Writing allows us to express our ideas, as well as demonstrate information which we have discovered about a topic. Yet, every writing program seems to have different steps to the writing process. The fact is, they all basically describe the same procedures, just adapting it a little differently. My state lists the process as: Prewriting, Drafting, Editing, Revising, and Publishing/Sharing. Some programs combine Editing and Revising, some add something about re-reading or reviewing, but all writing programs use the same basic steps. What do each of these steps mean and is it really worth the extra trouble?
Prewriting is the first and most vital step to the writing process. Prewriting is done before the actual writing of the paragraph, as the name implies. This is getting your ideas on paper and organizing them. Complete sentences are not normally used at this point – the focus is on the concepts, not the grammar or complete thought. Prewriting can include brainstorming, outlining, free writing, webbing, or the “4-square” process. If you are writing a research paper, this will also include the actual research of the topic, normally written on index cards, and then organized using one of the other prewriting methods. This step should only take about 10 minutes (longer for a research paper), but it makes the rest of the process much easier.
Next in the writing process is Drafting. This is when you actually start writing a paragraph/essay/research paper. Many people skip the prewriting stage and immediately start writing a paragraph, but if you do this, your paragraph(s) will not be as organized as it should be. You will also probably get some additional thoughts later and have to decide if it is worth re-writing the paragraph. However, if the prewriting step is done correctly, you can write your ideas down and choose the best before you start writing the paragraph. In the drafting stage, the focus is on getting the ideas on paper, not necessarily on punctuation, spelling, or grammar, however, you should try your best to get them as accurate as possible the first time. Those errors which are left will be corrected in the next step.
Editing occurs after the drafting stage, and it simply means you are fixing your mistakes. These errors could be in punctuation, capitalization, spelling, or adding/deleting details. You should also check your information at this stage and make sure your facts were written down accurately. Checking for plagiarism should also be done at this stage, because no one wants to be sued (or to lose a grade) for accidentally repeating information from a copyrighted piece. Proofreading marks are typically used to make it easier to correct these mistakes. Never use an eraser to edit a paper – you may change your mind later and need to remember what you originally wrote. Reading your paper aloud, both before and after you make corrections, will help you identify errors which should be corrected.
The fourth step, Revising, is often skipped, or at least it is frequently combined with Editing. I think it should be done separately, however, because it is vital to writing an interesting essay. Revising includes replacing frequently-used words by using a thesaurus, adding interesting, clarifying details, and transitional words or phrases (such as “Next” or “As you can see”). You should check the pattern of the sentences, making sure you are not starting every sentence (or paragraph) with the same phrase or using the same number of words in every sentence. Sometimes words or phrases need to be inverted (switched) or completely rewritten to add variety to your writing style. After revising, you should always return to the Drafting stage and rewrite your paragraph, using your corrections. The Editing and Revising stages should also be repeated, frequently done several times before going to the last step.
Finally, you should Publish or Share your writing. Unless it is a diary or private journal, everything you write should be expected to be read by someone else. Publishing could include traditional methods, such as creating a book or magazine. Technology has also opened other ways to Publish your works, including a web page or PowerPoint presentation. Sharing could include simply reading your paragraph aloud in front of an audience of one or several dozen people. Writing, like all other work, should be recognized at its completion.
Prewriting, Drafting, Editing, Revising, and Publishing are all included in every comprehensive writing process. While at the surface level they seem to add time and more work to a simple writing assignment, they actually will help your writing to be more organized and accurate. Most importantly, your writing will be much more interesting to read!