Chapter 6: Working Toward the End Product: Composing a Draft

6.3 Drafting

Learning Objectives

  • Identify drafting strategies that improve writing
  • Use drafting strategies to prepare the first draft of an essay

Drafting is the stage of the writing process in which you develop a complete first version of a piece of writing.

Even professional writers admit that an empty page scares them because they feel they need to come up with something fresh and original every time they open a blank document on their computers. Because you have completed the first two steps in the writing process, you have already recovered from empty-page syndrome. You have hours of prewriting and planning already done. You know what will go on that blank page: what you wrote in your outline.

Getting Started: Strategies for Drafting

Your objective for this portion is to draft the body paragraphs of a standard five-paragraph essay. A five-paragraph essay contains an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. If you are more comfortable starting on paper than on the computer, you can begin that way and then later type it before you revise. You can also use a voice recorder to get yourself started, dictating a paragraph or two to get you thinking. In this lesson, Mariah does all her work on the computer, but you may use pen and paper or the computer to write a rough draft.

Making the Writing Process Work for You

What makes the writing process so beneficial to writers is that it encourages alternatives to standard practices while motivating you to develop your best ideas. For instance, the following approaches, done alone or in combination with others, may improve your writing and help you move forward in the writing process:

Begin writing with the part you know the most about. You can start with the third paragraph in your outline if ideas come easily to mind. You can start with the second paragraph or the first paragraph, too. Although paragraphs may vary in length, keep in mind that short paragraphs may contain insufficient support. Readers may also think the writing is abrupt. Long paragraphs may be wordy and may lose your reader’s interest. As a guideline, try to write paragraphs longer than one sentence but shorter than the length of an entire double-spaced page.

Write one paragraph at a time and then stop. As long as you complete the assignment on time, you may choose how many paragraphs you complete in one sitting. Pace yourself. On the other hand, try not to procrastinate. Writers should always meet their deadlines.

Take short breaks to refresh your mind. This tip might be most useful if you are writing a multi-page report or essay. Still, if you are impatient or cannot concentrate, take a break to let your mind rest. But do not let breaks extend too long. If you spend too much time away from your essay, you may have trouble starting again. You may forget key points or lose momentum. Try setting an alarm to limit your break, and when the time is up, return to your desk to write.

Be reasonable with your goals. If you decide to limit your breaks to 10 minutes, try to stick to that goal. If you told yourself that you need more facts, then commit to finding them. Holding yourself to your own goals will create successful writing assignments.

Keep your audience and purpose in mind as you write. These aspects of writing are just as important when you are writing a single paragraph for your essay as when you are considering the direction of the entire essay.

Of all of these considerations, keeping your purpose and your audience at the front of your mind is the most important to writing success. If your purpose is to persuade, for example, you will present your facts and details in the most logical and convincing way you can.

Your purpose will guide your mind as you compose your sentences. Your audience will guide word choice. Are you writing for experts, for a general audience, for other students, or for people who know very little about your topic? Keep asking yourself what your readers, with their background and experience, need to be told in order to understand your ideas. How can you best express your ideas so they are totally clear and your communication is effective?

Tip: You may want to identify your purpose and audience on an index card that you clip to your paper (or keep next to your computer). On that card, you may want to write notes to yourself—perhaps about what that audience might not know or what it needs to know—so that you will be sure to address those issues when you write. It may be a good idea to also state exactly what you want to explain to that audience, or to inform them of, or to persuade them about.

Writing at Work

Many of the documents you produce at work target a particular audience for a particular purpose. You may find that it is highly advantageous to know as much as you can about your target audience and to prepare your message to reach that audience, even if the audience is a co-worker or your boss. Menu language is a common example. Descriptions like “organic romaine” and “free-range chicken” are intended to appeal to a certain type of customer though perhaps not to the same customer who craves a thick steak. Similarly, mail-order companies research the demographics of the people who buy their merchandise. Successful vendors customize product descriptions in catalogues to appeal to their buyers’ tastes. For example, the product descriptions in a skateboarder catalogue will differ from the descriptions in a clothing catalogue for mature adults.

