II. Process Writing Terms

AUDIENCE refers to the readers whose opinions and actions the writer hopes to influence or change. Students need to keep in mind that the audience of a piece of academic writing is not necessarily only themselves and their instructor.

DETAIL/ SUPPORT/ EVIDENCE are terms for supporting the claims of a piece of writing. Some examples of support or evidence are the following: reasons, facts, examples, explanations, statistics, expert testimony, lab experiments, interviews, observations, surveys, quotations, and personal experiences. (See the WAC handout on DETAIL for more information.)

EDITING is used to correct standard conventions such as spelling, punctuation, and usage; often this is the final part of the writing process of revising a paper to improve clarity, correctness, and consistency. The editing process also often includes critiquing the content of a piece in addition to mechanics of language usage. (See the WAC handout, “Put Down That Red Pen! How Process Writing Deals with Error.”)

GRAMMAR is the term for the rules of a language or the study of how words and their component parts combine to form sentences. Grammar needs to be distinguished from usage, which is the way the language is conventionally used within the culture. The debate about how to teach what students need to know is a cultural, political, and historical debate of paramount importance that rages throughout the English-speaking world. Most composition teachers feel that correct, standard grammar is the last step of the editing process and should be de-emphasized on initial drafts. (See PROOFREADING for more information.)

HIGH-STAKES WRITING assignments are expected to be completed according to formal academic and disciplinary conventions and often count for a significant part of a student’s grade. Examples include essays, research papers, lab reports, essay exams and critical response papers. This term is generally paired with the term low-stakes writing and is distinguished from informal writing that is often exploratory and non-graded. (See also SUMMATIVE EVAULATION and LOW-STAKES WRITING.)

INVENTION (PREWRITING) is the first step in the writing process. A writer generates ideas to write about, to avoid staring at a blank page. This will vary from person to person, depending on how a person creates. Reading and researching are invention techniques, and so is talking about a topic. (See the WAC handout on INVENTION for more information.)

LOW-STAKES WRITING activities provide students with opportunities to experiment with ideas, form, and style without the pressure associated with correctness. The term “low-stakes” represents the level of expectation that a student and instructor bring to a particular assignment, meaning that low-stakes writing should count very little (if at all) toward the student’s final grade, while high-stakes writing is presumably graded. Examples of low-stakes writing include journals, reflective responses, creative drafting and free-writing. Some argue that the more frequently students engage in low-stakes writing, the more confidence and expertise they will apply to formal, high-stakes assignments. (Compare to HIGH-STAKES WRITING above.)

METACOGNITION can be defined as “knowing about knowing.”  In composition it refers to the self-awareness of how one writes. Some composition teachers ask students to contemplate how they write and to be aware of the steps they go through in the writing process from idea to final product. (Compare to REFLECTIVE WRITING.)

PROCESS WRITING is an approach to writing that teaches invention, drafting, revising, and editing as steps in producing a text.  These steps don’t always occur in order, and writers often repeat steps in creating final drafts.  Process writing allows writers to be authorities on the subjects they choose and to think about invention through a variety of methods, including free-writing, brainstorming, talking, cubing, and mapping.  In writing and revising a draft, writers may get feedback from other writers and provide ideas for those whose drafts they read.  During revision, writers may make decisions to expand or cut portions of the draft, and they may reconsider the assignment, the purpose and the audience.  Editing and proofreading, the last steps in preparing a draft for evaluation, ask writers and readers to examine the grammar and punctuation of the draft to make the draft as clear as possible for readers. 

REFLECTIVE WRITING (additional handout) is a form of verbal expression (often low-stakes) in which the writer explores his or her emotional and cognitive responses to a given academic task or subject. This type of writing is heavily emphasized in the new GEN ED and WAC curriculums.

TONE can be defined as the author’s attitude about the subject. Often this is not easily determined nor is it essential. (See VOICE below.) A writer’s tone can be serious, comical, satirical, etc. In literature, tone is often vital, as in Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”: If a reader is unaware of Swift’s satirical tone, he/she would be outraged at Swift’s less-than-modest proposal that the Irish fatten up their babies and sell them for food.

The author’s VOICE is important in many disciplines and less important in others. Voice is specific to individual writers, and in humanities classes, voice is often vital. In scientific writing, voice may not be as important since a paper may be expressing factual data that should not be clouded by an author’s opinion. In journalism, voice would be essential in an opinion piece but not needed (or even desired) in a news article.

WRITING TO COMMUNICATE assignments focus on communicating learning to others in the most effective way the circumstances allow.The primary goal of writing to communicate is to please the reader in providing new discoveries, information, or perspectives. Ways to do this are through emphasizing audience, discourse forms, clarity and precision in thought and style, sincerity and authority, and constructing texts that increase the chances that what the writer has to say will be heard. Some examples of writing to communicate are writing essays, reports, and business letters.

WRITING TO LEARN (sample assignment) assignments involve students in their own learning by teaching them to become active learners and class participants, to help them discover what they already know and what they still have to learn, to relate subjects to their lives and values, and to build a sense of community in the classroom.

Contact Us

For information about the Writing Across the Curriculum Program please contact Director Georgia Rhoades at (828) 262-2075 or e-mail at rhoadesgd@appstate.edu

Writing Across the Curriculum Program
Appalachian State University
253 Anne Belk Hall
ASU Box 32033
Boone, NC 28608-2033

(828) 262-2075 (office)
(828) 262-2032 (fax)

For more information about WAC

Vertical Writing Model

RC 2001 Resources

WAC Film

Community College Support

Web Resources

QEP Global Learning