If your high school textbooks are gathering dust or long recycled, and you can’t remember how exactly you spent those arduous academic days, it may be time to brush up on a few of the basics from high school English, even if just to see which rules have changed.
In high school, teachers break down the components of a piece of writing so that students will have a vocabulary to help them in the writing and revision process. Seasoned writers can also benefit from evaluating their work with these tools. Let’s take a look at some of these components.
The audience is the group of people you expect or want to read your work. It is usually good to have an age group, education level, and some demographics in mind. This can be as simple as people who like pie or more specific like women with children in their thirties and forties. Regardless, your language and ideas need to be appropriate for the people you expect to read your work.
Consider what background information may be necessary, what important terms may need defining, and what kind of voice will appeal to your audience. When writing for a medical journal, the language and ideas may be more complex, because the writer assumes that readers have a certain level of familiarity with the discipline. Whereas when explaining a complex medical condition in an article on al site geared toward the general public, more familiar language may be used along with metaphors and similes that make the information accessible to those without a medical education.
If you’re worried about accessing a specific grade-level, Microsoft Word has a handy tool that estimates the grade-level and readability of your writing based on word, sentence, and paragraph complexity. This can be enabled when you click on File, Options, Proofing, and check Readability Statistics. These statistics appear after you spell check your document.
What is your piece trying to accomplish? After reading, do you want readers to buy a specific brand of shoe, agree with a political argument, or know how to bake a cake? This should be clear to you the writer and should be stated directly or indirectly in your work. In an academic paper, the purpose is often encountered in the thesis statement. A thesis states what the paper plans to prove or explain. It is usually located at the end of the introduction paragraph.
Regardless of the kind of writing you are doing, some method of organization is always necessary. Some common structures include, cause and effect, chronological order, and compare and contrast. A recipe is usually organized with an ingredient list and then the steps are described in chronological order. A blog post about a political issue may compare and contrast the two sides of an issue by spending the first section explaining one side of the issue, it’s pros and cons, and then in the next section considering the other side.
In essays, each paragraph usually proves or addresses an aspect of the argument. One or more paragraphs may represent a point the author is trying to prove. Once that point has been supported, the writer is ready to begin a new paragraph.
Evidence and Analysis
Any work that is making a claim requires some kind of evidence and analysis. Evidence includes the facts that support an argument. Analysis is the author’s explanation of why the evidence is important or how it relates to the argument. Evidence helps the writer to establish his or her authority and support ideas. Analysis helps the reader to make the same connections between the argument and the evidence that the writer is making.
Grammar and Spell Check
Grammar and spelling mistakes can be off-putting for readers and threaten a writer’s credibility, especially where there are so many resources at hand to aid in proofreading. Remember that different styles of writing often have different rules and call for different styles of documentation. Style guides are available on writing center websites for many colleges and universities. Purdue Online Writing Lab has an especially good guide for APA and MLA styles. Remember that Microsoft Word has spelling and grammar check, but doesn’t catch everything and sometimes makes unnecessary changes. So it is always good to proofread again. And of course, never turn in a piece that you haven’t read more than once.
Happy writing. Class dismissed.