Which Is The Final Step In Writing An Essay

Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship, a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.

According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:

1. Pick a topic.

You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary.

If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do. However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade?

Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down.

Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic.

2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas.

In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts. By taking what’s already in your head and putting it to paper, you are able to see connections and links between ideas more clearly. This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them.

To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas.

If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page. From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.

3. Write your thesis statement.

Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay. Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas?

Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. For instance, if you were writing about Bill Clinton and his impact on the United States, an appropriate thesis statement would be, “Bill Clinton has impacted the future of our country through his two consecutive terms as United States President.”

Another example of a thesis statement is this one for the “Winning Characteristics” Scholarship essay: “During my high school career, I have exhibited several of the “Winning Characteristics,” including Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Organization Skills, through my involvement in Student Government, National Honor Society, and a part-time job at Macy’s Department Store.”

4. Write the body.

The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.

Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. Begin by writing one of your main ideas as the introductory sentence. Next, write each of your supporting ideas in sentence format, but leave three or four lines in between each point to come back and give detailed examples to back up your position. Fill in these spaces with relative information that will help link smaller ideas together.

5. Write the introduction.

Now that you have developed your thesis and the overall body of your essay, you must write an introduction. The introduction should attract the reader’s attention and show the focus of your essay.

Begin with an attention grabber. You can use shocking information, dialogue, a story, a quote, or a simple summary of your topic. Whichever angle you choose, make sure that it ties in with your thesis statement, which will be included as the last sentence of your introduction.

6. Write the conclusion.

The conclusion brings closure of the topic and sums up your overall ideas while providing a final perspective on your topic. Your conclusion should consist of three to five strong sentences. Simply review your main points and provide reinforcement of your thesis.

7. Add the finishing touches.

After writing your conclusion, you might think that you have completed your essay. Wrong. Before you consider this a finished work, you must pay attention to all the small details.

Check the order of your paragraphs. Your strongest points should be the first and last paragraphs within the body, with the others falling in the middle. Also, make sure that your paragraph order makes sense. If your essay is describing a process, such as how to make a great chocolate cake, make sure that your paragraphs fall in the correct order.

Review the instructions for your essay, if applicable. Many teachers and scholarship forms follow different formats, and you must double check instructions to ensure that your essay is in the desired format.

Finally, review what you have written. Reread your paper and check to see if it makes sense. Make sure that sentence flow is smooth and add phrases to help connect thoughts or ideas. Check your essay for grammar and spelling mistakes.

Congratulations! You have just written a great essay.

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The Stages of Writing

English Writing

Any writing 101 course teaches that writing is an activity that takes time and cannot be treated as a one-step affair. They also know that readers expect much more than just correct grammar; they expect interesting, clearly written, and well organized content. The basic rule of writing says that you need to think about what you are going to write BEFORE you write and go over your writing a few times BEFORE sending it out or publishing it. This is because the act of writing is a complicated task, which involves many thought processes all going on at once. In order to produce written material more efficiently, these processes can be broken down into stages. These are defined differently by various approaches, with anywhere between 4 and 10 stages. We suggest the following six stages:
1.    planning
2.    drafting
3.    revising
4.    editing
5.    proofreading
6.    presenting

1. The Planning Stage

It is very difficult and even futile to try and think about WHAT you want to write and HOW you want to phrase it in the same time. In planning, you try to foresee what you want your final text to look like, using the following points:

•    Define your writing topic and content area. Narrow your topic down to a specific angle that will be developed in your text. Make sure you are aware of any specific content or technical requirements you may have from teachers. Research and analyze information sources if needed.

•    Calculate the time needed to complete your writing task. Remember that even a 1,500 word college essay may take a few days to properly complete, so do not postpone writing assignments to the last minute!

•    Brainstorm and jot down any ideas, thoughts, arguments, words, and phrases you think are relevant to your text.

•    Organize your preliminary arguments into an outline following a logical order that would suit the general essay structure of opening, body, and ending. Put ideas in sub-groups that will later develop into paragraphs.

