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Crucial Factors to Consider in Essays Pre-Writing


The process passed to produce any kind of text steps, including essays, is generally divided into five steps: pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. The first step is very crucial because this is the preparation phase, and proper preparation gets you ready to actually do the writing. Alexander Graham Bell said, "Before anything else, preparation is the key to success." This article discusses three essential activities in the pre-writing step, i.e. determining the purpose, targetting the audience, and defining the point (thesis); Other activities in the pre-writing step, i.e. generating ideas (through brainstorming and/or research) and organizing the ideas through outlining will be discussed in another article.

The purpose of Writing

Humans always act in light of reasons, and reasons are the energy that will motivate us to effectively accomplish any mission. Thus, if you want to write successfully, you should have a clear purpose. The purpose includes what the writer intends to achieve in the writing and how he or she wants the audience to use the information. Purpose inextricably links the content, the audience, and the writer. So, before writing you should specifically determine why or what for are you going to do it. Anytime you plunge directly into writing without consciously considering the purpose, you might see your text seems so muddled and your target reader does not catch what you mean or want. 

Figure 1

Look at the message in Figure 1, and answer the following questions. (1) To whom is the message probably sent? (2) What is the writer’s purpose? (3) Does he or she send more than one purpose? If so, what are they? (4) Which part(s) of the message display the writer’s purpose(s)? (4) Do you think the message is effective?

Figure 2

Now, look at the message in Figure 2. (1) To whom is the message probably sent? (2) What is the writer’s purpose in writing this email? (3) Does he/she send more than one purpose? If so, what are they, and is one of the purposes more important than the others?  (4) Do you think the email is effective (5) Was it possible for the writer to express any of her purposes more clearly? If it was, how? (6) How would you respond to this message if you were Johan?

The two samples above illustrate that clarifying your purpose in writing is crucial as it helps you choose what to write, how to structure the ideas, and what dictions or expressions you need to use.

Targeting your Audience

No matter what type of writing you are doing, you are writing for an audience. Even when you write a private journal entry, you are writing for yourself, in this context, you are your audience. Since writing is communicating messages to an audience, you should begin every writing by focusing on the audience. Do it by developing the audience profile. Identify his/her educational and cultural background and recognize his/her needs and expectations in your writing, including the background information you provide, content, style, tone, wording, and even the paper format. So, in writing a college assignment, make sure you first determine your lecturer’s profile before writing the assignment (because he/she is your primary audience). 

Having their comprehensive profile will help you make the necessary decisions about what and how you will write. To develop an audience profile, answering the following questions can help you. Although the list is not exhaustive, it will help you build your audience profile.

  • Who is my primary audience?
  • What is your purpose to write? Will the purpose serve for the audience? How will he/she use it?
  • How would he/she react to this writing?
  • Will he/she expect certain patterns of thought in my writing? 
  • What material (e.g. arguments, citations, or statistical data) should I include to convince him/her?

While you are trying to answer those questions, in the context of writing your college essay, you should keep the following points in mind. First, Every time you write, begin by focusing on your audience, i.e. When you write college essays, keep in mind that your lecturers, the audiences, are typically educated adults who wish to read texts with Standard English, a positive attitude, the appropriate tone for an educated adult, and correct structure. Second, your writing should emphasize the topic, not your relationship with the text. Thus, your writing voice should be less personal. Third, your writing should accurately respond to the requirements of the assignment. Never write something unrelated to the topic unless you want to make your lecturer confused and lose the mood to evaluate your work.

Once you have got have proper information about your audience profile and your purpose, it will help you determine the followings: (1) the concepts to emphasize; (2) the amount of information to include; (3) kinds and levels of details to convey; (4) the length of time to spend in research; (5) how to organize the information; (6) the writing strategies to use; and (7) the appropriate words, tone, and style to use to communicate with the audience.

To see the importance of determining the audience profile in writing, read the message in Figure 3, and answer the questions that follow.

Figure 3

  1. Who is Caty’s audience?
  2. What is Cathy’s purpose? Does it serve for the target reader?
  3. How would the audience react to Cathy’s message?
  4. Which particular aspects of the message would cause the audience to react thus?
  5. What tone do you identify in the message? Do you think it is positive? Why?
  6. How likely is Cathy to achieve her goal? Why?
  7. Whom does the message focus on, Cathy or her audience? 
  8. Does the message take the situation of the audience, as Cathy’s lecturer? 
  9. What do you think the audience wants from Cathy in this situation? Why?
  10. Suppose Cathy and her target reader meet in person, how will he likely to respond?
  11. If you would like to help Cathy communicate her needs and interests, how would you change or rewrite the message?

What is your point?

An essay is a goal-driven writing format. It is an “attempt,” a trial to make your audience see the truth of your point about the topic (thing, a person, a problem, or an issue) being discussed as clearly as possible. Your point about the topic is your thesis statement, the “contract” you make with readers—which you should explain, illustrate, clarify, prove, or defend for them in the essay’s body. Thus, the thesis statement is the combination of the topic and what you want to explain, prove, or defend about the topic. In short, it is “a topic + controlling idea”. The topic is given by your lecturer while the controlling idea is yours. It must be something you can prove or defend. To get more ideas about the thesis statement see Essay Elements and Structure.

The thesis statement is the most crucial part of an essay because it shows your stance or viewpoint toward the topic and drives your essay (or shows how you intend to treat the topic). Consequently, it determines whether your audience is interested to keep reading to see how you will support and prove thesis’ value. If the thesis expresses only simple and common points, something most people are already familiar with, your audience will not expect more explanations and stop reading further. In contrast, if the thesis expresses something unique, thought-provoking, or challenging about the topic, your audience will be interested.  The reader may or may not agree with you. Your duty is to provide proper support for your thesis to reward him/her for the time and concentration he/she has put into reading your essay.

Why is it necessary to define your thesis statement, whose consequence is that you decide on our opinions before you write? The answer is that the thesis statement not only helps guide your writing but also helps ensure the research you later do to get more supporting information is focused and efficient. Since writing is also an intrapersonal communication in which you think while writing, it is possible that after getting new ideas about the given topic, you need to modify the thesis sentence. It’s OK to suite your thesis statement after discovering new information.  However, formulating your points in a thesis statement will guide you in outlining your essay and doing the research to discover good supporting details. 


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