Hege Library & Learning Technologies

Guilford College Writing Manual

This is the official Guilford College Writing Manual. A collaboration between the English Department and the Hege Library.

An Overview

Perhaps the most important lesson a novice writer can learn is that writing is a process--a process containing numerous tasks, each of which has its own criteria for successful performance. The following list illustrates the sorts of tasks involved in a 10-page research paper:


  • picking a topic
  • preliminary reading
  • freewriting
  • incubation
  • determining the key question
  • observation
  • introspection
  • talking with people
  • library and Internet research
  • establishing a tentative thesis
  • generating material (more research if necessary)
  • analyzing notes in relation to tentative outline
  • developing the working outline
  • composing a "zero" (rough, rough) draft


  • writing and documenting a rough draft


  • analyzing adequacy of coverage
  • tuning up introduction and conclusion
  • translating writer-based prose to reader-based prose
  • revising syntax for rhythm, emphasis
  • tightening (eliminating wordiness)
  • sharpening (strengthening verbs, eliminating unnecessary jargon)
  • checking documentation, compiling "Works Cited"
  • typing final draft
  • proofreading

This list presents the tasks linearly for convenience. In reality, of course, they do not occur so neatly. The process is recursive: it is likely that you will invent throughout, and most of us find it hard to avoid rewriting even when we are sketching a preliminary draft. It is probably better to think of the three stages--prewriting, writing, and rewriting--as strands in a rope rather than box cars on a train.