2. The Drafting Stage

When writing the first draft of your text, focus on content only and FORGET about language and mechanical aspects such as grammar, spelling, and punctuation. You must write freely and try to find the best way to communicate your ideas. Do not get stuck checking spelling and other nitty-gritty at this point! That will stop your writing flow! Remember the following points:
•    The opening paragraph (introduction) should present the text’s topic. Refrain from using the first person when doing this (No: “In this essay I will present…”) and prefer a stronger opening technique to entice the reader to keep reading. For example, pose a provocative question; give a testimonial or illustrative story, or present interesting facts on the phenomenon under discussion.
•    The body (discussion) paragraphs should each present one idea or aspect of the general topic and begin with a topic sentence that will orient the reader to what follows within the paragraph.
•    Provide enough supporting sentences for the topic sentence, using examples, explanations, facts, opinions, and quotes. Consider the expected text length and go into detail accordingly.
•    Use connecting words (conjunctions and discourse markers, such as and, or, but, so, because, however, moreover, for example etc.) to logically unite arguments, sentences and paragraphs.
•    The ending (conclusion) should present summative remarks and repeat the text’s key idea or thesis in other words. Try to finish with a strong statement that will have your reader asking for more…
•    Orient yourself to the appropriate register called for by your audience and purpose of writing. Keep it simple when writing to young children; consider delving into polemics when aiming for university professors…
•    Try to diversify the words and phrases you use as much as possible, using synonyms, descriptive and figurative language, while considering the expected writing style of your text.
•    If time permits, read your draft very generally and redraft, making immediate global changes you feel are urgent. Don’t be too harsh on yourself and do not focus on fine nuances in meaning at this point.

3. The Revising Stage

No text should be sent out or published without going over it at least once! Twice is even better. You must reread even the shortest business email to prevent any embarrassing mistakes (such as sending the wrong email to the wrong person, to start with). Revising means evaluating your text’s content and making sure you actually wrote what you intended in the planning stage. You may be surprised to hear that revising should take as much time as drafting! Go through the following checklist when revising:
On a global level (text-paragraph), ask yourself:
•    Did I actually write on the required topic and used relevant arguments and examples, or digressed inadvertently?
•    Is each piece of information relevant to the paragraph it is in? Should I delete certain parts or move them somewhere else in the text? In other words, is your text cohesive and unified around one theme?
•    Does each paragraph and sentence logically follow and relate to what’s written before it? Is there enough or too much support to each topic sentence? Change accordingly.
On a local level (sentence-word) ask yourself:
•    Did I use suitable connectors to present the logical relations between text segments (cause-effect, general-detail, compare-contrast, chronological order etc.) in order to make the text coherent?
•    Did I technically tie ideas together with relevant word choices, apt pronoun reference, and techniques such as parallelism and emphasis?
•    Did I diversify sentence types and lengths (from simple to complex, short and concise to long and elaborate)? Consider uniting two consecutive short sentences or dividing a long compound-complex sentence into two shorter ones.
•    Did I refrain from no-no’s such as run-ons, fragments, dangling modifiers, wordiness, or inappropriate register? Did I avoid sexist language?
•    Did I refrain from repeating the same ideas and words and used a rich and varied vocabulary? Did I use adjectives and adverbs for text enrichment? Did I mainly use my own words?
•    Do not attempt showing-off with a fancy word you do not know how to use properly.

4. The Editing Stage

Editing is sometimes considered part of revising, but refers to judging your text for language and technicalities rather than content. This is the time for all you grammar lovers and nitty-gritty enthusiasts to meticulously scan the text for language accuracy.
•    Your sentences should adhere to proper word order rules, each containing a subject and a predicate. Use a variety of verb tenses correctly and appropriately (simple, progressive, perfect, and perfect-progressive tenses).
•    Be careful with subject-verb agreement issues.
•    Use a variety of language constructions to make your writing more precise and educated (comparative structures, relative clauses, conditional sentences, not too much of the passive voice etc.)
•    Use a dictionary or spell checker when not sure about spelling. Reread your text again for problematic homonyms (there-their-they’re).
•    Use a variety of punctuation marks accurately and consult a style guide when hesitating between a comma, colon, or semi-colon.
•    Edit for text mechanics: capitalization, numbering, italics, and abbreviations.

5. The Proofreading Stage

Proofreading comprises that one extra step you need after revising and editing in order to locate any small mistakes you missed out on until now. Be it some urgent last minute content change or some spelling and punctuation that escaped your attention – this is the time to brush away those invisible blemishes before writing or printing out the final copy.
Tip: For a second proofread, try and pinpoint mistakes reading the text backwards. You’ll be surprised at what you can find this way.

6. The Presentation Stage

After the text itself is ready, it is time to work on some finishing touches with aesthetics polishing your text to perfection.
•    If you are handwriting your text, use a ruler to create margins on both sides of the page. Remember to double-space if required by a teacher. Write neatly and legibly!
•    When using a computer, be consistent with font usage, spacing, and heading levels. Always be on the look out for more tiny errors for last-minute on-screen corrections.
•    In academic papers, adhere to the strict citation conventions, dictated by your style manual.
•    Consider using indentation for every paragraph as well as larger spacing between paragraphs.
The writing process may seem long and tiresome, but it is a guaranteed path to success. The more you use it, the sooner you will realize how you couldn’t do without it. This "writing 101" review article has given you the basics. You can access more useful pages through our English Lessons Portal.

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