Setting Goals for Your First Draft

A draft is a complete version of a piece of writing, but it is not the final version. The step in the writing process after drafting, as you may remember, is revising. During revising, you will have the opportunity to make changes to your first draft before you put the finishing touches on it during the editing and proofreading stages. A first draft gives you a working version that you can later improve.

Self-Practice Exercise 6.6

H5P: Goal Setting

As we work towards a full essay draft, it is critical to keep track of why we are doing what we are doing. Yes, you’re writing an essay for marks and to learn how to write an essay, but you can’t do that well unless you have an over-arching purpose. So for this exercise, let’s review the work you did in Pre-Chapter Review for Chapter 5 and dig deeper.

What is the purpose of your essay? Be as specific and concrete as possible, and consider your answers to the following questions.

  • Why are you writing it?
  • What type of expository essay have you selected?
  • Why is this the best type for what you want to achieve?
  • What is the controlling idea or claim of your essay?

Who is the audience for this essay? Be as specific as you can be and think about why you know about this audience. Remember the concepts you learned previously, like thinking through the expectations and prior experience of your audience.

Writing at Work

Workplace writing in certain environments is done by teams of writers who collaborate on the planning, writing, and revising of documents, such as long reports, technical manuals, and the results of scientific research. Collaborators do not need to be in the same room, the same building, or even the same city. Many collaborations are conducted over the Internet.

In a perfect collaboration, each contributor has the right to add, edit, and delete text. Strong communication skills, in addition to strong writing skills, are important in this kind of writing situation because disagreements over style, content, process, emphasis, and other issues may arise.

The collaborative software, or document management systems, that groups use to work on common projects is sometimes called groupware or workgroup support systems.

The reviewing tool on some word processing programs also gives you access to a collaborative tool that many smaller work groups use when they exchange documents. You can also use it to leave comments to yourself.

Tip: If you invest some time now to investigate how the reviewing tool in your word processor works, you will be able to use it with confidence during the revision stage of the writing process. Then, when you start to revise, set your reviewing tool to track any changes you make, so you will be able to tinker with text and commit to only those final changes you want to keep.

Discovering the Basic Elements of a First Draft

If you have been using the information in this chapter step by step to help you develop an assignment, you already have both a formal topic outline and a formal sentence outline to direct your writing. Knowing what a first draft looks like will help you make the creative leap from the outline to the first draft.

H5P: Elements of a Draft (Pre-Test 6)

You’ve already seen these terms in context elsewhere in your textbook. Can you identify the correct definition for each of the following words?

  1. thesis statement
  2. supporting sentences
  3. introduction
  4. conclusion
  5. topic sentence


  1. An                piques the audience’s interest, tells what the essay is about, and motivates readers to keep reading.
  2. A               presents the main point, or controlling idea, of the entire piece of writing.
  3.               in each paragraph states the main idea of the paragraph and implies how that main idea connects to the thesis statement.
  4. The                in each paragraph develop or explain the topic sentence. These can be specific facts, examples, anecdotes, or other details that elaborate on the topic sentence.
  5.               that reinforces the thesis statement and leaves the audience with a feeling of completion.

Answer Key

  1. C
  2. A
  3. E
  4. B
  5. D

These elements follow the standard five-paragraph essay format, which you probably first encountered in high school. In Section 4.1: Expository Essays, you read that you should consider these as sections instead of just paragraphs because you will, at times, have to write a paper that needs to have more than five paragraphs because some ideas need more development or support. For now, however, Mariah focuses on writing the three body paragraphs from her outline.

The Role of Topic Sentences

Topic sentences make the structure of a text and the writer’s basic arguments easy to locate and comprehend. In post-secondary writing, using a topic sentence in each paragraph of the essay is the standard rule. However, the topic sentence does not always have to be the first sentence in your paragraph even if it the first item in your formal outline.

