DraftingThe stage of the writing process in which the writer develops a complete first version of a piece of writing.
Even professional writers admit that an empty page scares them because they feel they need to come up with something fresh and original every time they open a blank document on their computers. Your objective for this portion of Chapter 7 "The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?" is to draft the body paragraphs of a standard five-paragraph essay.
What makes the writing process so beneficial to writers is that it encourages alternatives to standard practices while motivating you to develop your best ideas.
Of all of these considerations, keeping your purpose and your audience at the front of your mind is the most important key to writing success. You may want to identify your purpose and audience on an index card that you clip to your paper (or keep next to your computer). Many of the documents you produce at work target a particular audience for a particular purpose. Using the topic for the essay that you outlined in Chapter 7, Section 2 "Outlining", describe your purpose and your audience as specifically as you can. Workplace writing in certain environments is done by teams of writers who collaborate on the planning, writing, and revising of documents, such as long reports, technical manuals, and the results of scientific research. The collaborative software, or document management systems, that groups use to work on common projects is sometimes called groupware or workgroup support systems. The reviewing tool on some word-processing programs also gives you access to a collaborative tool that many smaller workgroups use when they exchange documents. If you invest some time now to investigate how the reviewing tool in your word processor works, you will be able to use it with confidence during the revision stage of the writing process.
If you have been using the information in this chapter step by step to help you develop an assignment, you already have both a formal topic outline and a formal sentence outline to direct your writing. An introductionThe opening paragraph of an essay that piques the audience’s interest, tells what the essay is about, and motivates the audience to keep reading. A thesis statement that presents the main point, or controlling idea, of the entire piece of writing.
Supporting sentencesA sentence in the middle part of the paragraph that helps explain, enhance, or prove the topic sentence. A conclusionThe closing paragraph of an essay that reinforces the thesis statement and leaves the audience with a feeling of completion.
These elements follow the standard five-paragraph essay format, which you probably first encountered in high school.
Topic sentences make the structure of a text and the writer’s basic arguments easy to locate and comprehend.
Choosing where to position the topic sentence depends not only on your audience and purpose but also on the essay’s arrangement, or order. When you organize information according to spatial order, a topic sentence may appear as the middle sentence in a paragraph.
Developing topic sentences and thinking about their placement in a paragraph will prepare you to write the rest of the paragraph. The paragraph is the main structural component of an essay as well as other forms of writing. One answer to this important question may be “long enough”—long enough for you to address your points and explain your main idea. Journalistic style often calls for brief two- or three-sentence paragraphs because of how people read the news, both online and in print. You may find that a particular paragraph you write may be longer than one that will hold your audience’s interest. In all cases, however, be guided by what you instructor wants and expects to find in your draft.
To build your sense of appropriate paragraph length, use the Internet to find examples of the following items. A long paragraph from a scholarly work that you identify through an academic search engine.
Now we are finally ready to look over Mariah’s shoulder as she begins to write her essay about digital technology and the confusing choices that consumers face. You will learn more about writing attention-getting introductions and effective conclusions in Chapter 8 "Writing Essays: From Start to Finish". With her thesis statement and her purpose and audience notes in front of her, Mariah then looked at her sentence outline. If you write your first draft on the computer, consider creating a new file folder for each course with a set of subfolders inside the course folders for each assignment you are given. In your documents, observe any formatting requirements—for margins, headers, placement of page numbers, and other layout matters—that your instructor requires.
If you decide to take a break between finishing your first body paragraph and starting the next one, do not start writing immediately when you return to your work. Preceding each body paragraph that Mariah wrote is the appropriate section of her sentence outline. Mariah then began her third and final body paragraph using roman numeral IV from her outline.
A writer’s best choice for a title is one that alludes to the main point of the entire essay.


