There comes a time in every person’s life when they have to teach another person how to do something. In a college composition class, they require that you write a process essay, but the methods on how to do this are just too boring to read through. If you had some easier, more interesting directions on how to write this kind of essay, you could benefit and even profit from the knowledge gained. Whether it is as simple as making a sandwich or as complex as purifying seawater, there are still many ways to describe a process in essay form. This essay will show you how to write a process essay that will amaze your teachers and teach you skills that will go with you forever.
For starters, let me tell you that I have been writing for a LONG time, and you are probably going to think that I am just someone who has copied these steps from the book just to get an easy A. If you have fallen into this line of thinking, you are dead wrong. What I have done is taken the steps in the book and expanded upon them using my own ideas and methods. These same methods have gotten me countless As and Bs on essays, and I highly recommend using some of these techniques in other types of essays as well. So now that I have proven that I am not a plagiarist and I have the a skill to pay the bill, lets continue on to the steps!
The first step is to think of a topic. Brainstorming is the first technique you must learn. Take any piece of paper you can find (notebook paper works well), and list some things you would like to write about in your essay. If you are thinking about explaining how to bake a cake, you should try and write down part of the steps and connect them to each other so that category is separated from any others on the page. Some people may just focus on making one category right away, and others may make several categories before they finally choose a topic that they like. In any case, the importance of brainstorming is to get your mind thinking about what you want to write about. Try to fill the page with your ideas until your brain hurts, but don’t go overboard because you might pop a blood vessel. Once you have chosen a topic and are happy with the ideas you’ve come up for it, you are ready for the next step.
Step two is all about organization. This is where you want to take all the ideas from your brainstorming sheet and list them in easy to understand steps. You do not want your steps to be TOO specific or vague because you will lose the interest of the reader. Try to find a happy medium where your steps are easily understandable and as complete as can be. List the main topics for your essay, which will basically be your steps, and number them in Roman numeral form. Make subtopics explaining more about them, using numbers like 1, 2, 3 and so on. If you want to make SUB sub-topics, you can use letters like a, b, or c. You could even go crazy and make quintuple-sub subtopics with squares and triangles numbering them, but I don’t suggest having more than one list of subtopics under every step. Process essays MUST be easy to understand, and going crazy with subtopics only makes it a lot more confusing (and will probably make your paper suck as well). An example of a main topic would be baking the pie with three subtopics labeled baking time, oven temperature and removing the pie. You should try and have at least three sub-topics underneath your steps, although some might only need one. Try to remember that when writing any paper, quality always rules over quantity. Another technique that will help you to write your outline is visualization. If you can visualize in your mind the steps needed in your process, it will help you to write them down in a correct and specific order. After you are happy with your organization, you are now ready to write a rough draft.
Rough drafts are desperately needed before you write your essay. I suggest always writing at least one rough draft per writing assignment, although some people may need more than that. The purpose behind writing a rough draft is so you can edit and rewrite a final draft that will not contain the mistakes of the first (if any are found). The first thing you should do is think of a title for your paper. You want the title to either summarize what your paper is about or jump out and grab the reader’s attention. Two good titles for an essay on baking a cake would be ‘How to Bake a Delicious Cake’ and ‘Cooking with the Pillsbury Doughboy’. Once you have chosen a title, the rest of the rough draft is ready to be written.
The first paragraph should be your introductory paragraph. Write about a common use for your process and try to make it sound interesting to the audience. If you present your process in a friendly and productive way, your reader will gain interest in your paper and actually get to the end without falling asleep. In a process essay, it is important to list some of your credentials in your intro paragraph. If the writer of a process essay can’t prove that he or she excels in their topic, what good is following the steps of an amateur? When you have proven once and for all that you rule at baking cakes or calculating mathematical algorithms, you are ready to write about your process.
You should have at least one paragraph after your intro paragraph explaining the steps in your process, although you could have many more than one (this paper contains 7 paragraphs all about my steps). You can separate the paragraphs as you see fit, for example ingredients, then preparation, then cooking. Try to keep all of your steps in order because you would not want someone to hurt him or herself, especially if you put that part about wearing the mountain-climbing harness into the last paragraph when it SHOULD have been mentioned first. Speaking of hazards, are there any warnings the reader should know about in your steps? If so, include them alongside your steps so you can’t be blamed if someone does something unsafe like white-water rafting without a helmet on. If you get stuck thinking about what to write next, you can always look back on your outline to find out exactly where you are in your process. Finally, try to use as few sentences as possible in your paragraphs to make the steps simple and understandable, not complex and confusing. Once your steps are laid out in paragraph form, you are ready to write the final paragraph.
The last paragraph will be your conclusion. Like the introduction, present your conclusion in an interesting way, and make sure your sentences are to the point. Your conclusion should try to state some kind of hidden meaning behind why you have pointed this process out or prove once and for all that your process is very useful. What I want to warn you about before we move onto the next step is the downfall of a good paper, which could rely on a poorly written intro or conclusion. Make sure they are both relevant with each other and the piece. A lot of times, throwing jokes into the intro or conclusion is sometimes like breaking the ice or sealing a deal, so don’t be afraid to use your humor in your papers! After you are done writing your rough draft, you should begin the process of proofreading and editing.
This part of the process is very tricky, so be sure to follow ALL of the steps in this paragraph. If you do not, your rough draft will not improve much and your final draft will seem unfinished and may contain errors that you have overlooked. Start by reading your essay aloud to yourself to point out verbally some ‘odd-sounding’ sentences. Sometimes, if you read through your essay too fast, you will not catch all of the spelling mistakes. Be sure to take it SLOW! Computers, although very handy, can miss important spelling or grammar mistakes, so be sure to double-check ALWAYS! The next thing to do is get a friend, relative or teacher to briefly read over your paper and evaluate it. It is important to make sure that your ‘peer-editor” will be critical and helpful (rather than someone who will humor you with a good response just to get into your pants). Most of the time, they will be able to see the mistakes you have missed in your rough draft so that you may correct them and write a final draft. Edit your rough draft so that all of your mistakes are corrected, and make sure to add to or subtract from your rough draft as you see fit to make your process flow smoothly. After reading over your paper a few times, ask yourself if it is interesting from beginning to end, if it explains the steps clearly and specifically, and if the intro and conclusion paragraphs work well with the entire piece. Once you have written a final draft on a clean piece of paper with your name on it, your teacher’s name, the date, class, and title on the top, you are ready to pass it into your teacher and receive that A you’ve worked so hard for.
And now you know how to write a process essay MY way. I’m sure that many cookbook writers and fix-it authors make thousands of dollars by writing books using techniques similar to what I have just shown you. If you use these techniques wisely, you will surely go far in college and beyond. These skills will also prevent you from fumbling all over your words next time you are trying to show someone how to do something. Just think of your 'How To” writing skills and it will be as easy as taking candy from a baby! (Check out my next process essay for more information on taking candy from babies.)
Written by Quincy St. James
Plagiarist: someone who uses another person's words or ideas as if they were his own.