Paragraphs serve as signposts, pointers that help guide readers through a piece of writing. A look at your favorite magazine will show paragraphs working this way: the first paragraph almost always aims to get our attention and convince us to read on, and subsequent ones often indicate a new point or a shift in focus or tone. Put simply, a paragraph is a group of sentences set off as a unit. Usually the sentences in a paragraph all revolve around one main idea. Editing Paragraphs
• Is there a sentence that makes the main idea of each paragraph clear? If not, should there be?
• Within each paragraph, how does each sentence relate to the main idea? Revise or eliminate any that do not.
• How completely does each paragraph develop its main idea? What details are used? Are they effective? Do any paragraphs need more detail? What other methods of development might be used? comparison and contrast? analogy?
• Does the first sentence of each paragraph let readers know what that paragraph is about? Does the last sentence in some way conclude that paragraph’s discussion? If not, does it need to?
• How does the introductory paragraph catch readers’ interest?
• How does the last paragraph draw the piece to a conclusion?
• Is each paragraph organized in a way that is easy for readers to follow? Are sentences within each paragraph clearly linked? Do any of the transitions try to create links between ideas that do not really exist?
• Are the paragraphs clearly linked to one another? Do any more links need to be added? From one paragraph to another, are any of the transitions artificial?
Focus on a main idea. An effective paragraph generally focuses on one main idea. A good way to achieve such paragraph unity is to state the main idea clearly in one sentence and then relate all the other sentences in the paragraph to that idea. The sentence that presents the main idea is called the topic sentence.
Announcing the main idea in a topic sentence The following paragraph opens with a clear topic sentence, and the rest of the paragraph builds on the idea stated in that sentence:
Our friendship was the source of much happiness and many memories. We danced and snapped our fingers simultaneously to the soul tunes of the Jacksons and Stevie Wonder. We sweated together in the sweltering summer sun, trying to win the championship for our softball team. I recall the taste of pepperoni and sausage pizza as we discussed the highlights of our team’s victory. Once we even became attracted to the same person, but luckily we were able to share his friendship.
Relating each sentence to the main idea Whether the main idea of a paragraph is stated in a topic sentence or is only implied, make sure that all other sentences in the paragraph contribute to the main idea. The first sentence in the following paragraph announces the topic. All of the other sentences clearly relate to that topic, resulting in a unified paragraph.
When I was a teenager, there were two distinct streams of popular music: one was black, and the other was white. The former could only be heard way at the end of the radio dial, while white music dominated everywhere else. This separation was a fact of life, the equivalent of blacks sitting in the back of the bus and “whites only” signs below the Mason-Dixon line. Satchmo might grin for days on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and certain historians hold forth ad nauseam on the black contribution to American music, but the truth was that our worlds rarely twined.
– MARCIA GILLESPIE, “They’re Playing My Music, but Burying My Dreams”
An effective paragraph develops its main idea by providing enough details to hold the readers’ interest. Without such development, a paragraph may seem lifeless and abstract.
A POORLY DEVELOPED PARAGRAPH
No such thing as “human nature” compels people to behave, think, or react in certain ways. Rather, from the time of our infancy to our death, we are constantly being taught, by the society that surrounds us, the customs, norms, and mores of our distinct culture. Everything in culture is learned, not genetically transmitted.
This paragraph is boring. Although its main idea is clear and its sentences hold together, it fails to gain our interest or hold our attention because it lacks any specific examples or details. Now look at the paragraph revised to include needed specifics.
THE SAME PARAGRAPH, REVISED
Imagine a child in Ecuador dancing to salsa music at a warm family gathering, while a child in the United States is decorating a Christmas tree with bright, shiny red ornaments. Both of these children are taking part in their country’s cultures. It is not by instinct that one child knows how to dance to salsa music, nor is it by instinct that the other child knows how to decorate the tree. No such thing as “human nature” compels people to behave, think, or react in certain ways. Rather, from the time of our infancy to our death, we are constantly being taught, by the society that surrounds us, the customs, norms, and mores of our distinct culture. A majority of people feel that the evil in human beings is “human nature.” However, the Tasaday, a “Stone Age” tribe discovered not long ago in the Philippines, do not even have equivalents in their language for the words hatred, competition, acquisitiveness, aggression, and greed. Such examples suggest that everything in culture is learned, not genetically transmitted.
