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The Drafting Process

"The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can.  Because I have the greatest respect for the reader, and if he's going to the trouble of reading what I've written, why the least I can do is make it as easy as possible for him.  I rewrite a great deal to make it clear."  E.B. White  

Drafting and rewriting is not just for developing writers and students; it is an essential part of the writing process.  If, like E.B. White, you consider your reader with respect, you will take the time to ensure that your writing is as clear as possible.

Here are some guidelines for using a three-draft approach to produce writing for evaluation.  Of course, many students and most professional writers will write more than three drafts, but for the purposes of most academic writing courses three drafts is generally realistic.

The First Draft: Getting your ideas on paper

A first draft is just that—a first attempt at getting your ideas about a topic down on paper.  It's the time to experiment with new ideas and connections and get a feeling for what feels convincing and important and what doesn't "work".  Refer to your brainstorming or list of ideas and take some time to organize your points before you start writing.  If you're not sure about a point, include it in your draft anyway.  You can always cross it out later.  

When writing your first draft, focus on your ideas and don't worry too much about your precise wording, organization, grammar and spelling. You can deal with those in your second and third drafts.  There is no point in fussing over punctuation when many of your sentences will be moved and /or revised. You should have a thesis statement for an essay and topic sentences for each paragraph to help keep you focused on your topic. Your goal is not to write a perfect first draft, but to get down all or most of the information you want to present.  

Second Draft: Revising

(Note: The revising stage may take several drafts)

Once you have completed your second draft, read it carefully.  If possible, put aside your writing for a day and then read it with a fresh mind to ensure that the ideas flow smoothly.  Ask for comments from a friend.

Now is the time to reorganize your ideas and add any points. You should also think about your writing style.  Have you used a variety of sentences? How are you expressing your ideas?  Is your tone—serious, humorous, angry, sarcastic, etc.—appropriate for the points you are trying to make? Are there any points that don't belong?  

Revision Checklist  

Refer to this checklist to review your writing after you have made your major revisions.  

Organization and Content

  • I have a clear thesis and/or topic sentence(s).

  • I have support for all of my major points.

  • I have cut out points that don't seem to fit anywhere.

  • The organization and method of development is clear.

  • Process lists steps in order, Cause and effect gives clear reasons or results, compare and contrast consistently uses point-by-point or block method, classification presents three or more categories, etc.

  • The conclusion brings the paragraph or essay to a satisfactory close

Style and Writing Mechanics

  • I have used a variety of sentences.

  • I have used transitions to connect my ideas.

  • I have checked for major grammar errors—sentence fragments, run-ons, comma splices, etc.

Final Draft: Editing and Proofreading

Editing involves making changes to sentences and phrases for the purpose of clarity and style. Proofreading is checking for grammatical and spelling errors.

By the time you are writing your third draft, you should have a polished topic sentence or thesis and your points should be well-organized and supported.  You will mainly be focusing on the technical aspects of your writing—grammar, punctuation, and spelling. 




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This page was last updated November 19, 2004

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