Tip: When you begin to draft your paragraphs, you should follow your outline fairly closely. After all, you spent valuable time developing those ideas. However, as you begin to express your ideas in complete sentences, it might strike you that the topic sentence might work better at the end of the paragraph or in the middle. Try it. Writing a draft, by its nature, is a good time for experimentation.

The topic sentence can be the first, middle, or final sentence in a paragraph. The assignment’s audience and purpose will often determine where a topic sentence belongs. When the purpose of the assignment is to persuade, for example, the topic sentence should be the first sentence in a paragraph. In a persuasive essay, the writer’s point of view should be clearly expressed at the beginning of each paragraph.

Choosing where to position the topic sentence depends not only on your audience and purpose but also on the essay’s arrangement, or order. When you organize information according to order of importance, the topic sentence may be the final sentence in a paragraph. All the supporting sentences build up to the topic sentence. Chronological order may also position the topic sentence as the final sentence because the controlling idea of the paragraph may make the most sense at the end of a sequence.

When you organize information according to spatial order, a topic sentence may appear as the middle sentence in a paragraph. An essay arranged by spatial order often contains paragraphs that begin with descriptions. A reader may first need a visual in mind before understanding the development of the paragraph. When the topic sentence is in the middle, it unites the details that come before it with the ones that come after it.

Tip: As you read critically throughout the writing process, keep topic sentences in mind. You may discover topic sentences that are not always located at the beginning of a paragraph. For example, fiction writers customarily use topic ideas, either expressed or implied, to move readers through their text. In nonfiction writing, such as the kind you read in popular magazines, topic sentences are often used when the author thinks it is appropriate (based on the audience and the purpose, of course). A single topic sentence might even control the development of a number of paragraphs.

Developing topic sentences and thinking about their placement in a paragraph will prepare you to write the rest of the paragraph.


The paragraph is the main structural component of an essay as well as other forms of writing. Each paragraph of an essay adds another related main idea to support the writer’s thesis, or controlling idea. Each related main idea is supported and developed with facts, examples, and other details that explain it. By exploring and refining one main idea at a time, writers build a strong case for their thesis.

Starting Your First Draft

Now we are finally ready to look over Mariah’s shoulder as she begins to write her essay about digital technology and the confusing choices that consumers face. As she does, you should have in front of you your outline, with its thesis statement and topic sentences, and the notes you wrote earlier in this lesson on your purpose and audience. Reviewing these will put both you, like Mariah, in the proper mindset to start.

The following is Mariah’s thesis statement.

Everyone wants the newest and the best digital technology, but the choices are may, and the specification are often confusing.

Here are the notes that Mariah wrote to herself to characterize her purpose and audience.

Purpose: My purpose is to inform readers about the wide variety of consumer digital technology available in stores and to explain why the specification for these products, expressed in number that average consumers don’t understand, often cause bad of misinformed buying decisions.

Audience: My audience is my instructor and members of this class. Most of them are not heavy into technology except for the usual laptops, cell phones, and MP3 players, which are not topics I’m writing about. I’ll have to be as exact and precise as I can be when I explain possible unfamiliar product specifications. At the same time, they’re more with it electronically than my grandparents’ VCR-flummoxed generation, so I won’t have to explain every last detail.

Mariah chose to begin by writing a quick introduction based on her thesis statement. She knew that she would want to improve her introduction significantly when she revised. Right now, she just wanted to give herself a starting point.

Tip: Remember Mariah’s other options. She could have started directly with any of the body paragraphs.

You learned more about writing attention-getting introductions and effective conclusions in Section 6.2: Writing Introductory and Concluding Paragraphs.

With her thesis statement and her purpose and audience notes in front of her, Mariah then looked at her sentence outline. She chose to use that outline because it includes the topic sentences. The following is the portion of her outline for the first body paragraph. The Roman numeral II identifies the topic sentence for the paragraph, capital letters indicate supporting details, and Arabic numerals label subpoints.

