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The Writing Center

The Writing Process


Writing Center

In order to write well, you must understand that writing is a process. Once you have gotten your ideas on paper, you are only at the beginning of this process, and though there are steps to this process, they are recursive, not linear. This means that writing, even for talented writers, takes time and work. Listed below are the basic steps in the writing process. Bear in mind that this is not a formula, but a guide. Each writer individualizes the process to himself, but all good writers engage in some variation of this process.

Planning and Prewriting

When you receive a writing assignment, the possibilities for development are limitless. Before you can begin writing a draft, you need to generate material about which to write. This is accomplished in a planning and prewriting process. Often times, students underestimate the importance of prewriting. Thus, they skip it altogether and wonder why they are experiencing writer's block. There are a number of prewriting strategies. Most writers engage in a combination of two or more of the following:

  • Brainstorming
  • Mapping/Clustering
  • List making
  • Asking questions
  • Freewriting

The purpose of all of the above is to focus your thinking on the writing project at hand and to explore the different possibilities. Most people are, to varying degrees, visual learners. Prewriting allows you to capture the ideas and thoughts and snippets of inspiration that seem to swim inside your head and place them on paper. Once you have ideas written down, you can focus and develop and organize them. The key to prewriting is generating ideas. At this point, you should not be concerned with spelling or grammar or punctuation; just focus on getting as many ideas down on paper as you can.


Many writers underestimate the necessity for multiple drafting. Too often, students think that their writing is done once they have written the words on the page. However, in order to write effectively and clearly, writers must engage in significant re-writing. Good writing is essentially rewriting. It is only after you have put your thoughts on paper that you can critically examine and evaluate your work. Each subsequent draft of a paper should be markedly different, for with each draft you should be developing a stronger sense of what you want to say and saying it more clearly. A well-written college level essay will easily have been drafted three times or more.


Revision means to see again. When you revise your work, you should be looking again at the content of the essay (and ONLY the content). It is at this stage that you will examine your organization, development, and specificity.

As you revise, you should be able to determine your thesis. Whether stated or implied, it should be clear to readers.

Step One: Find Your Thesis

To find your thesis, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What point am I attempting to make in this essay?
  2. Is this point clearly evident to my audience?

You need a thesis before you proceed with your revision because without a thesis, you will be unable to determine the logic or relevance of any other ideas.

Step Two: Evaluate Paragraphs

Ask yourself these questions about each body paragraph in your essay:

  1. What point am I trying to make in this paragraph? You should be making only one point per paragraph.
  2. How does this paragraph relate to the one before and after it?
  3. Do I make these connections clear with transitional words and phrases?
  4. Do I have a topic sentence that is clearly connected to my thesis idea?
  5. Do I explain and develop my idea in this paragraph?
  6. Do I use examples? Could I use better ones?
  7. Have I been as specific, vivid, and descriptive as possible?

Step Three: Evaluating Sentences

  1. Are my sentences clear and focused or are they rambling and repetitive?
  2. Can I add adjectives and adverbs or find a more lively verb?
  3. When I read the sentence aloud, does it sound awkward? Are any words missing?
  4. Might any of my sentences be combined in order to connect my ideas and express my ideas more effectively?

Editing and Proofreading

It is during the editing and proofreading stage that you turn your attention to mechanical matters. At this time you should identify and correct the following:

  1. Spelling errors
  2. Use of commonly confused words (to, too, two/there,their,they're/its,it's)
  3. Omitted words
  4. Punctuation and capitalization errors
  5. Grammar mistakes (fragments, run-ons, comma splices, misplaced modifiers)
  6. You should also double check the accuracy of any quotes and make sure you have documented them properly in a works cited page.