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Tools to Use During the Writing Process

Instructor: Tara Turzi
This lesson will help you understand the steps of the writing process and reveal some simple tools that can prevent common writing problems like writer's block, disorganization, and proofreading errors.

The Writing Process

Have you ever stared at a blank page or a blank computer screen just trying to figure out what to write? Have you ever read something you've written and thought, How did I miss those mistakes? The writing process can be frustrating. You might struggle with writer's block, procrastination, and disorganization, which can all lead to a final product you aren't happy with. Every writer has a process, but there are specific steps you can follow when you are writing so that you achieve a better result. The basic steps of the writing process are: prewriting (thinking/planning), drafting (actual writing), revising (adding, subtracting, rearranging), and editing (proofreading). These steps should be followed in order, and there are many tools that you can use along the way to make the process a bit easier.

Tools

So what are these tools you can use to help you in the phases of the writing process? Some are books and some are electronic, but they are all rather easy to access and usually free. Tools to help your writing process include a dictionary, thesaurus, spell-check, word processing programs, and the internet. We will break down all of the steps of the writing process, to see where these tools can help.

Prewriting

When you are in the planning phase, your goal is to come up with ideas. This is when the dreaded writer's block can strike. Using a tool such as the internet to do some preliminary research can help you think of some interesting topic ideas. For example, if your subject is to write an argument essay, you might use the internet to look up potential controversial topics, or to learn a little bit more about the topics you are thinking about using.

Another great tool in the prewriting process is using a program such as PowerPoint or Word to create a map. You may remember mapping from elementary school. It was fun and useful then, and it still is today! Mapping or webbing involves putting your ideas on the page, and then branching out from each idea to include more specific details about each one. When the map is complete, you have a visual interpretation (a map!) of your ideas, which can help you organize your thoughts and prevent writer's block.

Drafting

In the drafting phase, it is time to move from planning to writing. Many students struggle with the blank page. If you start with prewriting techniques, you can avoid some of that fear. Starting with something is always better than a blank page! In this phase, you can use a word processing program like Word to quickly type your ideas onto the page and start to flesh them out. The beauty of a program like Word is that you can easily cut, paste, and rearrange your words.

While you are typing, you can also make use of features such as spell-check and grammar-check. Spell and grammar check isn't cheating! Good writers know their limitations, and make use of the tools at hand. Using these extra helpers while you draft can make the remaining stages of the writing process go a bit more smoothly. Keep in mind, at this stage of the writing process, the goal is not to revise or edit your work, but to get the words on the page. However, having spell-check and grammar check activated while you are writing can help you to avoid mistakes you will need to go back and change later. Spell check will show a red line under the misspelled words, and grammar check will show a green line. When you see it, make a quick adjustment and move on. You can go back and make more extensive corrections later in the writing process.

Revision

Once you have completed the drafting phase, it is time to go back and check your work. In the revision stage, the goal is only to focus on the content. Don't worry about spelling and grammar too much at this point. Focus more on what you have said, and whether it makes sense. This is the time to add, subtract, and rearrange your ideas. Again, Word makes this a snap because you can so easily cut and paste your words.

Another great tool to use at this stage is a thesaurus. A thesaurus is built in to word processing programs, and can be accessed on the internet as well. Of course, you can always use an actual printed book!

The thesaurus is your wordy best friend, that can help you think of interesting synonyms for those overused words. Also, if you just want to use more sophisticated language, perhaps for a formal research essay, you can use the thesaurus to give ordinary words an upgrade. For example, if your document includes the word happy, there are several alternatives you could use to replace it, such as: elated, joyful, ecstatic, content, pleased, glad, delighted, and jovial. Some have slightly different connotations, so choose the one that best expresses what you are trying to say.

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