9 – The Writing Process

Drafting Techniques

Rebecca Weaver; Lynne Bost; Michelle Kassorla; Karen McKinney-Holley; Kathryn Crowther; Lauren Curtright; Nancy Gilbert; Barbara Hall; Tracienne Ravita; Kirk Swenson; Kalani Pattison; James Francis, Jr.; Claire Carly-Miles; Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt; and Matt McKinney

Drafting is the stage of the writing process in which you develop a complete version of a document. Even professional writers admit that an empty page intimidates them because they feel they need to come up with something fresh and original every time they open a blank document on their computers. Because you have completed the prewriting and outlining stages, you have already generated ideas for both content and organization. These pre-writing strategies will therefore make the drafting process substantially easier.

Goals and Strategies for Drafting

Your objective at this stage of the writing process is to compose a version of your document that contains all the necessary main sections. A draft is a complete version of a piece of writing, but it is not the final version. As you may remember, the step in the writing process that comes after drafting is revising. During revising, you will have the opportunity to make changes to your first draft before putting the finishing touches on it during the editing and proofreading stage. A first draft provides a working version that you will improve upon later.

If you have difficulty beginning your draft on the computer, you might choose to start out on paper and then type before you revise. You could also type using a font in your background color to make your writing invisible so that you don’t become preoccupied with minor errors as you generate content. If you have difficulty writing or typing, consider using a voice recorder or voice recording app on your phone to get started. Dictate each section to get the information out of your head, and then either type or use a speech-to-text program to get your recordings into written words. Newer versions of Word also contain this feature if you prefer to dictate directly onto a document.

Depending on your English (or whichever language required for the document) proficiency, you can complete a draft in another language and translate it afterward. Another option would be to write your draft mostly in English but to use phrases or sentences more familiar to you in another language when you have difficulty figuring out how to express an idea in English. You can translate those parts later.

The point is this: For the very first draft (a draft no one else will see), get the ideas into the document in whatever manner works best for you. Stick to the outline you create and include all of the information you plan, but don’t stifle yourself by expecting the first draft to be perfect or even understandable to anyone else.

Making the Writing Process Work for You

The following approaches, implemented alone or in combination with others, may improve your writing and help you move forward in the writing process if you get stuck:

Begin writing with what you know the most about. You can start with the third section in your outline if those ideas come to mind easily. You can start with the second section or the second paragraph of the third section, too. Although paragraphs may vary in length, remember that in technical and professional writing, paragraphs are expected to be short and to the point. A three-sentence paragraph is more common and expected than paragraphs in academic writing, which shouldn’t be longer than one double-spaced page.

Write one section at a time, and then reevaluate what to write next. Choose how many paragraphs you complete in one sitting as long as you complete the assignment on time. 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 multi-page report. Furthermore, if you 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 document, 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 workstation to write. In fact, if you need to take a break, it is often most useful to stop in the middle of a sentence or a paragraph so that it is easier to pick up momentum again rather than having to start a new section.

Be reasonable with your goals. If you decide to take ten-minute breaks, try to stick to that goal. If you tell yourself that you need more facts, then commit to finding them. Holding yourself accountable to your own goals will help you to create successful writing assignments. Keep a list of things to finish/fix later or use a tool like comments in Google Docs to make a note when you think of something to do so that you keep track of such items without losing your place or momentum.

Keep your audience and purpose in mind. These aspects of writing are just as important when you write a single paragraph for a document as when you consider the direction of the entire document.

As discussed at the beginning of this chapter, reminding yourself of the , particularly and , will lead to writing success. If your purpose is to persuade, for example, you will present facts and details in the most logical and convincing way possible. The purpose will guide your mind as you compose sentences, and your audience awareness will guide your 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 be told in order to understand your ideas. How can you best express your ideas so they are completely clear and your communication is effective?

Drafting Paragraphs

Topic sentences indicate the location and main points of the basic arguments of your document. These sentences are vital to writing your body paragraphs because they always refer back to and support the main purpose of your section. Topic sentences are linked to the ideas you introduce in your heading or section, thus reminding readers what your document is about and helping to convey how the information within each section is organized. A paragraph without a clearly-identified topic sentence may be unclear and scattered, just like an essay without a thesis statement.