Though both paragraphs argue the same point, only the second one comes to life. It does so by bringing in specific details from life. We want to read this paragraph, for it appeals to our senses (a child dancing; bright, shiny red ornaments) and our curiosity (who are the Tasaday?).
Use effective patterns of development.
Here are several common patterns you can use to develop paragraphs.
You may often need to write an entire paragraph in order to define a word or concept, as in the following paragraph:
Economics is the study of how people choose among the alternatives available to them. It’s the study of little choices (“Should I take the chocolate or the strawberry?”) and big choices (“Should we require a reduction in energy consumption in order to protect the environment?”). It’s the study of individual choices, choices by firms, and choices by governments. Life presents each of us with a wide range of alternative uses of our time and other resources; economists examine how we choose among those alternatives.
– TIMOTHY TREGARTHEN, Economics
One of the most common ways of developing a paragraph is by illustrating a point with one or more examples.
The Indians made names for us children in their teasing way. Because our very busy mother kept my hair cut short, like my brothers’, they called me Short Furred One, pointing to their hair and making the sign for short, the right hand with fingers pressed close together, held upward, back out, at the height intended. With me this was about two feet tall, the Indians laughing gently at my abashed face. I am told that I was given a pair of small moccasins that first time, to clear up my unhappiness at being picked out from the dusk behind the fire and my two unhappy shortcomings made conspicuous.
– MARI SANDOZ, “The Go-Along Ones”
Division and classification
Division breaks a single item into parts. Classification groups many separate items according to their similarities. A paragraph evaluating a history course might divide the course into several segments—textbooks, lectures, assignments—and examine each one in turn. A paragraph giving an overview of history courses might classify the courses in a number of ways—by time periods, by geographic areas, by the kinds of assignments demanded, by the number of students enrolled, or by some other principle.
We all listen to music according to our separate capacities. But, for the sake of analysis, the whole listening process may become clearer if we break it up into its component parts, so to speak. In a certain sense, we all listen to music on three separate planes. For lack of a better terminology, one might name these: (1) the sensuous plane, (2) the expressive plane, (3) the sheerly musical plane. The only advantage to be gained from mechanically splitting up the listening process into these hypothetical planes is the clearer view to be had of the way in which we listen.
– AARON COPLAND, What to Listen for in Music
Many people are seduced by fad diets. Those who have always been overweight turn to them out of despair; they have tried everything, and yet nothing seems to work. A second group to succumb appear perfectly healthy but are baited by slogans such as “look good, feel good.” These slogans prompt self-questioning and insecurity—do I really look good and feel good?—and as a direct result, many healthy people fall prey to fad diets. With both types of people, however, the problems surrounding such diets are numerous and dangerous. In fact, these diets provide neither intelligent nor effective answers to weight control.
Comparison and contrast
When you compare two things, you look at their similarities; when you contrast two things, you focus on their differences. You can structure paragraphs that compare or contrast in two basic ways. One way is to present all the information about one item and then all the information about the other item, as in the following paragraph:
You could tell the veterans from the rookies by the way they were dressed. The knowledgeable ones had their heads covered by kerchiefs, so that if they were hired, tobacco dust wouldn’t get in their hair; they had on clean dresses that by now were faded and shapeless, so that if they were hired they wouldn’t get tobacco dust and grime on their best clothes. Those who were trying for the first time had their hair freshly done and wore attractive dresses; they wanted to make a good impression. But the dresses couldn’t be seen at the distance that many were standing from the employment office, and they were crumpled in the crush.
– MARY MEBANE, “Summer Job”
Or you can switch back and forth between the two items, focusing on particular characteristics of each in turn.
Malcolm X emphasized the use of violence in his movement and employed the biblical principle of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” King, on the other hand, felt that blacks should use nonviolent civil disobedience and employed the theme “turning the other cheek,” which Malcolm X rejected as “beggarly” and “feeble.” The philosophy of Malcolm X was one of revenge, and often it broke the unity of black Americans. More radical blacks supported him, while more conservative ones supported King. King thought that blacks should transcend their humanity. In contrast, Malcolm X thought they should embrace it and reserve their love for one another, regarding whites as “devils” and the “enemy.” King’s politics were those of a rainbow, but Malcolm X’s rainbow was insistently one color—black. The distance between Martin Luther King Jr.’s thinking and Malcolm X’s was the distance between growing up in the seminary and growing up on the streets, between the American dream and the American reality.
