WRITING AN OUTLINE
Directions: Read the following paragraph and write an outline that reflects the major and minor
supports included. Use single spacing but double space between all major points. Be sure to include a title and use the correct letter and numbers in your outline.
On the Process of Writing
Most people think that writing is merely the act of putting one’s thoughts onto paper; in fact, however, writing is a process that occurs in three major stages.
The first stage is the planning stage. In the planning stage, the author decides on a topic and narrows it down so that the scope of his writing is neither too narrow nor general. Narrowing down a topic is a very important step, for If the topic is too general, the writer may end up with too much to cover and thus not be able to write with sufficient detail. Conversely, if the topic is too narrow, he may not find enough information on which to adequately cover his topic. Brainstorming and drawing cluster diagrams are both useful techniques for choosing and narrowing down a topic. In the planning phase, the writer also makes some fundamental decisions as to purpose (does he wish to inform or entertain?), audience (housewives or a conference of surgeons?) and tone (serious or humorous?). Once a suitable topic is decided upon, the writer, much like an artist, sketches out the overall shape and structure of his work. This is accomplished by the writing of an outline. An outline helps a writer the writer clarify and organize his thoughts, and thus simplifies the actual writing of the first rough draft, which marks the beginning of the second stage of the writing process.
In the transfer of thoughts from an outline into prose, purpose, audience and tone should be reconsidered, since they will have a major impact on the form and language choices the writer employs. For example, someone about to write a research paper must keep in mind that his choice of grammar structures and vocabulary must be formal in nature. He would never write “we came up with the idea to . . .” This thought would instead be expressed as “the
concept originated in . . .” On the other hand, if the writing task is a humorous speech whose purpose is to entertain, grammar and vocabulary choices will be rather informal. In this context, language like “we came up with the idea to . . .” would be desirable. Although the writer in this stage does consider language and grammar choices, his focus is mainly on transfering his thoughts from an outline into written prose.
The actual polishing of his ideas mainly takes place in the third major stage of the writing process, revising and proofreading. In this stage, the focus of writing is on polishing the previous effort. The writer first must examine the content of his writing. Are all major points inluded? Is there any irrelevant information? Is the information accurate? Is the order effective – maybe the piece would be more effective if paragraph #1 were switched with paragraph #2. Sometimes, the content changes are minor and the writer can directly proceed to editing. Sometimes, though, there are so many changes during revision that a second rough draft should be produced in order to be able to effectively edit. In editing (proofreading), grammar is a major focus. Accordingly, agreement, verb tense, and aspects such as passive voice construction are checked for errors or improvements. Mechanics, which involves, spelling, capitalization, and the like is the other major focus of editing . After revising and editing, the writer should produce a second rough draft. This second version should be read again for content and grammatical errors.
After corrections are made to this version, a final version should be produced – and this final product should also be carefully read. The truth is, with every rereading further improvements can be made; indeed, the process of writing is limited only by time.
– Alyx Meltzer, Fall 2000