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Lessons/Chapters

Welcome to Writing Commons, the open-education home for writers. Writing Commons helps students improve their writing, critical thinking, and information literacy. Founded in 2008 by Joseph M. Moxley, Writing Commons is a viable alternative to expensive writing textbooks. Faculty may assign Writing Commons for their composition, business, STEM/Technical Writing, and creative writing courses. 

Writing Commons houses ten main sections: Academic Writing | Rhetoric | Information Literacy | Evidence & Documentation | Research Methods & Methodologies | Style | New Media Communication | Professional & Technical Communication | Creative Writing | Reviews

The two best ways to navigate through Writing Commons are using the top menu navigation, under Chapters, or use the site search field to the right of the menu.

Writing Processes

Based on scholarship and research in the field of Writing Studies, the term "writing process" refers to a suite of attitudes about composition and literacy practices. Based on this body of work, faculty assume writing processes may differ from person to person and that different projects may affect which composing strategies are employed. Since the early 1980s, writing instructors have tended to restructure their courses so that students have greater opportunities to revise their work in response to instructor and/or peer feedback. Despite this emphasis on "process writing," research in Writing Studies suggests students often submit early drafts for grading.

Give yourself positive messages when revising, understanding it's easier to critique than to invent.

Understandably, you can become discouraged during writing, particularly when undertaking a challenging project. Even so, you cannot give in to negative thinking.

Writing, thinking, creating — these acts are bounded by two contrary processes: believing and doubting. For many student writers — for many people, in fact — being critical and judgmental can come easily. Hence, the truism "it's easier to critique them to create" (Alcott). Yet it is especially important, especially in the early stages of a writing project, for writers to put doubt and criticism aside.

Learn how to play the believing game. Rather than being hypercritical of your work. Energize your work by focusing on more positive messages.

While playing the believing game–setting aside doubt and overly critical comments–is crucial during the writing process, playing the doubting game is equally important, especially during the latter stages of the writing process.   Successful writing partially rests on being critical and reflective about your rhetorical situation, the quality of your evidence, and the best way to organize a document for reader. Other doubting game activities include: OrganizeFocusInventFormatEditRevise, and Publish.

Just about everyone has moments of despair and doubt about their writing. After countless hours and the feeling that your work has been futile, that you have not clearly expressed an important concept or relationship, you may feel the urge to give up, to abandon the project.

But you can't give up. To be a successful writer (or really, to be a successful person) you need to emphasize believing. Especially in the beginning of a writing project, you need to set aside doubt, self-criticism, and despair. You need to emphasize the positive. After all, down the line, when your work is graded or critiqued by readers, you'll have plenty of time for self-criticism and doubt.

"If you can't write online in today's global business economy, you cannot compete."

It is important to perceive writing and the writing process as long-term assets.

This means that:

  • learning to write well now can - and will - invite exciting professional opportunities

  • writing well enables more efficient and comprehensive learning of academic material, as well as insightful and productive learning about yourself, your everyday thoughts and emotions, and how these attributes affect your quality of life? What role does writing play in thinking and learning? 

Learn the beliefs that empower successful academic authors.

To become a competent, confident writer, you may find it useful to analyze your attitudes about writing. After all, your assumptions about how writers work can limit your imagination and the quality of your finished product. You can debunk a truckload of myths about writing by analyzing how you write, how your peers write, and how professional writers write.

A valuable skill you will learn throughout ENC 1101 is how to write a polished essay through a set of progressive phases. Academic writing—and all writing, to different degrees—involves planning out the content and organization of your paper, contemplating your audience, researching or collecting relevant information, and completing various stages of drafting, revising, and editing. The projects for this course have been created to parallel and reinforce these various steps of the writing process while also helping you become part of an academic conversation. Each project focuses on an important step of the writing process, and each assignment builds upon the previous one.

Why is it important to pay close attention to assignment requirements?

When a writing project is assigned, the instructor (or the department) will usually spell out specific assignment requirements; these expectations are often communicated verbally, inscribed on a white board, or made available through an electronic or paper document.

Use a writer's journal to organize your work, develop new projects, and nurture and sustain existing projects.

Consider using these categories to help organize your journal, whether you publish it online (with or without security) or keep it in a three-ring binder.

The writer's journal can help you to write more efficiently and more originally. Your journal provides a place to organize your work, develop new projects, nurture and sustain existing projects, and provide links to completed projects.

