You’ve got the words on the page and are now ready to fine-tune your way to a final draft. To keep it simple and easy to remember, I separated the steps and created a mnemonic device – ORCA.
Gather up your paragraphs (how-to provided in this post) and don’t worry yet if you’re not sure which order they’ll appear in the essay; you’ll figure out the overall organization later.
Underline or highlight the topic sentence of each paragraph. If you don’t have one, write it now.
Think of your topic sentence as a puzzle in that there are going to be at least 2-3 pieces that comprise the sentence. Highlight (different colors) or circle the pieces of your topic sentence puzzle.
Read over the remaining sentences and decide which puzzle piece they belong to – start copying and pasting these pieces into a logical order.
Do this for each paragraph and at the end you should have coherent and unified body paragraphs that all relate to their respective topic sentences.
Read each sentence aloud and take a pause after each one to ask yourself a couple of questions: (1) does it make sense? (2) does it bolster the claim made in the topic sentence? and (3) does it fit with the sentence before AND after it?
Here’s the time to organize your paragraphs into the order in which they’ll appear in your essay. By now it should be obvious but if you’re still not sure, try different configurations until you find one that makes sense.
This is also the time to make sure each paragraph has a transitional sentence. I covered this topic in a previous post.
Now it’s time to look at the bigger picture rather than the minutiae covered in the first two steps. Read over your essay & ask yourself these questions: (1) does each paragraph help to prove your thesis? (2) does each paragraph help bolster the one before AND after it? (3) are your ideas clear?
By this point, you’re likely sick of reading the same words over and over so get someone else to read it. It’s so easy to gloss over mistakes and confusing bits when the words are your own and you’ve read it so many times.
(Writing Center plug: We’re here Mon-Fri 2:30-4:30pm. You can sign up in the Library – main counter – or email me a day/time at email@example.com)
This is the time for all the nit-picky things. I’d recommend the first thing you do is read the assignment again & make sure that EVERY requirement is satisfied within your paper. This way you can write and/or delete if needed.
Read your paper (again!) but this time look for errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.
Yay, you made it! I know that the above may seem a little daunting but if you have the luxury of time then just split the steps up into several days. If you’re pressed for time, the above will save you hours of agonizing, I promise.
Next posts will be about the (dreaded though necessary) introduction and conclusion.