The pre-writing stage begins with knowing the kind of paper that you will be required to write. What are you being asked to do? Look at key words in the instructions. You might be tasked to do a variety of things when writing including, analyzing a text, comparing your ideas with the author’s ideas, summarizing the selection, or proposing a solution to an issue. Also, consider how long the paper should be. Looking carefully at the assignment will help you know what to expect when writing.
The next thing to do is to determine the writing situation, or the context of your assignment. The context can be clarified by initially thinking about the purpose and audience of your paper. At some points in the writing process, decisions about these factors may be changed, but it is important to always consider how these will affect your work.
The first consideration is determining your purpose. This is the reason why you are writing. When you think about your purpose, you begin to make decisions about form, content, length, organization, support, and tone. Purpose in writing is answered by these questions:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Why are you sending this message?
Broadly speaking, your purpose may be to inform, explain, persuade, or to entertain. Your purpose may also be reflected in the mode of paragraph development that you choose for your writing. When you are writing, you may find that these purposes may be combined or overlap. Finally, another starting point could be the instructions of your teacher or your writing assignment.
To write effectively, it is always best to assume that you are writing to be read. Your audience is your target reader. You must recognize who your readers are and anticipate their expectations, background, and knowledge of the topic if you are to tailor-fit your writing to their tastes. Identifying your audience helps you determine how you want them to respond to your writing, and thus helps you write with that in mind. Your readers will feel more involved and you will have a clearer appreciation of your purpose.
Here are some questions to help you analyze your audience:
- Who is most likely to read my work? Will I have multiple audiences?
- What are their age, sex, and educational attainment?
- Why would they be reading my work?
- Does the assignment give me an idea of who the audience should be?
- What would they find interesting about it?
- Why should they be concerned about my opinion?
- What do I want them to learn from my work?
- How much do they already know about my topic? What do they need to know?
- How do I want to influence them?
- What are their political, cultural, and religious beliefs?
- Will they act on what I want them to do?
- What questions would they have for me?
After you have determined your audience and purpose, you are ready to think about your paper’s topic. This results from a broader subject that may be found in the assignment, or could be something you are free to think about. The topic is the subject or the specific issue that your paper will discuss. It is always best to limit your topic, because if you write about a broad subject, your essay will lack focus. The topic should both be related to the assignment and interesting to you. It must be something that you know or are willing to learn more about, since you must establish your credibility by showing you have enough knowledge on your topic.
After you have thought about your purpose, audience, and topic, it would be good to consider the tone you plan to use. This refers to the attitudes and feelings you want your writing to reflect toward your purpose, topic, audience, and yourself. These are manifested in your chosen point-of-view (first, second, or third), sentence structure (long and short sentences), and chosen words (connotation and denotation).
Now that you have begun thinking about your purpose, audience, tone, and topic, let us try to develop it using pre-writing strategies.