Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Process (pt 2)

Dear Master’s Programs student,

With Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away, it’s time to start getting serious about food (at least for those who aren’t serious about it year-round).  And since many of us are in the mood for food these days, last week we examined three ways writing is like baking a pie.  This week, we’ll examine steps four through six of the writing process.

Step #4: Writing (or put it in the oven)

You’re probably thinking that this is where the analog4y breaks down: writing is actually
the hardest part of the composition process, and baking is pretty easy (just stick your pan in the oven!)  Actually, if you do all the other steps correctly (brainstorming, organizing, revising, and editing), writing is little more than converting your outline or rough plan into complete sentences.

Writing seems much harder when you sit at the computer and try to invent, organize, type, and edit simultaneously. 

Step 5: Editing (or make it pretty)

5Editing (as opposed to revision or “re-seeing” a paper) is largely a cosmetic affair.  Just like icing a cake, this step is about presentation and sweetening things up.  Remember that your brilliant insights can be covered or marred by careless typos and grammatical errors.  Taking the extra time to proof your work carefully results in a better paper—and a better grade.

The easiest thing you can do to become a better editor is to read your work aloud.  This forces you to read more slowly (since your mouth can’t go as fast as your eyes); it also helps you to “hear” errors (instead of just seeing them).  Many writers also find that editing from a physical piece of paper—rather than from a computer screen—increases the effectiveness of their editing.

Step 6: Submit! (or give it away)

In baking, writing, and most other endeavors, it’s best to keep your goal in mind from the6 beginning.  When you know that you’ll serve up a pastry—or turn in a paper—for someone else’s consumption, you’re more likely to take care at each step along the way to present a product that’s enticing and enjoyable.

A final note:  just as you need to know a guest’s allergies to peanuts or intolerance to lactose, it’s important to keep in mind your reader’s “writing allergies.”  One professor might be especially sensitive to run-on sentences; another could have a bad reaction to poor APA citations.  Know who your reader is, and accommodate her preferences.

Happy writing!
James

P.S.  If there’s a writing topic you’d like to see in the next Writing Tip, please let me know at jhayashi@usc.edu!

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