Analogies (comparisons that explain an unfamiliar thing in terms of another) can also help develop paragraphs. In the opening sentences of the following paragraph, the writer draws an unlikely analogy—between dogs and laboratories—to introduce readers to an examination of what keeps laboratories young.
Like dogs, laboratories age considerably faster than people. But while dogs age at a factor of seven, I would say labs age at a factor of 10, which makes the MIT Media Lab 100 years old last month. When we officially opened our doors for business in October 1985, we were the new kids on the block, considered crazy by most. Even The New York Times called us “charlatans.” While I was slightly hurt at being referred to as “all icing and no cake,” it secretly pleased me because I had no doubt that computing and content would merge together into everyday life. Now, 10 years later, “multi-media” is old hat. The term appears in the names and advertising jingles of some of the most staid corporations. But becoming part of the establishment is a lot less fun than experiencing the risk and abuse of pioneering.
– NICHOLAS NEGROPONTE, “Being Digital”
Cause and effect
You can often develop paragraphs by explaining the causes of something or the effects that something brings about. The following paragraph discusses the effects of television on the American family:
Television’s contribution to family life has been an equivocal one. For while it has, indeed, kept the members of the family from dispersing, it has not served to bring them together. By its domination of the time families spend together, it destroys the special quality that distinguishes one family from another, a quality that depends to a great extent on what a family does, what special rituals, games, recurrent jokes, familiar songs, and shared activities it accumulates.
– MARIE WINN, The Plug-in Drug: Television, Children, and the Family
Paragraphs often serve to depict or explain a process, sometimes using chronology to order the stages in that process.
By the late 20s, most people notice the first signs of aging in their physical appearance. Slight losses of elasticity in facial skin produce the first wrinkles, usually in those areas most involved in their characteristic facial expressions. As the skin continues to lose elasticity and fat deposits build up, the face sags a bit with age. Indeed, some people have drooping eyelids, sagging cheeks, and the hint of a double chin by age 40 (Whitbourne, 1985). Other parts of the body sag a bit as well, so as the years pass, adults need to exercise regularly if they want to maintain their muscle tone and body shape. Another harbinger of aging, the first gray hairs, is usually noticed in the 20s and can be explained by a reduction in the number of pigment-producing cells. Hair may become a bit less plentiful, too, because of hormonal changes and reduced blood supply to the skin.
– KATHLEEN STASSEN BERGER, The Developing Person Through the Life Span
Consider paragraph length.
Paragraph length is determined by content and purpose. Paragraphs should develop an idea, create any desired effects (such as suspense or humor), and advance the larger piece of writing. Fulfilling these aims will sometimes require short paragraphs, sometimes long ones. For example, if you are writing a persuasive piece, you may put all your evidence into one long paragraph to create the impression of a solid, overwhelmingly convincing argument. In a story about an exciting event, on the other hand, you may use a series of short paragraphs to create suspense, to keep the reader rushing to each new paragraph to find out what happens next.
Reasons to start a new paragraph
• to turn to a new idea
• to emphasize something (such as an idea or an example)
• to take up a subtopic
• to start the conclusion
Make paragraphs flow.
A paragraph has coherence (or flows) if its details fit together clearly in a way that readers can easily follow. Here are five ways to achieve paragraph coherence.
Using spatial order
Paragraphs organized in spatial order look at something from top to bottom, left to right, or near to far. Spatial order is a common way of organizing descriptive paragraphs
Using chronological order
Paragraphs organized chronologically arrange events as they occurred, from the earliest event to later ones. Chronological order is used frequently in narrative paragraphs.
This type of organization is generally considered weak in academic writing, since you should be explaining what something means rather than what happened.
Using a general-to-specific pattern
Paragraphs organized in a general-to-specific pattern usually open with a general or abstract idea, which is followed by a number of more specific points that substantiate or elaborate on the generalization.
Generally speaking, these are going to be strong paragraphs in any essay, since they naturally suggest a progression of insight. You are moving to a more specific and therefore more insightful understanding of the topic or an important aspect of it.
Parallel structures can help connect the sentences within a paragraph. As readers, we feel pulled along by the force of the parallel structures in the following example:
William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” tells the story of a young boy trapped in a no-win situation. If he betrays his father, he loses his family. If he betrays justice, he becomes a fugitive. In trying to free himself from his trap, he does both.
