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Essay Drafts

Is It Wise to Create Multiple Essay Drafts?

An essay is an assignment that many students dread starting. Students will wait till the evening before and turn in a piece that meets a word or page requirement without allowing themselves ample time to revise or edit. Some students claim they can write their best material under pressure, but most of the time essays turned in under these conditions are packed with grammar and punctuation mistakes, poor structure, and a number of other elements of poor writing that could have been avoided by writing multiple drafts.

Why is Writing Multiple Essay Drafts So Important?

Writing is a creative task that requires repetitive thought, reading, and writing. As you go through the writing process new issues arise at every stage, requiring you to make corrections to your essay. Your end result could be very different from the original plan. A first draft is usually a longer, disorganized form of your collected thoughts on a particular subject. This draft will have a number of structural, logical and argumentative mistakes.

How to Effectively Write Multiple Essay Drafts?

Your first draft should be an extension of your outline. At this stage you shouldn’t worry about grammar or spelling. Instead, you should write freely and include as much content you can think of on a particular subject. Set your first draft aside for at least a day so that you have a clear mind when you return to your essay.

Before continuing on your essay print out your first draft so that you can revise with pen and paper in hand and look for ways to reorganize your essay. Make sure your thesis is clear and well-written and located in the introduction. You should also look to remove content that is unrelated to your content.

Start your second draft using your notes and start paying attention to style. Look for words or phrases that you never use in real life and cut them out. Big and fancy words are distracting and often used incorrectly so be sure you use straightforward language to make your argument. Refer to a style guide for assistance. Combine short sentences for better flow, and look to separate very long sentences into two effective sentences.

Print out another copy and repeat the entire revision and proofreading process. Your mistakes will be smaller and could go unnoticed the first time, so be sure to read at the sentence level to make these corrections. Repeat this steps until you are happy with your essay, and give yourself enough time to take breaks while editing.


THE STRUCTURE OF AN ESSAY DRAFT

 As you rough out an initial draft, keep your planning materials (lists, diagrams, outlines, and so on) close at hand. In addition to helping you get started, such notes and blueprints will help you to keep moving. Writing tends to flow better when it is drafted relatively quickly, without many starts and stops.

For most kinds of writing, an introduction announces a main idea, several body paragraphs develop it, and a conclusion drives it home. You can begin drafting, however, at any point. For example, if you find it difficult to introduce a paper that you have not yet written, you can draft the body first and save the introduction for later.

DRAFT AN INTRODUCTION THAT INCLUDES A THESIS.

For most writing tasks, your introduction will be a paragraph of 50 to 150 words. Perhaps the most common strategy is to open the paragraph with a few sentences that engage the reader and to conclude it with a statement of the essay's main point. The sentence stating the main point is called a thesis. For information on thesis development, click here.

Ideally, the sentences leading to the thesis should hook the reader, perhaps with one of the following:

  • a startling statistic or unusual fact
  • a vivid example
  • a description
  • a paradoxical statement
  • a quotation or bit of dialogue
  • a question
  • an analogy
  • a joke or an anecdote

Such hooks are particularly important when you cannot assume your reader's interest in the subject. Hooks are less necessary in scholarly essays and other writing aimed at readers with a professional interest in the subject.

AS YOU DRAFT THE BODY, KEEP YOUR THESIS IN MIND.

Before drafting the body of an essay, take a careful look at your introduction, focusing especially on your thesis sentence. What does the thesis promise readers? Try to keep this focus in mind.

 It is a good idea to have a plan in mind as well. If your thesis sentence outlines a plan or if you have sketched a preliminary outline, try to block out your paragraphs accordingly. If you do not have a plan, you would be wise to pause for a moment and sketch one. Of course it is also possible to begin without a plan, assuming you are prepared to treat your first attempt as a "discovery draft" that will almost certainly be tossed (or radically rewritten) once you discover what you really want to say.

 DRAFT A CONCLUSION.

The conclusion should echo the main idea without dully repeating it. Ideally, your conclusion should discuss the broader implications of the ideas you have presented. In addition to echoing your main idea, a conclusion might pose a question for future study, offer advice, or propose a course of action. To make the conclusion memorable, consider including a detail, example, or image from the introduction to bring readers full circle; a quotation or bit of dialogue; an anecdote; or a humorous, witty, or ironic comment. Whatever concluding strategy you choose, avoid introducing wholly new ideas at the end of an essay. Also avoid apologies and other limp, indeterminate endings. Do not preface your conclusion with "In conclusion" or other tag phrases because your conclusion speaks for itself. The essay should end crisply, preferably on a positive note.


 

Adapted from Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers, 4th ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000), 23-29.

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