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8 Steps in Writing a Process Paragraph

by Jennifer Spirko

A process paragraph tells how to do something or explains how something happened. For example, it might instruct readers how to sell an item on Ebay, or it might explain how coral atolls form. You must break the process into separate, specific steps and order them logically. A reader should be able to use a correctly written process paragraph to fully understand and, if applicable, recreate the process.

Planning and Prewriting

Writers often skimp on the first two steps in writing a process paragraph, but these steps provide the foundation for a successful essay. Planning can be done formally, as an outline, or informally. Decide what process the paragraph will explain and determine your audience; you will use different terminology in writing for beginners and for experts. Prewriting takes different forms; your instructor may have a preferred method. Common methods include brainstorming, list-making and journalists’ questions. You may move between planning and prewriting as you refine the topic. Think of prewriting as the inspiration part of the process, and planning as structuring that inspiration toward a workable paragraph.

Topic Sentence

The third step is writing a topic sentence, which is usually the first sentence of a paragraph. The topic sentence names the process in terms your readers will understand. Perhaps more importantly, the topic sentence should make it clear why this process is important or interesting; in other words, why your readers should care about how atolls form, or why they would benefit from learning how to sell items on Ebay.

Process Steps

Any process paragraph follows a series of stages, and the fourth and fifth steps of writing one require you to divide the process into parts and then to order them appropriately. Each step must be simple enough for your readers to follow. Most process paragraphs show these steps in the order in which the reader should do them. Think of the steps as a recipe that readers can follow. The sixth step in writing a process paragraph is to develop each of these points with enough explanation or examples to make them clear to readers. A recipe, for instance, might instruct readers to cream butter and sugar together until the mixture is pale yellow; this specific detail tells readers what they need to know to successfully accomplish the process.

Revision and Editing

The final two steps in writing a process paragraph are easy to overlook, but they can make the difference between a successful paper and a failed one. When you revise the paragraph, examine the content for any illogical breaks in the process, insufficiently explained details or unclear descriptions. Test your work; try to perform the process yourself, following the steps as written, or have a friend do so. When you are confident the content is clear and accurate, then you should edit the paragraph. Read it over carefully, looking for mistakes of style, grammar and punctuation; some writers benefit from reading out loud or having a friend read it out. Fix any errors that you find for a more polished paragraph.

About the Author

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.

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