Writing and reading terms

Writing Terms and Definitions

Double-entry journal (DEJ). In this kind of journal, you write down in the left-hand column brief quotes, a quick summary of an idea that interests you, first impressions. In the right-hand column you have a chance to respond to your writing in the left-hand column–argue with the author, say what it reminds you of, think about an implication, take off on what the author says. See example.

Drafting. The process of writing several drafts should leave you with a sense of having moved forward in your thinking about an idea. Below you will see what is generally expected in a first, second, or later draft. However, it is important to recognize that each person and each essay is unique. Some writings feel nearly finished after the second draft, while others could go through four or more drafts to feel finished.

Essays in 1201. You will write five essays, each of which will go through at least a first and second draft. Each draft must follow MLA format, be typewritten (double-spaced, with 1 inch margins) and stapled. It is strongly recommend that you keep a copy of all drafts and revisions since papers can get lost. In addition to saving your draft on your C or D drive, create a back-up file on the Z drive.

First draft. This is often very exploratory. You’re just getting a sense of what your big idea is. If your first draft feels almost finished, then you’re producing an essay for an in-class essay exam and you’re not writing about something complex enough. On the other hand, don’t turn in just one or two pages of focused freewriting. The first draft should be a serious attempt to present an idea with some evidence.

Focused freewriting. This is writing to help you get in touch with your attitudes about an assignment or your thoughts about an issue. You may also use this on your own to get into any assignment. Focused freewriting is usually public; that is, you may be expected to share it, at least after you edit it. Like freewriting, though, it is to be continuous and uncensored; you must only stick to the topic. The purpose is to help you get in touch with ideas and feelings that may be important for considering a particular assignment or problem.

Freewriting. This writing may be used to start off class. It simply means writing continuously without censoring what comes out. This writing is private and doesn’t have to be handed in. The point of this writing is to help you become more fluent writers, much as a musician might do warm-up exercises.
Informal Writing. Informal writing gives you a chance to just “go with the flow,” to explore your thoughts, unload your feelings, reflect on how things are going, try to make sense of something–all without worrying about how well you’re writing. Informal writing is not graded against certain academic criteria or for grammar, as the formal essays are; rather, what is important is how engaged you are in the writing. For example, it’s better to write passionately and thoughtfully about how much an essay bothered you than write in a bored, perfunctory way about the ideas and form of an essay.

Loop writing. This is a type of writing invented by Peter Elbow that helps you further develop your own thinking starting from various places in something you’ve already written. You write stories, dialogues, prejudices, etc. that take off from a word or phrase or paragraph in some informal writing or a draft. Later you think about how you might use this loop writing to discover another point of view, bring in relevant personal experience, make your argument more complex.

Metatext. This is what you write after you’ve completed the draft of a formal essay. It may include several things: (1) the story of how you wrote this draft, (2) what you feel you have accomplished so far, (3) where you feel you have a problem, (4) how you might solve the problem, (5) what else you want to think about in the essay.

Reading responses. Writing in response to a reading gives you a chance to say what you think about what someone else has written. It’s not a summary of the article or story, although you might begin with a summary to help you capture the essence of a piece. Rather, it’s a time to say where you agree or disagree, what you liked or disliked about the style. It’s also a time for you to piece together what you think a difficult text is all about. You may also say what the article or story reminds you of.

Primary source. This is a source from which you draw your own conclusions about a question or topic, not a source in which the author is drawing his/her own conclusions. For instance, if you read Shakespeare’s Hamlet and make a number of observations and come to your own conclusion about whether Hamlet is truly mad, Hamlet is a primary source. However, if you read an essay about Hamlet by a literary critic and use it to help come up with an idea for your own essay, you would be using a secondary source. (See secondary source.)

Secondary source. This is a source that focuses at least in part on the very question or topic that you’re focusing on. For example, the critic Edward Hubler makes his own comments on Hamlet’s madness, which you might consider as you develop your own ideas. Hubler’s essay is a secondary source. The primary source is the text of Hamlet itself, though. In science, the experiment would be the primary sources; articles by other psychologists are secondary sources. In history, the diaries and wills of people living during a certain time period are examples of primary sources; articles by other historians are secondary sources. (See primary source.)

Second draft. The second draft involves re-seeing or re-thinking the ideas in your first draft and/or reconsidering how you present your ideas to the reader. Thus, it is not just a matter of “fixing” wording or punctuation or even of adding and subtracting a few sentences.

Third and fourth drafts (usually optional). While this draft may go through some of the same kinds of changes that your first draft went through to become your second draft, here you will focus more on elegance of presentation, including sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and word choice. If you know you’re only going to write two drafts, you will need to attend to this sentence-level editing in the second draft.