Transitions are words such as so, however, and thus that signal relationships between sentences. Transitions help guide the reader from one idea to another. To understand how important transitions are in directing readers, try reading the following paragraph, from which all transitions have been removed.
A PARAGRAPH WITH NO TRANSITIONS
In “The Fly,” Katherine Mansfield tries to show us the “real” personality of “the boss” beneath his exterior. The fly helps her to portray this real self. The boss goes through a range of emotions and feelings. He expresses these feelings to a small but determined fly, whom the reader realizes he unconsciously relates to his son. The author basically splits up the story into three parts, with the boss’s emotions and actions changing quite measurably. With old Woodifield, with himself, and with the fly, we see the boss’s manipulativeness. Our understanding of him as a hard and cruel man grows.
We can, if we work at it, figure out the relationship of these sentences to one another, for this paragraph is essentially unified by one major idea. But the lack of transitions results in an abrupt, choppy rhythm; the paragraph lurches from one detail to the next, dragging the confused reader behind. See how much easier the passage is to read and understand with transitions added.
THE SAME PARAGRAPH WITH TRANSITIONS
In “The Fly,” Katherine Mansfield tries to show us the “real” personality of “the boss” beneath his exterior. The fly in the story’s title helps her to portray this real self. In the course of the story, the boss goes through a range of emotions. At the end, he finally expresses these feelings to a small but determined fly, whom the reader realizes he unconsciously relates to his son. To accomplish her goal, the author basically splits up the story into three parts, with the boss’s emotions and actions changing measurably throughout. First with old Woodifield, then with himself, and last with the fly, we see the boss’s manipulativeness. With each part, our understanding of him as a hard and cruel man grows.
Commonly used transitions
TO SIGNAL SEQUENCE
again, also, and, and then, besides, finally, furthermore, moreover, still
TO SIGNAL TIME
after a few days, after a while, afterward, as long as, as soon as, at last, at that time, before, earlier, immediately, in the meantime, in the past, lately, later, meanwhile, now, presently, simultaneously, since, so far, soon, then, thereafter, until, when
You want to pay particular attention to how you are using these temporal designators, because it has been my experience that when students are summarizing the plot of any work they tend to overuse these phrases. This would be a good way to determine whether a paragraph argues anything or is simply offering a summary.
TO SIGNAL COMPARISON
again, also, in the same way, likewise, once more, similarly
TO SIGNAL CONTRAST
although, but, despite, even though, however, in contrast, in spite of, instead, nevertheless, nonetheless, on the contrary, on the one hand . . . on the other hand, regardless, still, though, yet
TO SIGNAL EXAMPLES
after all, for example, for instance, indeed, in fact, of course, specifically, such as, the following example, to illustrate
TO SIGNAL CAUSE AND EFFECT
accordingly, as a result, because, consequently, for this purpose, hence, so, then, therefore, thereupon, thus, to this end
TO SIGNAL CONCESSION
although it is true that, granted that, I admit that, it may appear that, naturally, of course
TO SIGNAL SUMMARY, REPETITION, OR CONCLUSION
as a result, as has been noted, as I have said, as we have seen, as mentioned earlier, in any event, in conclusion, in other words, in short, on the whole, therefore, to summarize
Distinguishing among some very similar common transition words can be difficult. The difference between however and nevertheless, for example, is a subtle one: while each introduces statements that contrast with what comes before it, nevertheless emphasizes the contrast whereas however tones it down. Check the usage of transitions in a dictionary which provides usage notes for easily confused words (i.e. The American Heritage Dictionary; The Oxford English Dictionary).
Work on opening and closing paragraphs.
Even a good piece of writing may remain unread if it has a weak opening paragraph. In addition to announcing your topic, an introductory paragraph must engage readers’ interest and focus their attention on what is to follow.
One common kind of opening paragraph follows a general-to-specific sequence, ending with a thesis. In such an introduction, the writer opens with a general statement and then gets more and more specific, concluding with the most specific sentence in the paragraph—the thesis. The following paragraph illustrates such an opening:
Throughout Western civilization, places such as the ancient Greek agora, the New England town hall, the local church, the coffeehouse, the village square, and even the street corner have been arenas for debate on public affairs and society. Out of thousands of such encounters, “public opinion” slowly formed and became the context in which politics was framed. Although the public sphere never included everyone, and by itself did not determine the outcome of all parliamentary actions, it contributed to the spirit of dissent found in a healthy representative democracy. Many of these public spaces remain, but they are no longer centers for political discussion and action. They have largely been replaced by television and other forms of media—forms that arguably isolate citizens from one another rather than bringing them together.