Each body paragraph should contain a topic sentence sentence and supporting details (examples, reasons, and/or arguments). The topic sentence for each paragraph should state one specific aspect of the main section, and then the following sentences should expand upon that aspect with adequate support. In other words, each topic sentence should be specific and supported by concrete details, facts, and/or explanations that you provide throughout the course of the paragraph.

You may be accustomed to academic writing in which you have the option of writing your topic sentences in one of three ways. You can state it at the beginning of the body paragraph, at the end of the paragraph, or not at all as an implied topic sentence. An implied topic sentence lets readers form the main idea for themselves. For beginning writers, it is best not to use implied topic sentences because they make it harder to focus your writing. In technical and professional writing, always start body paragraphs with topic sentences. is a useful acronym to help you remember how to structure a paragraph. Use topic sentences to tell readers what you most want them to know/remember (this is the “bottom line”), and then use the rest of the paragraph to support those ideas. Remember that clearly conveying information in a way that is easy to read quickly is a main goal of most writing.

Drafting Introductory and Concluding Sections

The goal of the introduction is to give readers everything they need to know in order to understand what your purpose is and to follow the arguments you present in the rest of the document. Picture your introduction as a storefront window. You have a certain amount of space to attract your customers (readers) to your goods (topic) and bring them inside your store (discussion). Once you have enticed them with something intriguing, you then point them in a specific direction and try to make the sale (persuade them to accept your proposal or purpose). The introduction is an invitation to readers to consider what you have to say and then to follow your train of thought as you expand your argument.

Writing an Introduction

An introduction serves the following purposes:

  • Establishing voice and tone, or attitude, toward the subject
  • Introducing the general topic of the document
  • Stating the ideas that will be discussed in the remaining sections of the document

First impressions are crucial and can leave lasting effects in a reader’s mind, which is why the introduction is so important to a document. If an introduction is dull or disjointed, a reader may be confused or start out in an antagonistic position to your goal.

Writing a Conclusion

It is not unusual to want to rush when you approach a conclusion, and even experienced writers may find themselves exhausted. However, good writers remember that it is vital to put just as much attention into the conclusion as into the rest of the document. After all, a hasty ending can undermine an otherwise persuasive document. Think about how many “great” movies become “good” because of a lackluster ending.

Not all documents have formal conclusion sections. Technical and professional documents may end with recommendations, next steps, the discussion section of a lab report, or the closing of a letter. However, the end of a document does have to contain certain characteristics to provide a solid and persuasive ending. Whether it is a formal conclusion or not, an ending section that does not correspond to the rest of a document can unsettle your readers and raise doubts about your purpose or argument. However, if you have worked hard to write the earlier sections of a document, the conclusion can often be the most logical part to compose.

 Avoid doing any of the following in your conclusion:

Introducing new material. Introducing new material in a conclusion has an unsettling effect on readers. Raising new points makes a reader want more information, which cannot be provided in the limited space of a final paragraph.

Contradicting your earlier statements. Contradicting or changing earlier statements or logical conclusions causes readers to think that you do not hold a strong conviction about your topic. After all, you have spent several sections persuading readers toward a specific point of view, so don’t undercut your argument at the end.

Remember that a first draft (or even a second or third) is just a draft. Before the document can truly be considered finalized, you need to complete the last two steps of the writing process: revising and editing, which are covered in Chapter 10.

This text was derived from

Weaver, Rebecca, Lynne Bost, Michelle Kassorla, Karen McKinney-Holley, Kathryn Crowther, Lauren Curtright, Nancy Gilbert, Barbara Hall, Tracienne Ravita, and Kirk Swenson. Successful College Composition, 3rd Edition. (2016). English Open Textbooks. 8. https://oer.galileo.usg.edu/english-textbooks/8. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Howdy or Hello? Technical and Professional Communication by Rebecca Weaver; Lynne Bost; Michelle Kassorla; Karen McKinney-Holley; Kathryn Crowther; Lauren Curtright; Nancy Gilbert; Barbara Hall; Tracienne Ravita; Kirk Swenson; Kalani Pattison; James Francis, Jr.; Claire Carly-Miles; Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt; and Matt McKinney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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