Saturday, June 20, 2015

Writing Lessons for Students: Part Two -- The Plan: Using an Outline

Nardvark's English teacher is always telling him, "A good writer plans." Then she says some other stuff, but by that time Nardvark has become distracted by one of his moles or the strange white hair in the head of the kid sitting in front of him, so all he hears is "Blah blah blah." 

If, like Nardvark, all you hear coming out of your English teacher's mouth ninety percent of the time is "Blah blah blah," then you've come the right place. You are about to embark on Step Two of the writing process: Plan.

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For more information on Step One: Prewrite, click here.

For more about the writing process, click here.

Once you have finished pre-writing and you have a good list of ideas from brainstorming, free-writing, or showering, it is time to put them together into a plan. Of course during your pre-writing step, you decided what form of writing you're going to do. Or more likely your teacher told you. 

At this point, the Nerdvark would like to explain the difference between PRAGMATIC texts and CREATIVE texts. Essays, business letters, and newspaper articles are examples of pragmatic texts. Pragmatic texts are written to inform, to comment, to persuade, to argue, to instruct, to explain... Creative texts are written to entertain, and maybe to give an opinion. Examples include stories, poems, memoirs, and some blogs.

So pragmatic texts are usually structured in a more linear way than creative texts. For example, as you know, the basic five-paragraph essay format is paragraph 1 -- hook, background, thesis statement; paragraphs 2-4 -- point, example/evidence, explain; paragraph 5 -- summarize main points, conclude, WOW.  It's all very straight-forward and you can always follow the same structure, just plugging in your ideas, points, etc.  Therefore the best way to plan a pragmatic text is to use an outline.



Nardvark never plans his writing because he doesn't know which plan is best for which type of writing.

Here, Nerdvark outlines a pragmatic text, a letter to the editor, about an article he read on the internet recently. To read the article, click here.

Nerdvark is going to use three paragraphs -- introduction, body, and conclusion -- for his letter. See how he jots down his ideas in point-form in his outline:

1. intro: 
     -misleading
     -idiotic
2. body:
     -speculative:
            "estimates",
            "speculates", 
            "appears to have been..."
     -no sources or links
     -only "evidence" very low-quality image
     -video doesn't work
     -no comment from NASA, scientists
     -no other articles, anywhere
     -written by a "paranormal examiner"!?
3. concl:
     -just made up
     -irresponsible reporting
     -should be ashamed
     -is this guy sniffing glue?

Now Nerdvark is ready to write a scathing letter to the editor in the DRAFTING step of the writing process. After he revises and edits it, he will send it to the "Examiner" newspaper that ran that ridiculous article in case any of their readers actually took it seriously.

Join us next time to find out how to plan creative writing.










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