The first essay assigned in a Composition course is often the so-called process essay, the writing project in which we describe how to do something or tell how something happens. The nice thing about the process essay is that it can be truly helpful. When our readers finish this essay, they will know how to do something that they didn't know how to do before or they will understand some process that had mystified them before. There are several cautions to keep in mind in choosing a topic for a process essay.
Don't write about something that is too complicated. Don't try to write a brief process essay about something that needs an instruction manual. When you have to drive from Hartford to St. Louis, you start by getting to Waterbury. You don't like being overwhelmed by directions, and you don't want to overwhelm your reader. Also, don't write about something that needs to be accompanied by visual aids. We could read a good essay about how to wallpaper around a window or a bathroom vanity, but it would be much better to watch a videotape of the same process. There are some things that are much better seen than read. Try describing the process of tying your shoes and you'll see what we mean.
Be especially careful of the connections between your sentences in a process essay. There is a temptation to connect each sentence with "And then," "then," "and then." That's all right when Aunt Gloria is telling you how to make meatloaf, but it's boring in an essay. Try writing the essay with all the and then's you want, and then go back and eliminate most of them; you'll probably find you don't need most of them. Try for a variety of transitional tags. Don't number the steps of your essay, and avoid using words like "secondly," "thirdly," etc. You might want to say "first" and "second," but then let the numbering go. Also, although it would be tempting to use graphical embellishments even something as simple as bulleted paragraphs or sentences avoid doing this for the purpose of this essay. The trick here is to let the language do all the work for you. (You might want to ask your instructor about this matter of graphical elements, especially if you are writing a more technical essay.) Oh, and speaking of meatloaf, avoid using abbreviations tsp., oz., etc. in formal academic writing. Write everything out and save the abbreviations for Aunt Gloria's recipe card.
At first glance, it seems that beginning a process essay would be easy: just start with the first step, right? Well, perhaps so, but if your readers aren't interested in your process, they might just put your essay aside and go watch television, and you don't want that. Your beginning ought to involve readers in the human dimension that makes knowing your process important to them. If you're going to write about how to jump-start a dead car battery, don't start with hooking up the cables. Start with the dark snowy morning in the parking lot, and there's no garage around, and sleet is dripping down your neck, and how do you hook up these stupid cables you find in the trunk? If you're going to write about how to make a soufflé, don't start with the eggs. Start with how you'd feel if your new mother-in-law came over for dinner and your souffleé came out looking like a pile of scrambled eggs and then tell your readers how they'll feel if they do things your way! Your readers might not be interested in car batteries or soufflés, but they will be interested in the human condition of being stuck and miserable or embarrassed, and they will read on.
Allow one of your steps to stand out from the others; in other words, don't let all the steps in your process feel equally important. Equally important means equally unimportant. Attach a special warning to one of your steps. If you don't connect the positive pole to the positive pole of the batteries, you could cause an explosion or melt down your battery. If you don't do such-and-such with your crockpot just at this point in the process, your soufflé is headed for culinary disaster. This special moment or warning in the process will lend the essay a variety of tone, some texture, another human dimension, and remind your readers that someone (you, the writer) is trying very hard to be helpful to them, and that's going to keep them reading.
As you write your essay, be watchful of your pronouns. If your frame of reference has consistently been yourself, and you have said, over and over, how "I" do things: first I do this, then I do this, and then I do this, you want to remain consistently within that frame of reference. When you get to the conclusion of the essay, don't suddenly address the reader and say "You do it this way"; the shift in perspective can bewilder the reader. Consistency is the chief virtue here.
There is, of course, a difference between a process essay that tells readers how to do something and a process essay that describes the process by which something gets done by someone else or by nature. You could write a great process essay describing what happens when Mother Nature decides it's time for trees to lose their leaves in the fall. Something in the changing angle of sunlight tells these two rows of cells in the leaf's stem to begin to dry up, and the chlorophyll begins to dry (allowing the leaf's other colors the red, the orange, the yellow of fall to show through) and then the stem breaks at just that point (the same for every leaf) and the leaf falls off. Neither you nor your readers are actually, physically, involved, but the process is fascinating in its own right.
Here is a simple process essay on how to retrieve an e-mail message in the computer labs.
How to Start Up Your E-Mail Client
Nothing can be more frustrating than knowing that your best friend has just sent you some e-mail, but you don't know how to get into the computer system at school to read your e-mail. It doesn't do any good to know that there is help available online because you can't even start the machine, and it's embarrassing to ask lab assistants who are busy helping others with complex spreadsheet questions. So you sit there looking at a blank screen as if your fervent wishes could make it turn itself on.
