The best way to write effective papers is a three-step writing process we like to call the 1) DOWN draft, 2) the UP draft, and 3) the DENTAL draft.
In a separate blog post, we talked about all the ways to get a first draft finished. Remember a first draft is just a draft, it can be riddled with mistakes! All you need is to finish it. The first of three steps in the writing process is the DOWN draft.
Again, it’s important to emphasize DOWN because many students edit while they write and get derailed. They start and stop and start and then never finish. The goal here is only to get words on the page and it is the most difficult stage for most.
The next step in the writing process is the UP draft which is when you fix up the DOWN draft with vertical editing and make sure the thesis is clear and supports the content. This stage is more involved. A common pitfall for many students is they meticulously go through their writing line by line only to later delete entire paragraphs because they are not relevant to the paper. Before you look at things at the sentence level (Horizontal Editing), it’s best to first make sure everything makes sense vertically. Vertical Editing means reading the thesis, then looking at the topic sentences and evidence presented in the paper along with the eventual conclusion to make sure whatever point needs to be made is made and every point is presented in the correct order. This is the most important step in the writing process because the point of writing is communicating an idea clearly to another person, and you need to make sure that there is a clear message for the reader.
The final stage is the DENTAL draft. Usually grammar and punctuation are the first things marked up by a teacher, but the most important priority is writing a coherent paper. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation can get in the way of this goal, so here is where you fix it.
The DENTAL draft is named after getting a cleaning at the dentist office. You go tooth by tooth and make each one perfect and then polish it. The DENTAL draft is important to come last because (and it is worth repeating because it happens so often) many students focus on their paper line by line but need to delete entire edited paragraphs if the thesis is not clearly supported. It saves SO MUCH TIME to start editing at the line level ONLY AFTER making sure the thesis and support for the points are present. Use this writing process to make sure there are no issues with your writing that could distract the reader from your message.
Write with passion and your reader will feel your interest and keep turning the pages. The UP draft, DOWN draft, and DENTAL draft are the keys in this writing process to polishing your writing. Write your first draft as fast as possible. Edit your second draft with a focus on logic and the reader understanding your points, whatever they are. Make your final draft have the best grammar, spelling, citations, and presentation. Three steps to really say something on the page. Now, go make it happen. Speak from your heart. Edit with your mind. Your reader is waiting!
My Learning Springboard is here to support you throughout the writing process. To organize writing coaching for yourself or your student, please contact Brad Hoffman or Faya Hoffman.
By Grant Bergland, MFA and Brad Hoffman, M.S.Ed. and Learning Specialist.