II. E-book readers and the way that people read.

  1. E-book readers make books easy to access and to carry
    1. Books can be downloaded electronically.
    2. Devices can store hundreds of books in memory.
  2. The market expands as a variety of companies enter it.
    1. Booksellers sell their own e-book readers.
    2. Electronics and computer companies also sell e-book readers.
  3. Current e-book readers have significant limitations.
    1. The devices are owned by different brands and may not be compatible.
    2. Few programs have been made to fit the other way Americans read: by borrowing books from libraries.

Mariah then began to expand the ideas in her outline into a paragraph. Notice how the outline helped her guarantee that all her sentences in the body of the paragraph develop the topic sentence.

E-book readers are changing the way people read, or so e-book developers hope. The main selling point for these handheld devices, which are sort of the size of a paperback book, is that they make books easy to access and carry. Electronic versions of printed books can be downloaded online for a few bucks or directly from your cell phone. These devices can store hundreds of books in memory and, with text-to-speech features, can even read the texts. The market for e-books and e-book readers keep expanding as a lot of companies enter it. Online and traditional booksellers have been the first to market e-book readers to the public, but computer companies, especially the ones already involved in cell phone, online music, and notepad computer technology, will also enter the market. The problem for consumers, however, is which device to choose.

Incompatibility is the norm. E-books can be read only on the devices they were intended for. Furthermore, use is restricted by the same kind of DRM systems that restricts the copying of music and videos. So, book buyers are often unable to lend books to other readers, as they can with a real book. Few accommodations have been made to fit the other way Americans read: by borrowing books from libraries. What is a buyer to do?

Tip: If you write your first draft on the computer, consider creating a new file folder for each course with a set of subfolders inside the course folders for each assignment you are given. Label the folders clearly with the course names, and label each assignment folder and word processing document with a title that you will easily recognize. The assignment name is a good choice for the document. Then use that subfolder to store all the drafts you create. When you start each new draft, do not just write over the last one. Instead, save the draft with a new tag after the title—draft 1, draft 2, and so on—so that you will have a complete history of drafts in case your instructor wishes you to submit them.

In your documents, observe any formatting requirements—for margins, headers, placement of page numbers, and other layout matters—that your instructor requires.

Self-Practice Exercise 6.7

H5P: Comparing Outlines and Drafts

Below, you’ll see the text of Mariah’s draft paragraph. Find all the words in sentences and phrases that Mariah has taken directly from her outline to use in her draft. You’ll need to have Mariah’s outline handy to successfully complete this exercise.

Ebook readers are changing the way people read, or so ebook developers hope. The main selling point for these handheld devices, which are sort of the size of a paperback book, is that they make books easy to access and carry. Electronic versions of printed books can be downloaded online for a few bucks or directly from your cell phone. These devices can store hundreds of books in memory and, with text-to-speech features, can even read the texts. The market for ebooks and ebook readers keeps expanding as a lot of companies enter it. Online and traditional booksellers have been the first to market ebook readers to the public, but computer companies, especially the ones already involved in cell phone, online music, and notepad computer technology, will also enter the market. The problem for consumers, however, is which device to choose. Incompatibility is the norm. Ebooks can be read only on the devices they were intended for. Furthermore, use is restricted by the same kind of DRM systems that restrict the copying of music and videos. So, book buyers are often unable to lend books to other readers, as they can with a read book. Few accommodations have been made to fit the other way Americans read: by borrowing books from libraries. What is a buyer to do?

Continuing the First Draft

Mariah continued writing her essay, moving to the second and third body paragraphs. She had supporting details but no numbered subpoints in her outline, so she had to consult her prewriting notes for specific information to include.

Tip: If you decide to take a break between finishing your first body paragraph and starting the next one, do not start writing immediately when you return to your work. Put yourself back in context and in the mood by rereading what you have already written. This is what Mariah did. If she had stopped writing in the middle of writing the paragraph, she could have jotted down some quick notes to herself about what she would write next.