– MARK POSTER, “The Net as a Public Sphere”
In this paragraph, the opening sentence introduces a general subject, sites of public debate throughout history; subsequent sentences focus more specifically on the roles public spaces have played in democratic societies; and the last sentence presents the thesis, which the rest of the essay will develop.
OTHER EFFECTIVE WAYS OF OPENING
• with a quotation ("The gothic is defined as...")
• with an opinion ("Victor should be aware that the monster's threats...")
• with an argument or interpretation ("Shelley criticizes Victor's technological....")
A good conclusion wraps up a piece of writing in a meaningful and memorable way. If a strong opening paragraph arouses readers’ curiosity, a strong concluding paragraph satisfies the reader that you have knowledgeably investigated and analyzed an important aspect of the work.
A common strategy for concluding is to restate the main idea (but not word for word) and then move to several more general statements. The following paragraph uses this strategy, opening with a final point of contrast, specifying it in several sentences, and then ending with a much more general statement:
Lastly, and perhaps greatest of all, there was the ability, at the end, to turn quickly from war to peace once the fighting was over. Out of the way these two men behaved at Appomattox came the possibility of a peace of reconciliation. It was a possibility not wholly realized, in the years to come, but which did, in the end, help the two sections to become one nation again . . . after a war whose bitterness might have seemed to make such a reunion wholly impossible. No part of either man’s life became him more than the part he played in this brief meeting in the McLean house at Appomattox. Their behavior there put all succeeding generations of Americans in their debt. Two great Americans, Grant and Lee—very different, yet under everything very much alike. Their encounter at Appomattox was one of the great moments of American history.
– BRUCE CATTON, “Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts”
OTHER EFFECTIVE WAYS OF CONCLUDING
• with a quotation
• by stressing the wider implications of the topic you have addressed
A Matter of Style: Reiterating
One pattern you may recognize from political discourse and some forms of preaching is known as reiterating. In this pattern, the writer states the main point of a paragraph and then reiterates it in a number of different ways, hammering home the point and often building in intensity as well. This strategy finds particular power in the writing and preaching of Martin Luther King Jr., as in the following example:
We are on the move now. The burning of our churches will not deter us. We are on the move now. The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us. We are on the move now. The beating and killing of our clergymen and young people will not divert us. We are on the move now. The arrest and release of known murderers will not discourage us. We are on the move now. Like an idea whose time has come, not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us. We are moving to the land of freedom.
– MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., “Our God Is Marching On”
Revising and Editing
Whether you are writing a wedding invitation, an email to a client, or a history essay, you will want to make time to revise and edit what you write. Revising involves taking a fresh look at a draft, making sure that it includes all the necessary information and that the presentation is clear and effective. Editing involves fine-tuning your prose, attending to details of grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling. Finally, careful proofreading aims at a perfect copy.
If at all possible, put the draft away for a day or two to clear your mind and get some distance from your writing.
Rereading for meaning
At this point, don’t worry about small details. Instead, concentrate on your message and how clearly you have expressed it. Note any places where the meaning seems unclear.
Remembering your purpose
Does your draft achieve its purpose? If you wrote for an assignment, go back to it to see that you did what was asked. If you set out to prove something, make sure you have done so. If you intended to propose a solution to a problem, make sure you have indeed set forth a well-supported solution rather than, for instance, an analysis of the problem.
Considering your audience
How appropriately do you address your audience? Think carefully about your audience’s experiences and expectations. Will you catch their interest, and will they be able to follow your discussion? Is the language formal or informal enough for these readers? Have you defined any terms they may not know? What objections might they raise?
In addition to your own critical appraisal and that of an instructor or supervisor, you may want to get response to either your printed or online draft from friends, classmates, or colleagues.
The following questions can be used to respond to someone else’s draft or to analyze your own. If you ask other people to evaluate your draft, be sure that they know your assignment, intended audience, and purpose.
Some Guidelines for Peer Response
• Purpose. Does the draft carry out the assignment? Does it accomplish its purpose?
• Title and introduction. Does the title tell readers what the draft is about? How does it catch readers’ interest? What does the opening accomplish? Does it make readers want to continue? How else might the draft begin?
• Thesis. What is the main idea? Is it stated explicitly? Should it be?
