Rockford, Illinois

The Writing Process

Writing is a circular process, and as in any process, certain guidelines must be followed to get from one component to the next.

Various texts and authors demonstrate varying numbers of components in the writing process, but the following five components demonstrate the essentials of the process:

  1. Discovering a Subject - This component includes generating ideas as well as all the thinking and planning writers do in order to be able to express ideas in written form. The following questions should be considered when prewriting:
    1. Why am I writing? (Purpose)
    2. For whom am I writing? (Audience)
    3. What will I write about? (Subject/Topic)
    4. How will I say it? (Language)
    5. What will I say? (Content)

There are several methods writers can use to generate ideas for subjects, topics or content. Listed below are a few of the methods some writers use. These methods can be used individually or in cooperation with each other, depending on the writer's needs.


Writers write, in a somewhat continuous pattern, those ideas which first come to mind. The format is similar to that of a paragraph, but there are no restrictions regarding punctuation, spelling or other grammar rules.


Writers write down ideas as they come to mind. It is similar to free-writing, but the format is that of a list rather than a paragraph.


Writers produce a diagram indicating ideas as they come to mind. They begin by writing around a subject or topic in the center of a piece of paper and drawing a circle around it. Concentrating on the subject, the writers then write around it whatever related ideas come to mind. As one idea leads to another, lines are drawn and circles are added.

  1. Organizing - Once writers have gathered and listed details on a topic, the next component is to group those ideas. This grouping will become an informal outline of the topic. The following questions can be used to help organize topic information:
    1. Are any of the items similar in some way? What do they have in common? What larger heading would explain how they are related?
    2. Do some of the items seem more important than others? Which are the most important (or main) ideas?
    3. Which items seem to be subdivisions (examples, parts, etc.) of the main ideas? If you have not listed any of these subdivisions, what do you think they might be?
  1. Writing - Keeping in mind the purpose and the audience, writers should use prewriting notes to formulate sentences that express ideas as clearly as possible. Some writers find it helpful to say each idea aloud in a sentence and then simply write the sentence. Following these guidelines can help keep writers focused:
    1. Use prewriting plans to guide writing.
    2. Write freely, focusing on what is being said.
    3. Consider including new ideas discovered about the topic while writing the first draft. Ask if they fit the purpose and the audience of the writing.
    4. Do not let correcting errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics stand in the way of writing.
  1. Revising - This component of the writing process involves evaluating and correcting the content of the written material which requires several readings of that material. During revising, writers try to pull back from what they have written, reading their papers as if they were a member of an audience who has never seen the paper before. The following techniques can be used to view drafts from a different perspective:
    1. Set the draft aside for a while (at least 24 hours if possible) and come back to evaluate and revise it when it is not so fresh in your mind. Of course, this is not always possible, but for out-of-class assignments it enables writers to be more objective concerning their work.
    2. Read the draft aloud, listening for missing details, missing words, or points of confusion. Try to "hear" what has been said.
    3. Have someone else read the draft and look for strengths and weaknesses. By doing this, writers can understand the reader's perception of what has actually been written.

For the purpose of evaluating and revising, papers should be divided into three aspects:

  1. content (what has been said?)
  2. organization (how have the papers been arranged?)
  3. style (how have words and sentences been used?)

Rather than trying to judge everything at once, most writers and editors find that they are more successful when they examine only one of these aspects at a time.

Content: Guidelines For Evaluating/Revising
Purpose Do the ideas and information included in the paper help to explain, to describe, to persuade or tell the story?
Audience Will the audience find the paper interesting? Are unfamiliar terms explained and necessary background information supplied to help the audience understand?
Topic Development
Are enough information and details provided to help the audience understand the topic? Does all of the information "belong" in this paper?
Order Are the ideas arranged in a way that will be clear to the reader? Is the pattern of organization appropriate for the paper?
Transitions Are the ideas smoothly joined by connecting words and phrases? Are the relationships between sentences obvious, rather than confusing and unclear?
Tone Does the paper sound serious or light enough for the audience to except what is said? Does the tone seem suitable for the purpose of the paper?
Sentence Structure
Do the sentences vary in length to avoid monotony? Do the sentences begin in different ways and follow different patterns?
Word Choice
Does the writing contain precise, specific words? Do the words make the meaning clear rather than general and fuzzy?

E. Editing - In this component, writers carefully read papers, looking for grammar errors as well as careless mistakes like omitted words and letters. Some techniques that aid spotting inaccuracies in writing include the following:
  1. Put the revised draft away for a day or two before editing. As with revising , this allows writers to become more objective about their writing.
  2. Cover the lines below the one being edited with a sheet of paper; this allows writers to concentrate on each word and punctuation mark.