2.1 Introduction

a pen and flower cuttings on a piece of paper
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Learning Objectives

The student will be able to do the following:

  • Use prewriting to prepare to write a well-developed college essay.
  • Strategically draft, revise, and edit an effective college essay appropriate to the audience and purpose of the assignment.

A Student’s Story

When Kiana started taking college classes, she brought with her a belief that she was not a very strong writer. This lack of confidence was, unfortunately, developed throughout her K-12 education. In elementary school, she struggled with spelling. In middle school, she found that her vocabulary were embarrassingly limited. In high school, she struggled with what she thought must be writer’s block, sitting down to finally write a draft right before it was due, and finding that she could only produce a paragraph before feeling like she had nothing else to say.

As she entered college and enrolled in her first-year writing course, she was anxious about attending a required conference with her instructor, who was meeting with each student to discuss the rough drafts of their first essays. She handed her draft to her instructor knowing that it was far from the required length. Before reading it, he asked her about the process that she had used to write it. Kiana confessed that she had worked on it just the night before.

“Did you do any prewriting?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “I just sat down and wrote this.”

When Kiana was asked to read her essay aloud, several issues became evident. The overall purpose of her essay was unclear, and the narrative rambled making many points but not developing any of them. The narrative lacked detail in some parts and had too much information in other parts. Throughout the composition, Kiana heard words and phrases that were completely repetitive, and she also used some words awkwardly because she had searched for synonyms that didn’t actually work within the context of the sentence.

When she finished reading, her instructor suggested that she avoid directly working on that draft until she had done some prewriting activities that would help her organize her ideas, develop her thesis, and refine and develop her content.

“Don’t worry yet about spelling and word choice. First, you need to explore and identify your ideas. Here are some fun, helpful exercises that will help you to do that efficiently. Then, when you come back to drafting, you’ll find it goes more quickly. Worry about the mechanics such as your grammar and punctuation after you’ve written a draft that says what you want to say.”

Kiana went home feeling better about getting back on her computer to work on her essay. Once Kiana learned the value of prewriting, drafting, and revision techniques as parts of the writing process, she started to enjoy the writing process a bit more. She was able to avoid the feeling of writer’s block, and she found herself feeling more confident as a writer and better able to produce essays that she was proud to submit to her instructors.

License

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English Composition by Contributing Authors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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