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The process of writing

Diagram to show stages of writing from author Pat Francis: panic, map/list, develop, join up, reorder, cut, proofread, format.
Figure 1: Writing Process, adapted from Francis (2016, p. 30)
  • Writing usually undergoes several drafts before completion.
  • As well as advancing, it helps to revisit and get feedback on writing (Murray and Moore, 2006, p. 37).
  • During the writing process, you might develop ideas, make better links, reorder or even cut information.
  • The final stages include proofreading (checking for errors) and formatting.

Areas to consider

Downloadable editing checklist
Four areas to check in writing: content, structure, style, SPaG, format.
Figure 2: Four areas to consider

1. Content

It is important to include only relevant points, reliable evidence and your comment on this evidence.

  • Q: Has reliable evidence been used to support every paragraph?
  • Q: Is all the information relevant to the assignment?
  • Q: Have you remembered to comment on your textual and visual evidence?

2. Structure

The structure should be organised in a logical manner to aid a reader.

  • Q: Have you followed the paragraph structure of Point, Evidence, Comment, Conclude?
  • Q: Have you avoided paragraphs that are only 1 or 2 sentences long?
  • Q: Does each point lead on clearly from one another?
  • Q: Does the writing avoid repetition?

3. Style

  • You will need to pick a style that is suitable for the assignment.
  • For example, an essay might use the third rather than first person (I) for a removed tone.
  • Reflective writing can include first person as it discusses personal practice.
  • Q: Have you used a suitable style for the task?
  • Q: Have you been precise and concise?
  • Avoid unnecessary adjectives e.g. e.g. ‘In Berger’s (1972) notable and seminal work, Ways of Seeing ‘. Check your writing’s concision with Helen Sword’s online tool: The writer’s diet (opens in a new window).
  • Q: Have you remained objective and avoided bias?
  • Avoid use of heightening adverbs such as ‘very’, ‘really’, ‘extremely’.
Guide to Academic Writing

4. SPaG (spelling, punctuation and grammar)

Making sure that your work is error free will show professionalism and improve readability.

  • Q: Have typos and errors been avoided?
  • Q: Have you used British not American English spellings?
  • Q: Have you correctly spelt all author’s surnames?

5. Formatting:

You will need to check for any specific formatting guidance on your VLE.

  • Q: Does the document follow correct formatting for font (usually sans serif, size 11), line spacing (usually 1.5) and margins?
  • Q: Does it use the library’s guidance on Harvard referencing (opens in a new window) and using images?

Techniques for editing

  • Decide whether you prefer to read from the screen or a printed copy
  • Read aloud to check readability. Ask: ‘Can you read each sentence without stumbling or running out of breath?’ (Trimble, 2010, p. 78).
  • Find a ‘critical friend’. Can they read it without confusion?
  • Additionally, add your own comments, highlight or make notes about areas to develop/condense.

Creating a logical structure

Reverse outlining:

  • Reverse outlining is a technique to use once you have a draft.
  • It helps you to check your structure.
  • Follow the steps below.
  1. Number the paragraphs.
  2. Identify the topic of each paragraph.
  3. Come up with a key phrase or title for each paragraph.
  4. Write out a separate list of these paragraphs away from your writing.
  5. Consider whether the order seems logical and avoids repetition.
  6. Reorganise the text according to a revised outline.

Over or under word count?

Look for small paragraphs (one or two sentences) to develop with evidence and/or analysis.Condense language at sentence level.
Return to your research to find additional topics to discuss.Make bigger decisions at content level.
Check for repetition.
Prioritise key points, examples and evidence.
Consider shortening lengthy quotations with ellipsis (…) or paraphrasing.

Sources consulted

  • Cayley, R. (2011) Reverse outlines. Available at: Reverse Outlines | Explorations of Style (Accessed: 17 December 2021).
  • Francis, P. (2016) Inspiring writing in art and design: taking a line for a write. Bristol: Intellect Ltd.
  • Harvey, M. (2013) The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing. 2nd Edition. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.
  • Moore, S. and Murray, R. (2006) The handbook of academic writing: a fresh approach. Maidenhead: Open University.
  • Strunk, W. and White, E. B. (2000) The elements of style. 4th Edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Sword, H. (2016) The writer’s diet: a guide to fit prose. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Trimble, J. (2010) Writing with style: conversations on the art of writing. 2nd Edition. London: Pearson Education.
Graphic to represent a list of eBooks available on style, grammar and punctuation.


Find information on style, grammar and punctuation:

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