• Audience. How does the draft interest and appeal to its audience? Is it written at the right level for the intended readers?
• Supporting points. List the main points and review them one by one. How does each one support the thesis? Do any need to be explained more or less fully? Do any seem confusing or boring? Do any make you want to know more? Should any points be eliminated or added? How well is each point supported by evidence, examples, or details?
• Organization and flow. Is the writing easy to follow? Are the ideas presented in an order that will make sense to readers?
• Transitions. Are there effective transitions within sentences, between paragraphs, and from one idea to the next?
• Conclusion. Does the draft conclude in a memorable way, or does it seem to end abruptly or trail off into vagueness? How else might it end?
• Final thoughts. What are the main strengths and weaknesses of the draft? What might still be confusing to readers? What is the single most important thing you say in the draft? What will readers want to know more about?
Once you have revised a draft for content and organization, it is time to look closely at your sentences and words. Turning a “blah” sentence into a memorable one—or finding exactly the right word to express a thought—can result in writing that is really worth reading.
Examining your sentences
Good sentences keep readers engaged and ready for more. As with life, variety is the spice of sentences. You can add variety to your sentences by looking closely at their length, structure, and opening patterns.
Varying sentence length
Too many short sentences, especially one after another, can sound like a series of blasts on a car horn, whereas a steady stream of long sentences may tire or confuse readers. Most writers aim for some variety in length, breaking up a series of fairly long sentences with a very brief one.
Checking for sentences opening with it and there
As you go over the opening sentences of your draft, look especially at those beginning with it or there. Sometimes these words can create a special emphasis, as in “It was a dark and stormy night.” But they can also easily be overused or misused. Another, more subtle problem with these openings is that they may be used to avoid taking responsibility for a statement. The following sentence can be improved by editing:
It is necessary to raise student fees.
The university must...
"It is" is an empty subject-verb complex, and should almost always be deleted from your writing.
The words you choose allow you to put a personal stamp on your writing. Study your word choice carefully, making sure you get the most mileage out of each word. Because word choice is highly individual, general guidelines are hard to provide. Nevertheless, the following questions should help you think about the kinds of words you use:
• Are the nouns primarily abstract and general or concrete and specific? Too many abstract and general nouns can result in boring prose. To say that you bought a new car is much less memorable and interesting than to say you bought a new red convertible or a new Nissan.
• Are there too many nouns in relation to the number of verbs? "The effect of the overuse of nouns in writing is the placing of too much strain on the inadequate number of verbs and the resultant prevention of movement of the thought." In the preceding sentence, one tiny verb (is) has to drag along the entire weight of eleven nouns. The result is a heavy, boring sentence. Why not say instead, "Overusing nouns places a big strain on the verbs and consequently slows down the prose?"
• How many verbs are forms of be—be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been? If be verbs account for more than about a third of your total verbs, you are probably overusing them.
• Are verbs active wherever possible? Passive verbs are harder to read and remember than active ones. Although the passive voice has many uses, often your writing will be stronger, more lively, and more energetic if you use active verbs.
• Are your words appropriate? Check to be sure they are not too fancy—or too casual.
Using spell checkers and style checkers
While these software tools won’t catch every spelling error or identify all problems of style, they can be very useful. Most professional writers use their spell checkers religiously. Remember, however, that spell checkers are limited; they don’t recognize most proper names, foreign words, or specialized language and they do not recognize homonym errors (misspelling there as their, for example). Most commercial style checkers will highlight cliches, repetitions, or expressions like it is and there are.
Tone refers to the attitude that a writer’s language conveys toward the topic and the audience. In examining the tone of your draft, think about the nature of the topic, your own attitude toward it, and that of your intended audience. Check for connotations, or specific associations, of words as well as slang, jargon, emotional language, and the level of formality. Is your language creating the tone you want to achieve (humorous, serious, impassioned, and so on), and is that tone an appropriate one, given your audience and topic? You may discover from examining the tone of your draft that your own attitude toward the topic is different from what you originally thought.
Proofreading the final draft
Take time for one last, careful proofreading, which means reading to correct any typographical errors or other slips, such as inconsistencies in spelling and punctuation. To proofread most effectively, read through the copy aloud, making sure that punctuation marks are used correctly and consistently, that all sentences are complete, and that no words are left out. Then go through it again, this time reading backward so that you can focus on each individual word and its spelling. This final proofreading aims to make your written product letter-perfect, something you can be proud of.