Preceding each body paragraph that Mariah wrote is the appropriate section of her sentence outline. Notice how she expanded Roman numeral III from her outline into a first draft of the second body paragraph. As you read, ask yourself how closely she stayed on purpose and how well she paid attention to the needs of her audience.

III. Digital cameras have almost totally replaced by film cameras.

  1. The first major choice is the type of digital camera.
    1. Compactible digital cameras are light by have fewer megapixels.
    2. Single lens reflex cameras, or SLRs, may be large and heavy but can be sued for many functions.
    3. Some cameras combine the best features of compacts an SLRs.
  2. Choosing the camera type involves the confusing “megapixel wars.”
  3. The zoom lens battle also determines the camera you will buy.
Digital cameras have almost totally replaced film cameras in amateur photographers’ gadget bags. My father took hundreds of slides when his children were growing up, but he had more and more trouble getting them developed. So, he decided to go modern. But, what kind of camera should he buy? The small compact digital cameras could slip right in his pocket, but if he tried to print a photograph larger than an 8 × 10, the quality would be poor. When he investigated buying a single lens reflex camera, or SLR, he discovered that they were versatile as his old film camera, also an SLR, but they were big and bulky. Then he discovered yet a third type, which combined the smaller size of the compact digital cameras with the zoom lenses available for SLRs. His first though was to buy one of those, but then he realized he had a lot of decisions to make. How many megapixels should the camera be? Five? Ten? What is the advantage of each? Then came the size of the zoom lens. He knew that 3× was too small, but what about 25×? Could he hold a lens that long without causing camera shake? He read hundreds of photography magazines and buying guides, and he still wasn’t sure he was right.

Mariah then began her third and final body paragraph using Roman numeral IV from her outline.

IV. Nothing is more confusing to me than choosing among televisions

  1. In the resolution wars, what are the benefits of 1080p and 768p?
  2. In the screen-size war, what do plasma screens and LCD screens offer?
  3. Does every home really need a media centre?
Nothing is more confusing to me than choosing among televisions. It confuses lots of people who want a new high-definition digital television (HDTV) with a large screen to watch sports and DVDs on. You could listen to the guys in the electronics store, but word has it they know little more than you do. They want to sell you what they have in stock, not what best fits your needs. You face decisions you never had to make with the old, bulky picture-tube televisions. Screen resolution means the number of horizontal scan lines the screen can show. This resolution is often 1080p, or full HD, or 768p. The trouble is that if you have a smaller screen, 32 inches or 37 inches diagonal, you won’t be able to tell the difference with the naked eye. The 1080p televisions cost more, though, so those are what the salespeople want you to buy. They get bigger commissions. The other important decision you face as you walk around the sales floor is whether to get a plasma screen or an LCD screen. Now here the salespeople may finally give you decent info. Plasma flat-panel television screens can be much larger in diameter than their LCD rivals. Plasma flat-panel television screens show decent blacks and can be viewed at a wider angle than current LCD screens. But be careful and tell the salesperson you have budget constraints. Large flat-panel plasma screens are much more expensive than flat-screen LCD models. Don’t buy more television than you need.

Self-Practice Exercise 6.8

H5P: Reviewing Mariah’s Work

A critical skill you will develop in this course is the skill of reading critically and offering peer feedback. It can be a bit scary to give feedback like this; sometimes, we don’t think we are qualified or we worry we’re hurting someone’s feelings. So let’s practice on someone who can’t get upset: Mariah (because she’s fictional). We should still strive to give feedback that is concrete, specific, honest, and framed constructively. Let’s try!

  • In body paragraph two, Mariah decided to develop her paragraph as a nonfiction narrative. Do you agree with her decision? Explain. How else could she have chosen to develop the paragraph? Why is that better?
  • Compare the writing styles of paragraphs two and three. What evidence do you have that Mariah was getting tired or running out of steam? What advice would you give her? Why?
  • Choose one of Mariah’s two paragraphs. Give three concrete, constructive suggestions that would make her paragraph better.

