7.3 Writing the Draft


This section of Ch. 7 will cover the following topics:

  • turning the thesis and outline into a draft
  • using topic sentences to generate content
  • choosing a title

If a writer just sits down and starts writing a draft, it is likely to be disorganized and unfocused.  The purpose of prewriting and organizing is to identify a topic, provide a clear direction, generate lots of useful details, and figure out the best organizational pattern to make your point before putting a ton of time into drafting.  With that start, writing the draft is much easier and the resulting document is clearer and more interesting.

Step 3: Drafting

Drafting is the stage of the writing process when you develop the first complete version of the document.  A draft essay will include the following:

  • an introduction that stimulates the audience’s interest, says what the essay is about, and motivates readers to keep reading
  • a thesis that presents the main point of the essay
  • a topic sentence in each body paragraph that states the main idea of the paragraph and connects that idea to the thesis statement
  • support (facts, examples, explanations) in each body paragraph that develops or explains the topic sentence
  • a conclusion that reinforces the thesis and leaves the audience with a feeling of completion

This basic format is valid for most essays you will write in college, including long ones.

The Body Comes First

Although many students assume an essay is written from beginning to end in one sitting, most well-written essays are built one section at a time, not necessarily in order, and over several sessions.

Write the body of your essay first, before you write the introduction.

This may seem odd.  Why write the middle before the beginning?  Because the body of your essay IS the essay.  Think of the introduction and conclusion as an appetizer and dessert for the main course.  The body of your essay is the meat, potatoes, and vegetables.  Besides, how can you write an introduction if you don’t yet know what you are going to introduce?  Write the body first.

The body of your essay is where you explain, expand upon, detail, and support your thesis.  Each point in your outline can be turned into a topic sentence, which then becomes a paragraph or two by adding details that clarify and demonstrate your point.

Work on the body of your essay in several separate sessions.  You’ll be surprised the kind of changes you want to make to something you wrote yesterday when you look at it again today.  Keep working on the body until it says what you want.

Exercise 1

Using the thesis and outline you created in Ch. 7.2 and following the instructions above, write the body of your essay.

Before you finish, review the information in Ch. 6.3 on topic sentences, supporting ideas, transitions, and body paragraphs.  Be sure that information is reflected in your body paragraphs.

Then move on to the next step.

Write the Introduction Second

The introductory paragraph has a very specific job: it attracts the reader’s interest and presents the thesis.  In a long paper, it can also supply any necessary background information or preview major points.

There are lots of ways to write a good introduction.  Read through the body of your essay one more time and think about what you could say to invite your reader in.  How could you make the reader curious?  Remember the different options for introductions that we looked at in Ch. 6.3:

  • Begin with a broad, general statement of the topic, narrowing to the thesis.
  • Start with an idea or a situation the opposite of the one you will develop.
  • Convince the readers the subject applies to them or is something they should know.
  • Use an incident or brief story–something that happened to you or that you heard about.
  • Ask questions so the reader thinks about the answers or so you can answer the questions.
  • Use a quotation to add someone else’s voice to your own.

As with the body, schedule at least two sessions to write your introduction.  Coming back to reconsider what you’ve said gives you a new perspective.

Exercise 2

Now, write your introductory paragraph.

  • Decide which technique from the list in Ch. 6.3 would work best to introduce your essay.
  • Draft your introduction, starting with a hook and ending with your thesis.

Work on your introductory paragraph until it is clear, focused, and engaging.  Insert it before your body paragraphs.

Then move on to the next step.

The Conclusion Is Next

Once you have put together your body paragraphs and attached your introduction at the beginning, it is time to write a conclusion.  It is vital to put as much effort into the conclusion as you did for the rest of the essay.  A conclusion that is unorganized or repetitive can undercut even the best essay.

A conclusion’s job is to wrap the essay up so the reader is left with a good final impression.  A strong concluding paragraph brings the paper to a graceful end.  We discussed several approaches in Ch. 6.3: philosophize, synthesize, predict.

Do not do any of the following:

  • use the phrase “In conclusion”
  • repeat your thesis
  • introduce a new idea
  • make sentimental, emotional appeals
  • directly address the reader

Exercise 3

Write a concluding paragraph for your essay.  Check Ch. 6.3 for guidance on what a conclusion should do.  Work on your conclusion until it is clear, focused, and engaging.  Insert it after your body paragraphs.

Then move on to the next steps.

The Title

Titles are a brief and interesting summary of what the document is about.  Titles are generally more than one word but no more than several words.

Like the headline in a newspaper or magazine, an essay’s title gives the audience a first peek at the content.  If readers like the title, they are likely to keep reading.

Go to Ch. 8 and look at the titles of the essays listed there.  Notice which ones are both engaging and informative.

Caution:  Don’t be too clever with a title.  A clear title is better than something creative but confusing.  Also, remember that “Essay 1” is not a title.

Adding Formatting

Once your draft is written, the document should be formatted.  The format of a document is how it is laid out, what it looks like.

An instructor, a department, or a college will often require students to follow a specific formatting style.  The most common are APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association).  Guides like Diana Hacker’s A Pocket Style Manual and websites like the Purdue Online Writing Lab can help you understand how formatting works.  Most writing classes, including this one, use MLA.

Below is an example of MLA formatting:

Example of a paper formatted in MLA styleHere is an explanation of the formatting example above:

  • Use standard-sized paper (8.5” x 11”).
  • Double-space all of the paper, from the heading through the last page.
  • Set the document margins to 1” on all sides.
  • Do not use a title page unless requested to do so by your instructor.
  • Create a running header with your last name and the page number in the upper right-hand corner, 1” from the top and aligned with the right margin.  Number all pages consecutively.
  • List your name, the instructor’s name and title, the course name and section, and the assignment’s due date in the heading on the top left of the first page.  (Notice the date is written day, month, year without commas.)
  • Center the essay title below the heading.  Follow the rules on capitalization in Ch. 3.2.  Do not increase font size, use bold, or underline.
  • Begin the paper below the title.  No extra spaces.
  • Indent paragraphs 1” from the left margin.

Exercise 4

Give your essay a title, and then format it correctly.

Submit this draft to the instructor.  Do not proceed to Ch. 7.4 until your draft has been approved.

Am I Finished Now?

The first draft of your essay is a complete piece of writing, but it is not finished.  The best writing goes through multiple drafts before it is complete.

The final steps of the writing process–revising and editing–are crucial to the quality of the final document (and the grade you receive).  During the next two steps, you will have the opportunity to make changes to your first draft.

For now, put your draft away overnight and look at it one more time before going on to the next step: revising.


  • The key structural parts of an essay are a thesis in an engaging introductory paragraph, multiple body paragraphs with supporting details, and a concluding paragraph that ends the essay gracefully.
  • Your outline guides the development of the body paragraphs.  Each main idea becomes the topic sentence of a new paragraph that is then developed with supporting details.
  • Write the introduction after the body paragraphs.  Write the conclusion last.
  • Titles should be clear and concise.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

1, 2, 3 Write! Copyright © 2020 by Gay Monteverde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.