Use a variety of invention strategies to stimulate your creative abilities.

Many people do not perceive themselves as creative. They reserve the terms "creative" or "innovative" for people who write literature, create art work, invent products, or lead scientific breakthroughs. People who develop new theories, products, and ideas certainly deserve to be called "creative" or"innovative," yet the vast majority of us can be creative, too.

Open article to view table.

As children many of us heard the classic fable about the tortoise and the hare. The moral of the story is that rushing straight from point A to point B is not always the swiftest way to the destination. Sometimes it makes sense to pause for a few moments and ask yourself, "Do I really want to go there? What obstacles can I expect to encounter? Do I need to take a compass and a map? Is the path well marked? What provisions am I likely to need along the journey?"

Like many children's tales, the tortoise and the hare has implications for adults, too. For even though logic tells us that we can save time by quickly writing a first draft, we in fact might manage our time more effectively by doing some preliminary planning and prewriting.

Consider the Document Planner to be a living document. It's a snapshot of a fluid process. As you write, your ideas about audience, purpose, media, context, voice, tone, and persona will change, becoming clarified.

1 . Context
Beyond fulfilling a course requirement, what motivates you to explore this project? What are the unique elements of this writing situation? Is your context formal, semiformal, informal? Is this a class assignment; a Web site; a workplace document; an online communication; a text for a community, service, or special interest group; an essay for a magazine, newspaper, or journal; a letter to family and friends? How does the context influence what you need to do next?

Understand how writers organize their commitments by organizing work under development into a notebook.

Although the thought of maintaining a notebook may at first appear intimidating, you will probably be surprised to find that it is actually quite easy to keep one on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, the following comments are fairly representative of how most students feel after keeping a notebook for a semester:

Enhance your creative potential and ability to communicate effectively by experimenting with different writing strategies.

Writing theorists and researchers have found there is no one perfect writing process. The strategies you need to use are likely to vary from project to project. The amount of time you give to each writing strategy is influenced by the genre of the writing task, your personality, schedule, and writing habits. Your background as a writer and unique circumstances influence how you develop, design, organize, and share writing.

Use freewriting to avoid writer's block, stimulate your thinking on a subject, and find your voice.

Freewriting involves writing without stopping. Your goal is to write whatever ideas occur to you, using a pen or pencil and paper or using a computer with the monitor turned off. When freewriting, your focus is to generate ideas as opposed to writing grammatically correct sentences. Get your thoughts down as fully and quickly as you can without critiquing them.

In what ways does your opening engage your reader?

Writers who produce engaging openings keep their audience in mind from the very first sentence. They consider the tone, pace, delivery of information, and strategies for getting the reader’s attention. Many teachers generally recommend that students write their introductions last, because oftentimes introductions are the hardest paragraphs to write.

They’re difficult to write first because you have to consider what the reader needs to know about your topic before getting to the thesis.

In what manner have you reiterated your ideas? What have you left your reader to think about at the end of your paper? How does your paper answer the “So what?” question?

As the last part of the paper, conclusions often get the short shrift. We instructors know (not that we condone it)—many students devote a lot less attention to the writing of the conclusion. Some students might even finish their conclusion thirty minutes before they have to turn in their papers. But even if you’re practicing desperation writing, don’t neglect your conclusion; it’s a very integral part of your paper.

Ideally, you should find a quiet place where all your needed writing resources—such as a personal computer, dictionary, and paper—are set up. To help you focus on the work at hand, you may need a place that is reasonably free of distractions.

Determine Your Most Energetic Time of Day

"In fact I think the best regimen is to get up early, insult yourself a bit in the shaving mirror, and then pretend you're cutting wood, which is really just about all the hell you are doing—if you see what I mean." Lawrence Durrell

Understand how to organize information in paragraphs so readers can scan your work and better follow your reasoning.

Unlike punctuation, which can be subjected to specific rules, no ironclad guidelines exist for shaping paragraphs. If you presented a text without paragraphs to a dozen writing instructors and asked them to break the document into logical sections, chances are that you would receive different opinions about the best places to break the paragraph. In part, where paragraphs should be placed is a stylistic choice. Some writers prefer longer paragraphs that compare and contrast several related ideas, whereas others opt for a more linear structure, delineating each subject on a one-point-per-paragraph basis. Newspaper articles or documents published on the Internet tend to have short paragraphs, even one-sentence paragraphs.