, spelling, sentence structure, and other elements of proper writing. Ensure that your document is ready for whatever the next phase may be, such as being published or being submitted to your boss. This will represent your skill and proficieny as a writer, so pay close attention to the details. For tips on proofreading, please see the previous two blog entries.

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