White Smoke Essay
Simple Steps to Writing, Revising and Editing an essay
Writing a good essay requires refined critical thinking, which can be improved by experience. But one of the key elements to a good essay is form, and we are here to help you with it. There are numerous forms of writing that we face everyday. The following is an explanation of the process of writing in a simple and understandable way.
An essay can have many purposes, but the basic structure is basically the same. You may be writing an essay to argue for a particular point of view or to explain the steps necessary to complete a task.
Either way, your essay will have the same basic format.
If you follow these simple steps, you will find that writing an essay is easier than you had initially thought.
- Select your topic.
- Choose the thesis, or main idea of your essay.
- Prepare an outline or diagram of your main ideas.
- Outline your essay into introductory, body and summary paragraphs.
- State your thesis idea in the first paragraph.
- Finish the introductory paragraph with a short summary or goal statement.
- In each of the body paragraphs the ideas first presented in the introductory paragraph are developed.
- Develop your body paragraphs by giving explanations and examples.
- The last paragraph should restate your basic thesis of the essay with a conclusion.
- After you followed these easy steps your writing will improve and become more coherent. Always remember, form is only a part of the process. You become a better writer primarily by reflecting and analyzing rather than memorizing.
Guidelines on how to revise an essay
The best writers revise. And they revise again. Then they revise yet again. So, given that professional writers revise, it would be wise for beginning and intermediate writers to revise, too. One Professor, when asked how students could improve their writing, said these three words: "Revise, revise, revise." It's such a common mantra for writers and artists that a recent online search came up with over 16,000 hits for the phrase!
Revision means, literally, to see again. There are several stages to revision.
The first thing to consider is the goal of revision: Writing to communicate.
In order to communicate well, here are some guidelines to consider while you revise:
- Don't necessarily include everything
- Especially for academic writing, include a thesis, which is your answer to a (researched) question or your (reasoned or researched) position on a debatable topic.
- Include clear markers or transitions, citation of sources, and other help so readers can follow you along the path of your thoughts (argument, analysis, critique)
- Include the main points and the highlights from your research or reasoning that which supports your thesis, and that which might appear to contradict your thesis except that you, as a "tour guide," will explain why the material doesn't fit or why the contradictory material is wrong, and that which readers might reasonably expect, given your subject matter
- Include support and evidence for each main point, which might be logical reasoning, explanations, data, and arguments of your own; or evidence, arguments, and theories from other sources (properly credited)
- Often you should include answers to these questions: who, what, where, when, why and how about the whole topic; about major sources, theories, concepts; and about major developments related to the topic
- Make sure the result is clear communication that will be understood by your intended audience
Revision gives new life to your writing. The first stage involves going through the draft and reorganizing main ideas and supporting ideas so that they are grouped in a way that is understandable to your reader. Your organization will usually first put forward stronger points (in an argument), earlier information (for a narrative), or background (in many cases). However you organize, your readers need to understand what you are trying to communicate.
After that, refine your arguments and evidence, your descriptions, and all of the details, so that they give a sense of the writing being of one piece, or a whole. Let one description arise from another, or one piece of evidence support the next. Put all of the pieces in that are needed, and remove those that are not.
Even the most experienced writers make inadvertent errors while revising--removing a word or adding a phrase that changes the grammar, for instance.
Here are some tips to help focus your revision:
- Have other readers looked it over? A professor, boss, classmates, colleagues, roommates or friends
- Explain to a few different people what you've written, same group as other readers
- Read more on the topic (new sources, but also revisit already cited sources)
- Make an outline or highlight your draft as though it were a reading
- Set it aside for a day or two (longer, if possible) and then re-read it
- Read aloud to yourself
- Read it backwards
- Make a presentation. Presenting your paper orally to others often helps shape and focus your ideas
- Write a new introduction and conclusion, and then see if the paper fits the new introduction and the new conclusion
- The final stage or revision is copy editing, or proof reading.
Tips for editing a paper or an essay
Good editing or proofreading skills are just as important to the success of an essay, paper or thesis as good writing skills. The editing stage is a chance to strengthen your arguments with a slightly more objective eye than while you are in the middle of writing.
Indeed, editing can turn a good essay or paper into a brilliant one, by paying close attention to the overall structure and the logical flow of an argument. Here we will offer some tips on how to edit a paper or an essay.
Tips for editing a paper or essay:
1. Read over other things you have written, to see if you can identify a pattern in your writing, such as problematic punctuation, or repeated use of the same adjectives.
2. Take a break between the writing and editing.
3. Read by sliding a blank page down your lines of writing, so you see one line at a time. Even in editing or proofreading, it is easy to miss things and make mistakes.
4. Read the paper out loud to get a sense of the punctuation, and make any changes to parts that feel unnatural to read.
5. Allow someone else to read over your paper, fresh eyes can see things you will not see.
The Stages of 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. 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.