Prewriting is the first stage of the writing process, and using effective prewriting strategies will set you up for success from start to finish.
What is prewriting?
Prewriting is the process of thinking through and planning what you’re going to write. It includes a wide variety of strategies, from reading to brainstorming to diagramming or outlining. The prewriting process helps you come up with new ideas and organize them for optimal communication.
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Why prewriting is important
Schools at all levels typically place a lot of importance on helping students develop prewriting skills because they’re a vital element of good academic writing. At the same time, they’re extremely useful for business writing, manuscript writing, and just about any other type of writing you can think of.
Preplanning your composition ensures you think through your topic carefully. It also helps you make sure you’ve covered every point you intend to and is an effective way to organize your thoughts.
Here’s our list of prewriting techniques. Recognizing that we all have different thought patterns and ways of learning, we’ve included a broad range of strategies along with prewriting examples to show you how they might work.
To write about something, you need to understand what you’re writing about and how you want to do so. Asking the right questions can help you accomplish that.
Asking questions about the writing project
- What topics am I interested in?
- Who am I writing for?
- What kind of writing style should I use?
Asking questions about the topic
- What is the prevailing opinion on this topic?
- What information is missing about this topic?
- How reliable are the existing sources?
- Is one view stronger than another, and if so, how?
Asking the 5 W’s + H
These six questions are taught in journalism, and they can help you think through the basics of your topic, leading to deeper understanding.
A lot of inspiration comes from the work other people have done, so gathering diverse perspectives is one of the key prewriting activities. The idea is not to copy previous work but to build on it by becoming well informed on your topic so you can add a new perspective. Here are three ways to gather information:
- Reading – articles, studies, books
- Researching – search engines, PubMed, Google Scholar, JSTOR, QuillBot’s research tool
- Listening – audiobooks, podcasts, YouTube videos, lectures
To brainstorm most effectively, create a setting that inspires you. For example, you might go sit in nature; head to a dim, quiet library; put on some background music; or sit at a desk with some clean sheets of paper and a set of colorful markers.
Then try some of the brainstorming strategies below, which are all the same basic idea in different forms. You can choose the ones that fit best with your way of thinking and learning. Forget about grammar and spelling, and just focus on pulling ideas out of your head.
Listing – writing down everything you can think of about your topic in list form
Mapping/clustering – writing down a main idea, then drawing branches connecting more specific aspects of that idea
Freewriting – writing down everything that comes to mind in paragraph form, no matter how insignificant or unrelated
Drawing – creating images of your thoughts, sometimes called sketchnotingImage Source
Talking – saying all your thoughts out loud, possibly recording them to listen to later, or having a conversation with a friend about your topic
Looping – repeating the brainstorming process with a focus on one of the points you came up with while doing the strategies above, such as focusing on the character of Brutus in the example
Using AI – entering a term related to your topic into an AI tool to generate ideas
AI can be a brilliant way to come up with ideas when they just don’t seem to be flowing. The outlines, opposing viewpoints, examples, and other outputs that you get from an AI tool like the one in QuillBot’s Co-Writer can help you through writer’s block or point you in the right direction.
For many of the prewriting strategies above, it can be helpful to write your ideas down on sticky notes, index cards, popsicle sticks, or other objects that you can move around and rearrange as needed.
Another way to think through your ideas before writing is to compare them. The following are some common comparison strategies for prewriting.
Pros and cons – Pros are the good or positive aspects of a thing, while cons are the bad or negative aspects. You can compare them to improve your understanding or arrive at a viewpoint, like this:
Venn diagram – A Venn diagram is a visual way to compare how things are alike and different.
Side-by-side comparison – In a side-by-side comparison, you think about different elements and compare them next to each other. Here’s an example:
Once you’ve brainstormed plenty of ideas, but before you begin writing, you’ll need to arrange them into a logical flow. These are some prewriting strategies to improve organization.
Outlining – arranging ideas in a vertical list, typically with multiple levels, to show their logical progression
Storyboarding – arranging ideas in a storytelling format, using images and a sequential flow
A storyboard looks similar to a comic strip. You can use it to show the progression of your paper from one idea to the next.
Diagramming – arranging ideas in a diagram that shows your logical progress from one idea to the next
Many types of diagrams can help you organize your ideas, such as the examples below.
How to use prewriting techniques to improve your writing
So often, just getting those first few words onto the page is the toughest part of writing. By learning the prewriting strategies that fit you best, you can stop being intimidated by the blank page, enjoy a limitless flow of ideas, and then arrange them in a way that makes sense to your readers.
Breaking the writing process into steps during the prewriting stage makes a writer’s work so much easier, but there are even more ways to simplify the task. QuillBot provides writing tools that are not only free but easy to use and widely accessible. Why not enter your text in the Paraphraser, see what ideas AI can give you in the Co-Writer, or root out errors with the Grammar Checker?
With fantastic prewriting and editing tools like those provided by QuillBot, you’re sure to succeed.
What is the purpose of prewriting?
Prewriting helps you generate and organize ideas so that your writing will be complete, cohesive, and communicative.
What is a prewriting technique?
A prewriting technique is a method of planning what you’ll write, such as brainstorming or outlining.
What are two types of prewriting?
One common type of prewriting is brainstorming, which includes strategies like listing and clustering. Another popular type is questioning, which involves asking questions about the topic to generate writing ideas.
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