Every personal essay, book chapter, newspaper article, magazine profile, scholarly research article—everything that you read in the English language is comprised of these parts:
2. Details and development
3. Organizational plan (invisible, but present in the writer’s mind and used to create a good piece of writing that makes sense to the reader’s mind)
4. Voice and tone
5. Sentence mechanics
6. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation
Your “Process Letter” will touch on four areas, so your letter will be five or six paragraphs long—you will have your letter’s introduction, a paragraph devoted to each of the following elements, and a conclusion. The elements you will write about are
1. Introduction of your response essay
2. Details and development you want to include in your response essay
3. Organizational plan you want to use in your response essay
4. Conclusion to your response essay
(Sentence mechanics and grammar, spelling, and punctuation are important, but they are “proofreading” items that a Smarthinking tutor can review.)
Get started by thinking about these questions. To write your “Process Letter,” use what you’ve learned about the entire writing process: create an idea map/outline of your answers to these questions, then draft your letter, let it set for a day or two, then return to it and make sure that it includes everything you want your instructor to know about your plans for your essay.
Here are some questions to get you started with your “Process Letter:”
1. What lesson do you want your readers to learn from your essay about your gifts and what you really need? OR What do you want your readers to understand about you and your values?
2. How will you revise your introduction to get your reader’s interest and to let him/her know how you’ll proceed through the essay?
3. How will you organize your essay so it presents your points in the best order possible?
4. What details and development are you going to use to build up your essay and make good, strong connections with your reader?
5. How will you conclude your essay to leave your reader with a strong statement about your perspective and why it’s important?
Remember that the purpose of this essay is to help you make conscious decisions, as a writer, about how you are going to revise and improve your written work.
Here is a sample “Process Letter.” You can download a copy from Doc Sharing, too:
Dear Ms. Q,
My essay on the Po Bronson article is important to me. It’s made me stop to think about what I’m doing with my life and what I want to give my family.
I understand how important an introduction to a paper is. This week, I want to make a great introduction! I will start my paper by telling a story about my father’s last two weeks of life. I stayed with my mother and helped her more than I ever thought I could. That tells my reader about my gift of listening and empathizing, which is something I offer the world. It’s a good way to start my essay because it gets the reader’s attention—maybe some of my readers have lost a parent. My plan is to make my introduction better by writing a couple of sentences at the end of the paragraph to explain how my story about my father connects to my essay’s whole purpose of talking about how we have to give the best of ourselves to our family.
To develop my essay, I’m going to go with a chronological order. I’m going to give two other examples of times when I listened to people in my family and helped them with problems. The first example comes from my teenaged years, then I’ll move to my adult years. Both examples rely on some anecdoting, so like my introduction, I’m going to tell little stories and explain how they relate to the topic and prove what I said about my gifts to the world. The stories will include some scene-setting and a little bit of dialogue so my reader can see and hear what I’m writing about.
The next half of my essay will pick up with “what I really need.” Family is the first thing that I really need, and since all of my examples in the first half of my essay have to do with family, I can transition to this section easily. To keep balance between the two halves of my essay, I’ll have two examples in the “what I really need” section, too. My plan is to relate both of my “what I really need” examples back to the two short stories I told about my gifts. I really need my sister’s love and support because I rely on her to help me make friends and to be cool, so I can relate what I need from her to what gifts I have to offer her. Then, I really need my husband’s practical skills and perspective on the world because he keeps me grounded, and I’m going to relate that back to my story about introducing him to classical music and art museums as one of my gifts. I think that relating what I need with what I can give is a really good way to show my values.
Finally, my conclusion will reflect back to my dad’s passing and how it came home to me, how important life and family are, and how I learned that we should give everything we’ve got to give because we don’t know when it could all be taken from us. I think that’s an important point to tell my reader and remind him or her to pick up the phone and call someone or stop by and visit them for no reason. We have to give the best of ourselves to the people who need us most—I really want to get that point across to my readers.