Remember to include all the key structural parts of an essay: a thesis statement that is part of your introductory paragraph, three or more body paragraphs as described in your outline, and a concluding paragraph. Use your topic outline or your sentence outline to guide the development of your paragraphs and the elaboration of your ideas. Generally speaking, write your introduction and conclusion last, after you have fleshed out the body paragraphs. Because you have completed the first two steps in the writing process, you have already recovered from empty page syndrome.
As long as you complete the assignment on time, you may choose how many paragraphs you complete in one sitting.
These aspects of writing are just as important when you are writing a single paragraph for your essay as when you are considering the direction of the entire essay. If your purpose is to persuade, for example, you will present your facts and details in the most logical and convincing way you can. On that card, you may want to write notes to yourself—perhaps about what that audience might not know or what it needs to know—so that you will be sure to address those issues when you write.
You may find that it is highly advantageous to know as much as you can about your target audience and to prepare your message to reach that audience, even if the audience is a coworker or your boss. Collaborators do not need to be in the same room, the same building, or even the same city.
Strong communication skills, in addition to strong writing skills, are important in this kind of writing situation because disagreements over style, content, process, emphasis, and other issues may arise.
Then, when you start to revise, set your reviewing tool to track any changes you make, so you will be able to tinker with text and commit only those final changes you want to keep.
Knowing what a first draft looks like will help you make the creative leap from the outline to the first draft. A topic sentence is most often located at the beginning of a paragraph, and it makes the structure of a text and the writer’s basic arguments easy to locate and comprehend. This basic format is valid for most essays you will write in college, even much longer ones. In college writing, using a topic sentence in each paragraph of the essay is the standard rule.
When you organize information according to order of importance, the topic sentence may be the final sentence in a paragraph.
You may discover topic sentences that are not always located at the beginning of a paragraph.
Each paragraph of an essay adds another related main idea to support the writer’s thesis, or controlling idea. To grab attention or to present succinct supporting ideas, a paragraph can be fairly short and consist of two to three sentences.
In such cases, you should divide the paragraph into two or more shorter paragraphs, adding a topic statement or some kind of transitional word or phrase at the start of the new paragraph.
Many instructors will expect you to develop a mature college-level style as you progress through the semester’s assignments. Copy them into a file, identify your sources, and present them to your instructor with your annotations, or notes. Take notes on, or annotate, your selection with your observations about the effect of combining paragraphs that develop the same topic idea. As she does, you should have in front of you your outline, with its thesis statement and topic sentences, and the notes you wrote earlier in this lesson on your purpose and audience. Notice how the outline helped her guarantee that all her sentences in the body of the paragraph develop the topic sentence. Label the folders clearly with the course names, and label each assignment folder and word processing document with a title that you will easily recognize. She had supporting details but no numbered subpoints in her outline, so she had to consult her prewriting notes for specific information to include. Notice how she expanded roman numeral III from her outline into a first draft of the second body paragraph.
Like the headline in a newspaper or the big, bold title in a magazine, an essay’s title gives the audience a first peek at the content. Moving step by step in the writing process, Mariah finished the draft and even included a brief concluding paragraph (you will read her conclusion in Chapter 8 "Writing Essays: From Start to Finish"). Paragraphs in college-level writing can be a page long, as long as they cover the main topics in your outline.
Each main idea, indicated by a roman numeral in your outline, becomes the topic of a new paragraph. If you are more comfortable starting on paper than on the computer, you can start on paper and then type it before you revise. Are you writing for experts, for a general audience, for other college students, or for people who know very little about your topic? It may be a good idea to also state exactly what you want to explain to that audience, or to inform them of, or to persuade them about.
During revising, you will have the opportunity to make changes to your first draft before you put the finishing touches on it during the editing and proofreading stage. These can be specific facts, examples, anecdotes, or other details that elaborate on the topic sentence.


However, the topic sentence does not always have to be the first sentence in your paragraph even if it the first item in your formal outline.
However, as you begin to express your ideas in complete sentences, it might strike you that the topic sentence might work better at the end of the paragraph or in the middle.
When the purpose of the assignment is to persuade, for example, the topic sentence should be the first sentence in a paragraph.
A reader may first need a visual in his or her mind before understanding the development of the paragraph. For example, fiction writers customarily use topic ideas, either expressed or implied, to move readers through their texts.
Each related main idea is supported and developed with facts, examples, and other details that explain it. A paragraph in a complex essay about some abstract point in philosophy or archaeology can be three-quarters of a page or more in length. Readers often skim the first paragraphs of a great many articles before settling on the handful of stories they want to read in detail. As you read, ask yourself how closely she stayed on purpose and how well she paid attention to the needs of her audience. Develop it with the supporting details and the subpoints of those details that you included in your outline. You can also use a voice recorder to get yourself started, dictating a paragraph or two to get you thinking. Although paragraphs may vary in length, keep in mind that short paragraphs may contain insufficient support. Keep asking yourself what your readers, with their background and experience, need to be told in order to understand your ideas. Descriptions like “organic romaine” and “free-range chicken” are intended to appeal to a certain type of customer though perhaps not to the same customer who craves a thick steak.
In a persuasive essay, the writer’s point of view should be clearly expressed at the beginning of each paragraph. Chronological order may also position the topic sentence as the final sentence because the controlling idea of the paragraph may make the most sense at the end of a sequence.
When the topic sentence is in the middle, it unites the details that come before it with the ones that come after it. In nonfiction writing, such as popular magazines, topic sentences are often used when the author thinks it is appropriate (based on the audience and the purpose, of course). By exploring and refining one main idea at a time, writers build a strong case for their thesis. As long as the writer maintains close focus on the topic and does not ramble, a long paragraph is acceptable in college-level writing.
You will read her introduction again in Chapter 7, Section 4 "Revising and Editing" when she revises it. The roman numeral II identifies the topic sentence for the paragraph, capital letters indicate supporting details, and arabic numerals label subpoints.
Then copy sentences from Mariah’s paragraph to align each sentence with its corresponding entry in her outline. If she had stopped writing in the middle of writing the paragraph, she could have jotted down some quick notes to herself about what she would write next. In this lesson, Mariah does all her work on the computer, but you may use pen and paper or the computer to write a rough draft. How can you best express your ideas so they are totally clear and your communication is effective? Similarly, mail-order companies research the demographics of the people who buy their merchandise. In general, try to keep the paragraphs longer than one sentence but shorter than one full page of double-spaced text.
Successful vendors customize product descriptions in catalogs to appeal to their buyers’ tastes.
For more information on topic sentences, please see Chapter 5 "Writing Paragraphs: Separating Ideas and Shaping Content". Instead, save the draft with a new tag after the title—draft 1, draft 2, and so on—so that you will have a complete history of drafts in case your instructor wishes you to submit them. As a guideline, try to write paragraphs longer than one sentence but shorter than the length of an entire double-spaced page.
Try setting an alarm to limit your break, and when the time is up, return to your desk to write. For example, the product descriptions in a skateboarder catalog will differ from the descriptions in a clothing catalog for mature adults.



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