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The Writing Process

Use visual brainstorming to develop and organize your ideas.

In 1765, Joseph Priestly created the now commonplace timeline. Priestly's timeline depicted the lifespan of 2000 inventors whom he considered the "most distinguished in the annals of fame."

Thanks to ever emerging new technologies, writers can collaborate in exciting new ways. Using tools such as Google Docs, writers can work on texts synchronously even when they are separated by continents and oceans. Using discussion forums, musicians can exchange and remix chords with other artists from around the world. Via Skype, writers can talk with one another as they collaborate in a shared white space. Not to mention Wikipedia. Clearly, good collaboration skills are more important now than ever before.

Follow these tips for nurturing teamwork in group situations.

Business leaders commonly complain that college graduate students have not learned how to work productively in groups. In American classrooms, we tend to prize individual accomplishment, yet in professional careers we need to work well with others.Unfortunately, the terms "group work," "team work," or "committee work" can appear to be oxymorons--like the terms "honest politician" or "criminal justice."

If you have the opportunity to choose collaborators, consider this:

The whole truly can be larger than the sum of its parts. Through collaboration, we can produce documents that we alone could not imagine.  Collaborators can inspire us, keep us on task, and help us overcome blind spots.

At the same time, collaborators can become obstacles, requiring constant supervision. In group situations, other students can fail to attend classes or out-of-class meetings; they can ignore your efforts and just focus on their own missions or visions about ways documents should be written.

Use talk-and-then-write strategies to jump-start writing projects.

Dialoguing, dictating, and group brainstorming all rely on talking to generate writing. Many people get their best ideas discussing issues and ideas with people.

Lawyers, doctors, and business leaders have frequently used dictation to draft documents.

At first glance, academic and reflection can sound like contradictory concepts. Writing an academic reflection essay often involves striking a balance between a traditional, academic paper and a reflective essay. In order to find this balance, consider the terms that encompass the title of the assignment.

Why is it valuable for writers to read their own work aloud?

Reading their own work aloud gives writers the opportunity to take on the role of the reader. When “writers as readers” add hearing to seeing, another of the five senses is put to work in the critical evaluation process. Words and ideas that seemed to flow smoothly and connect logically inside the writer’s head often do not reflect the same sense of cohesiveness when heard in spoken form. Writers who hear their work read aloud are better equipped to evaluate the paper’s flow of ideas at the global level and to discover grammatical, punctuation, and word choice errors at the surface level.

Understand the fundamentals of page and Web design; use visual language to convey meaning; use design to assert authority and organize work for readers.

Writers use critical questions to find cracks and crannies, places where they need to develop or clarify their thinking. In their relentless pursuit of clearly expressed, well-developed ideas, they find soft spots—that is, passages that need to be developed or discarded and sections that just don't feel right—that feel mushy like cereal that has been sitting for too long in sour milk.

The focus refers to the main idea of the text. One way to determine this main idea is to figure out the purpose of your essay. An essay should do more than give you a grade; for example, it can persuade an audience, argue a point, or inform a reader. The assignment sheet is a great place to look for the purpose of the essay. What is your instructor asking you to do? The topic, length, variety and amount of research, audience, etc., all coincide with what the assignment requires.

 There are times when writers may be asked to take an essay they wrote and turn it into a speech: perhaps they will give a talk at a conference, stand in front of a class for an oral presentation, or be asked to create a YouTube video. The assignment—the task of revising a paper into something that will be performed (read aloud or otherwise “given” live)—does not simply mean using the paper that exists on the computer screen. Altering a paper to a speech challenges the writer to engage with the audience and revise the piece into one that is easy to follow and interesting to listen to.

Design pages to facilitate scanning by using headings, subheadings, columns; learn special page design considerations for the Web.

You can enhance readability by giving some thought to the design of your documents. By using headers, lists, bullets, and other design elements, you can reveal your organization to the reader and emphasize key points. Below are page design guidelines you should consider when writing print or online documents. Your design can underscore your message. Be sure to consider these guidelines in the context of design principles.

Understand the role of revision in the lives of successful writers.

Our fast-paced, consumer-driven society is geared to offer a remarkable number of choices in nanoseconds. If the fast-food chain doesn't deliver lunch within sixty seconds, it's free. With a push of a button, people who live in large metropolitan areas can run through as many as 100 different channels on cable television.

Format describes how we set up everything from the page margins to pictures to the works cited list. Adhering to format guidelines allows our reader to easily follow along with the paper and understand where outside sources were found.

Knowing how to use formatting, whether it is MLA or APA, is a key step in the development of an academic writer. Properly formatting papers ensures that sources are cited and used fairly, that the reader can find the sources easily, and that the paper is taken seriously in academic communities.

Understand the fundamentals of typography, page, and web design; use visual language to convey meaning; use design to assert authority and organize work for readers.

"Design is a fun word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works."
-Steve Jobs

We live in a culture where images and document design are used aggressively to convey meaning.

Style is not what we write but how we write it. For our purposes, style includes:

  • grammar (the rules that govern standard American English)
  • punctuation
  • point of view
  • syntax (how we arrange our sentences)
  • word choice/vocabulary
  • figurative language (metaphors, narratives, similies, etc.)

In order to be convincing, a writer needs evidence for her claims. Evidence includes traditional sources such as books and journal articles but may also include anecdotes, photographs, web sources and videos. The kinds of evidence that are appropriate in a particular context depend on the writer's purpose.

Academic culture is an evidence-based culture. Good scholarship requires claims supported by facts, theories, and research. Finding the evidence is not enough, though, as it needs to be successfully integrated into texts.

Learn strategies for organizing documents effectively. Learn how readers respond to deductive, inductive, and analytical paragraphs. Make effective transitions and learn how format creates belief.

Your brilliant insights are likely to be overlooked unless you learn to organize your ideas for readers. This section provides advice on structuring and organizing information for readers, regardless of the communication situation you are addressing.

The organization of a paper matters at the level of the whole essay as well as within each paragraph. The organization of sentences matters within paragraphs, as writers choose which sentences to put in what order and how to create a smooth sense of connection between each sentence. But organization also matters between paragraphs, as writers choose when to present their ideas to their readers for the best effect.

The organization of texts is based upon conventions of particular genres. The ways in which texts are organized, are structured, and flow is determined largely by audience expectations.

  • Where is the paper’s title?
  • Choose an original title for the paper
  • Center the title
  • Present the title in plain type
  • Use standard capitalization in the title
  • Use Times New Roman font, 12 pt.
  • Double-space the document throughout
  • Set the margins at 1” on all four sides
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph
  • Remove unnecessary extra space(s) here
  • Where is your conclusion?
  • Reiterate your paper’s thesis in your conclusion
  • Summarize your paper’s main ideas in your conclusion
  • Include fresh ideas in your conclusion