PCC Logo


Jill Nicholson 11/23/2005 Process Essay
How to Write an Essay

Have you ever heard of Writing P.O.W.E.R.? I have no idea who came up with it, but itís an easy way to learn and remember how to write a good essay from start to finishófrom topic to final draft. All you need to do is know what each letter stands for, then follow the steps in order for some P.O.W.E.R.ful writing!

First comes P. P. stands for Pre-writing Preparation. This is all the stuff you do before you actually start writing your essay. Some students think this step is not really important and that they donít need to do it. Wrong! Pre-writing Preparation is probably the most important step of all. Why? Because itís here that you think, think, think about your topic, what you want to say about it, and how youíre going to say it. The more Pre-writing Preparation you do, the more ideas you will have, and the better your finished essay will be. Pre-writing Preparation is brainstorming for ideas. Some people write a big crazy mixed-up list of anything that comes to mindógood or bad, big or small, main idea or detail, important or not. It doesnít matteróyou will sort it out and clean it up lateróthis is just the time to start getting ideas out of your head and onto the paper. Some people write a cluster diagram or map of ideas instead of a list. Some do a combination brainstorm and outline. Thereís no one best way to do Pre-writing Preparation; do whatever works best for you, but get those ideas on the paper!

After Pre-writing Preparation, itís time to Organize and Outline. This means you look at your list, map or cluster diagram and try to find connections. If you have done good, extensive Pre-writing Preparation, you should have enough ideas there to start seeing a pattern and choosing your essayís body topics. Do you see a few large, general groups? These become the body paragraph topics. There should be three or more, if possible for the typical essay. All of the little ideas relating to these bigger groups will become the examples and details, in other words the support, of the body topics. Any ideas that donít make sense, donít go with your body paragraph topics or are repetitive can go in the garbage! Organize and Outline means taking your ideas, then putting them into logical categories, then listing all the details and examples or information you have about them. Some writers do the introduction and maybe the conclusion at this stage. If that works for you, great. If not, save it for later.

After Organize and Outline, itís time to Write. This will be your first draft, which means it will look basically like an essay, with an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. However, it doesnít need to be perfect. You can Write the introduction first, or write the body first and the introduction last. It doesnít matter what order you Write the paragraphs as long as the reader reads the introduction first. Donít worry too much about handwriting or typing, spelling or grammar at this pointójust get those paragraphs on paper. Take the three (or more) big groups from your Outline. Write a topic sentence for each body paragraph with this big idea as the topic. Now, put all of the examples and details into supporting sentences. Make sure every sentence in the paragraph is about the paragraphís topic and that every paragraph is about the essayís topic! If you want to write about something else, please do it in a different essay!

If possible, put your first draft away for a few days. This will help you see it with fresh eyes when you Edit and Revise. (Actually, you Revise before you Edit, but then that would give us Writing P.O.W.R.E.! So, let us make the E. something like Error Elimination and Example Expansion. This covers both Editing and Revising!) So, first check your ideas and organization for any errors, problems or weak spots. Is it all on topic? Is it logical? Does it make sense, is it clear? Are there enough examples and details? How about the introduction and conclusion? If you have time, get a friend or classmate to read it and answer those questions for you. When your information and organization are checked, corrected and improved, it is time to edit your language. This means sentences, grammar and words. Check for and correct fragments and run-on sentences. Add connectors, conjunctions, transitions and adverb clauses to have a good, interesting variety of short and long sentences. Check for subject-verb agreement, verb tense, articles or any other grammar you know you make mistakes with. Check vocabulary, spelling, punctuation and capital letters. Again, have someone else check it too and give you feedback.

Finally, itís time to Rewrite or Redraft. This means write it again with all the changes, revisions, improvements and corrections. This essay should now be as complete and good as you can possibly make it. If possible, type it and print it. If you donít have a computer or typewriter, write it neatly in black or blue pen. Itís helpful if you skip lines and leave margins on both sides, top and bottom of the paper. Finally, check to see your title is properly written and centered, and that you have remembered the heading with your name, date and assignment. Is there anything else your teacher asked you to do? Check for that, too.

Whew! Itís done! Every time you write an essay following the Writing P.O.W.E.R. process, it will get faster and easier for you. Like anything, writing essays takes time, practice and patience, but you will write faster and better if you remember and follow these P.O.W.E.R.ful steps.

Top of Page