Writing a Title

A writer’s best choice for a title is one that alludes to the main point of the entire essay. Like the headline in a newspaper or the big, bold title in a magazine, an essay’s title gives the audience a first peek at the content. If readers like the title, they are likely to keep reading.

Following her outline carefully, Mariah crafted each paragraph of her essay. Moving step by step in the writing process, Mariah finished the draft and even included a brief concluding paragraph. She then decided, as the final touch for her writing session, to add an engaging title.

Thesis Statement: Everyone wants the newest and the best digital technology, but the choices are many, and the specification are often confusing.

Working Title: Digital Technology: The Newest and the Best at What Price?

Writing Your Own First Draft

Now you may begin your own first draft. Follow the suggestions and the guidelines presented in this section. Follow the steps below and work through the process just as Mariah did to develop her essay.

Also, your expository essay will be due next week, so focus on the first draft by the end of this week then take the next week to look it over. In Chapter 12, you will learn more about final revisions and peer review, so for your later papers, you will be expected to complete a more thorough revision; for the expository essay, you will be expected to work through your first draft, and once you are finished that, you will need to do a basic revision and editing, looking for errors with spelling, homonyms, sentence construction—all of the grammar content we have covered so far. For now, work through the following steps:

  • Ensure your supporting ideas actually support your thesis.
  • Revise your thesis as required (make sure it still addresses the initial topic you have chosen).
  • Compose your paragraphs/sections following your formal sentence outline—one section at a time–then double check you have included all information from your outline in your paragraph/section.
  • Check that your topic sentences support your thesis.
  • Make sure the information in your paragraphs support your topic sentences.
  • Insert transitional words (if you have not done so already when composing your draft) into paragraphs AND to link paragraphs.
  • When writing, be conscious of your tone and how it relates to your audience.
  • Be careful when considering which words to use.
  • Create an introduction that engages the reader.
  • Create a conclusion that leaves your reader convinced and is memorable.
  • Make sure all of your sentences are complete.
  • Proofread for spelling mistakes (remember to not depend too much on spelling and grammar checkers).

Try to compile a references section using the JIBC APA Style Guide; you will practise this later in this course, but for now refer to the guide to see how to compose a complete reference page, and be sure to include all of the sources you used.

Include citations within your essay to show where and when you have taken information from an external source. Again, follow the JIBC APA Style Guide. You will learn more about this is a few weeks, but refer to the guide to see how to format your citations. You need to include a citation after each piece of information taken from a source, and you may use the same citation multiple times in a row. (Try and get into the practice of doing this now because you will be expected to have these in all future papers to avoid plagiarism.)

Create a title page with interesting title, your name, your course name and number, your instructor’s name, the date the paper is due.

Key Takeaways

  • Make the writing process work for you. Use any and all of the strategies that help you move forward in the writing process.
  • Always be aware of your purpose for writing and the needs of your audience. Cater to those needs in every sensible way.
  • Remember to include all the key structural parts of an essay: a thesis statement that is part of your introductory paragraph, three or more body paragraphs as described in your outline, and a concluding paragraph. Then add an engaging title to draw in readers.
  • Write paragraphs of an appropriate length for your writing assignment. Paragraphs at this level of writing can be a page long, as long as they cover the main topics in your outline.
  • Use your topic outline or your sentence outline to guide the development of your paragraphs and the elaboration of your ideas. Each main idea, indicated by a Roman numeral in your outline, becomes the topic of a new paragraph. Develop it with the supporting details and the subpoints of those details that you included in your outline.
  • Generally speaking, write your introduction and conclusion last, after you have fleshed out the body paragraphs.


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Writing for Success - 1st Canadian H5P Edition Copyright © 2021 by Tara Horkoff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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