Note. This lesson is part of an advanced English-as-a-second-language course. To start from the beginning, go to the table of contents.
Stage 1. Think (Step 2)
If you generated ideas and selected a manageable one, you still should not go straight into writing. If you do, every time you have a “better idea,” you will find yourself rewriting paragraphs, moving ideas around, and wasting a lot of time.
Wasting time and having to rewrite things can be frustrating. You should first plan how you want to develop your ideas!
Writing without a plan is like navigating a new city without an itinerary or a map. You will likely get lost and spend your trip trying to re-orient yourself. Letting things happen as you go along can be adventurous if you’re on vacation; however, it does not work very well if you’re writing on a deadline.
Planning Your Writing
When planning your writing at this stage, consider your topic, purpose, and audience.
How broad or how narrow is your topic?
If you were assigned a specific topic, much has already been decided for you. Other times, your task is to write about a broad topic, subject, or area. Either way, be sure to know both (1) exactly what your topic is and (2) how broad or narrow it is or needs to be.
Your prewriting helped you generate ideas, but you may have ended up with too few or too many ideas. Too few ideas will leave you without enough to write about; too many, and you may not be able to develop all of them well. Make sure you have enough to say about the topic but, at the same time, keep it manageable.
Too little. If you fear you may have too little to write about, use one of the prewriting techniques again but, this time, focus mostly on expanding the ideas you already have.
Too much. If you believe you may have too much to write about, consider limiting its scope to something more manageable. Unless you are writing a book, you sometimes need to throw out what you consider to be good ideas, but that is part of the process.
Writing tip for college students
If you are in college, you must follow instructions for written assignments. Understand the length and scope of your assignments before you start working on them. It will help you generate ideas that are appropriate for the assignment.
Let’s say your assignment is for a short essay and you turn in a very long paper instead. Although your work may be excellent, you may be penalized for not following instructions and turning in the wrong product.
What is your purpose?
The purpose or reason for writing is very important because it determines the style of writing, the format, and the mode of writing.
For example, if you are writing to describe something, your paragraphs will be structured so that you create a picture in the reader’s mind. If your purpose is to persuade the reader, you need a good logical structure and sufficient, relevant information to support your argument. In a nutshell, your purpose for writing will influence how you write, so your purpose must be very clear in your mind.
What is your audience?
The audience refers to who will read your work. You write for a real audience and an intended audience.
The real audience refers to the people you know will read your work.
The intended audience refers to the people that might be interested in reading it. They are the ones you target your work towards whether they will read it or not.
For example, let’s say you are completing a college assignment, and your topic is “the civil right movement in the 1950s and 1960s.” Your real audience is your professor and perhaps some of your fellow students. On the other hand, you may define your intended audience as any college-educated adult interested in American history.
Why Is it Important to Know Your Audience
Knowing or defining your audience helps you decide on how formal and detailed your writing should be. For example,
- If your essay on “the civil rights movement” targets an academic audience, you must use academic English.
- If young children are your target audience, you must use language they understand and explain concepts they may not be familiar with.
- If your intended audience are experts in the area, there is no need to define certain keywords or concepts that you can expect such an audience to know.
- If you are writing for “general audience,” you may need to define keywords and concepts that such an audience might be unfamiliar with.
Watch generating ideas and planning and take good study notes.
Note. This video was part of the previous lesson. It includes information about generating ideas and planning. If you have already watched it, review your study notes and watch it again.
To help you plan your work, create an outline where you organize your ideas into a logical sequence. You may also find it helpful to map out the connection between ideas visually. Use flowcharts and mind maps if you find them helpful.
Up Next: Stage 1. Step 3. Thesis Statement and Outlining
Continue the lesson to learn about creating a thesis and outlining.
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