Turning the computer on really isn't hard. There are two buttons you have to push: the large rectangular button on the CPU (the box beneath or next to the monitor) and the little round button on the monitor (the screen). If you forget to turn on the monitor, the computer will start, but you won't see anything on the screen. After you press these buttons, it sometimes takes a few minutes for the computer to start up and go through its own set-up process and automatically check for new computer viruses. There is nothing for you to do but twiddle your thumbs while this is happening, so practice your thumb-twiddling beforehand so you look like a pro. If the computer doesn't start up properly, it's probably not something you did wrong, and you should try another machine or ask the lab assistant for help.
Eventually, the computer will warm up and a small grey box, called a dialog box, should pop onto the screen. Click on the TAB key until the top window on the dialog box is highlighted. Type your username into this box. (As soon as you start typing, the highlight will disappear and your typing should show up.) Your username is your last name and the last four digits of your social security number, without any spaces. When you've typed your username, click on the TAB key again and the password window will be highlighted. Type in your password, which consists of the first six digits of your social security numberno spaces, no hyphens. However, your typing will not show up in the window. This is so that people behind you cannot see your password as you type it. When you're done typing in the password, click on the ENTER key and the computer should open up your account.
Be very careful as you type in your username and password. You are allowed three chances to type this information correctly, and if you fail your username will be locked out of the system for twenty-four hours. This is done because the computer system thinks that some hacker might be trying to figure out your password to break into your account. If you don't type this information carefully and correctly, you can be locked out of your own account for a whole day.
The computer should open the computer now so that the monitor reveals its basic desktop arrangement, with a group of little icons along the left-hand edge. If the icons appear elsewhere, don't be alarmed; the system should still work for you. Move the mouse over the mouse-pad so that the cursor-arrow on the monitor moves over the icon called INBOX. Using the left-hand button on the mouse, double-click on the INBOX icon. Double-clicking is a skill that veteran computer-users take for granted but "newbies" sometimes find challenging. You might want to practice. It requires a quick click-click, clicking twice within about half a second. If you wait too long between clicks, the computer will think your attempt at a double-click is two separate clicks and nothing will happen. Also, the cursor-arrow has to remain on the icon during both clicks of the mouse-button. As soon as the computer recognizes that you have double-clicked the INBOX icon, it will open the e-mail program using your account. (A small hour-glass or clockface will show up on the screen while the program opens.)
When INBOX finally opens, allow the program a couple of minutes to download your new mail from the system. It should do so automatically, but if it doesn't, you can click on the menu item item called TOOLS (at the top of the screen) and then click on the item called SEND AND DELIVER. (Single clicks should do the job here.) Your INBOX will then download your mail. The e-mail you've been promised should be sitting in your IN folder now. Simply double-click on the name of the e-mail message you want to read and it should open up for you. We hope it's the news you've been waiting for!
Don't forget to quit out of the INBOX program and out of your computer account, or the next person to sit down at that computer will be able to read your e-mail account and send out messages under your name! The QUIT command is under the FILE menu of the INBOX. To shut down the computer itself, hold down the CONTROL key and the ALT key (lower left-hand corner of the keyboard) and press the DELETE key on the number pad. You can then click on the SHUTDOWN option. Make sure that the computer shuts down properly before you leave the computer station.
Points to Ponder:
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Here are links to two extensive and intriguing articles on the language acquisition process in infancy a process all of us have gone through, but don't remember very well.
What is the most challenging part of essay writing?
Some name the process of thesis clarification, others mention essay hooks and writing an outline, but our reader Emily has knocked spots off them all when asked to share tips on writing essay conclusions!
Don’t worry, Emily, you are not alone.
Finishing your essay isn’t less but sometimes even more challenging than starting it. Our writers know it firsthand, so they give consent graciously to share expert tips on creating strong conclusions for college papers.
Keep on reading to master this craft once and for all.
Why do you need essay conclusions?
A conclusion provides closure and drives main points of your essay one last time. It’s the chance to impress and give readers understanding why your paper matters. In other words, your conclusion should answer the question “So what?”
- Give the audience something to think about after they finish reading your essay.
- A conclusion should give completeness to your paper. Ending it on a positive note would be a good practice.
It’s not about introducing new ideas but summing up your writing. The goal is to restate the thesis, summarize the essay’s body, and leave readers with a final impression.
Key aspects to remember:
- A strong essay conclusion restates, not rewrites your thesis from the introduction.
- A strong essay conclusion consists of three sentences minimum.
