How to Manage the Writing Process
- Tuesday, December 07, 2010
4. Once you have your ideas down, begin polishing. First consider what you're saying. Have you made your message clear? Have you adequately supported your ideas? Have you created vivid pictures that will bring your ideas to life? Is everything directed toward your purpose? Will your beginning get your readers' attention? Will your ending leave them with the thoughts and feelings you want them to have? Read your composition aloud, checking for smooth sentences.
5. Although you may have been conferring with others throughout the writing process, it's especially important to get feedback when you yourself are satisfied with your composition. Read your writing aloud, asking your listener to focus on the content, or message. Have your listener "tell back" what he or she heard. That lets you know how your piece comes across to someone else. Ask your listener what works well in your writing, and invite suggestions for improvement. That response will be much more helpful than just saying your writing is great as it is.
If your listener is reluctant to give specific feedback, ask questions. If you're unsure of a particular section, call it to your listener's attention. Open-ended questions, rather than the yes-no variety, will give more information. For example, the answer to "What did this section mean to you?" is more helpful than the answer to "Was this part clear?" The part might have been perfectly clear to your listener, but the message received might have been quite different from the message you intended. Your attitude toward your listener's comments has a big effect on the kind of feedback you receive. If you become defensive whenever a suggestion is given, your conferee is likely to stop giving feedback. If, however, you show that you appreciate this feedback, you'll probably get more.
6. Of course, it's your composition; you have the final say about which changes will be made and which things will remain as they are. However, you should at least consider suggestions. Although your ideas may be perfectly clear to you, they might not be clear to your reader. People with whom you confer let you know how effectively your ideas come across from your paper. Their help is invaluable.
7. Once you're again satisfied with the content of your writing, you're ready to begin editing, focusing on the mechanics. You might have done some of this in your earlier polishing, but now you're editing in detail. Again it's helpful to focus on only one task at a time. Becoming familiar with your own strengths and weaknesses will help you know which editing tasks require more focused attention.
When you're editing, you need to be careful to read what's on the page, not what you intended to put on the page. Reading aloud slowly and pointing to one word at a time can help you with this.
a. First consider whether all of your sentences are complete.
b. Then see whether you have started new paragraphs in appropriate places. You should start a new paragraph when you move on to a new topic or major segment of your composition. If you're writing conversation, you need to start a new paragraph whenever you change speakers.
c. Third, see if you have proper usage (subject-verb agreement, right form of verb, correct pronoun, etc.).
d. Next check to see if your capitalization is correct. (If this is especially difficult for you, you might want to go through your composition once checking just for capitalization at the beginning of a sentence; then go through a second time checking for words that should be capitalized within sentences.)
e. Fifth, check punctuation. You might want to subdivide this step also.
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