- It concludes thoughts, not presents new ideas.
Example source: Purdue OWL
So, here’s how to end an essay.
How to write a strong essay conclusion?
The number of sentences in your conclusion will depend on how many paragraphs (statements) you have in the essay.
Consider a standard structure for essay conclusions:
Sentence #1: restate the thesis by making the same point with other words (paraphrase).
- Thesis: “Dogs are better pets than cats.”
- Paraphrased: “Dogs make the best pets in the world.”
Sentence #2-4: review your supporting ideas; summarize arguments by paraphrasing how you proved the thesis.
- “Dogs are cleaner, better at showing affection, and ultimately easier to train.”
Sentence #5: connect back to the essay hook and relate your closing statement to the opening one; transit to human nature to impress a reader and give them food for thought.
- “Change your life for the better – go get a dog.”
Finally, combine all sentences to improved and expanded conclusion.
- Based on the above examples, it might look as follows (source):
“There is no doubt that dogs make the best pets in the world. They provide a cleaner environment for your home, are not afraid to show their feelings, and can be trained to do a variety of tricks and jobs. Every second that goes by, you are missing out on happiness. Get out of your chair and make a positive difference in your life – go get a dog!”
Also, you will need a transition word to make readers understand you are going to conclude. The most common are “In conclusion…”,“To sum up…”, and “As previously stated…”, but don’t use them! (If you don’t want to drive your teacher nuts, of course.)
Try “So…” instead. Or, visit the web page of John A. Dowell from Michigan State University to find more transition words for finishing an essay.
You’ve been hit by the structure of essay conclusions.
What about strategies to use for writing them?
Paraphrase the introduction to bring a full-circle to readers. Ending an essay with the same scenario might help to prove your point and create a better understanding.
“From the parking lot, I could see the towers of the castle of the Magic Kingdom standing stately against the blue sky. To the right, the tall peak of The Matterhorn rose even higher. From the left, I could hear the jungle sounds of Adventureland. As I entered the gate, Main Street stretched before me with its quaint shops evoking an old-fashioned small town so charming it could never have existed. I was entranced. Disneyland may have been built for children, but it brings out the child in adults.”
“I thought I would spend a few hours at Disneyland, but here I was at 1:00 A.M., closing time, leaving the front gates with the now dark towers of the Magic Kingdom behind me. I could see tired children, toddling along and struggling to keep their eyes open as best they could. Others slept in their parents’ arms as we waited for the parking lot tram that would take us to our cars. My forty-year-old feet ached, and I felt a bit sad to think that in a couple of days I would be leaving California, my vacation over, to go back to my desk. But then I smiled to think that for at least a day I felt ten years old again.”
Try looking to the future for emphasizing the importance of your essay and give readers food for thought. “When” and “if” are power words to support your points.
“Physical punishment can be a useful method of discipline. However it should be the last choice for parents. If we want to build a world with less violence we must begin at home, and we must teach our children to be responsible.”
You might want to amplify the main point of an essay or put it in a different perspective for setting a larger context. That would help readers gain a new vision on the topic and bring ideas altogether to create a new but related meaning.
“Finally, I feel that we cannot generalize about children or adults being better learners. It depends on the situation and the motivation of the person, and the level of enthusiasm he or she has for learning.”
“Society would be healthier if more people took part in sports of all kinds. We should continue to try to prevent accidents and injuries. However, we should also ensure that sports are challenging, exciting, and, above all, fun.”
How not to fail your essay conclusion?
With all of the above, you feel like a guru who writes essays that work, don’t you? The structure and strategies are clear, and nothing can stop you on the way toward high grades for college papers. Go for it!
But first a warning:
When writing a strong essay conclusion, be sure to avoid these teeny-tiny pitfalls able to sink your paper despite it was legen… wait for it…dary!
- Don’t write any new information. Your conclusion is about summarizing the thesis and statements.
- Don’t share personal thoughts unless you write a first-person opinion piece.
- Don’t restate each and all details. You have body paragraphs for that.
- Don’t just restate the thesis if you can provide some further – not new! – sophistication to original ideas.
- Don’t write lousy words in the conclusion, but use concise language instead.
Your essay needs a conclusion to drive main points and give understanding why it matters. Writing a strong finishing paragraph might be challenging, but a clear structure, together with several strategies to operate, provide room to work.
To end an essay like a boss, consider its type and audience. A conclusion is your last chance to impress readers and give them something to think about, so do your best to summarize statements and answer a “So what?” question the audience might have after reading your paper.
It’s all in your pitch.