The pre-writing phase

An essential part of producing a text, and, overall, making the writing process more efficient, is to follow some pre-writing steps, which involve research and three other important aspects:

Defining the purpose of the text

Why are you writing this text? Are you trying to explain something? Are you trying to present a certain argument? While this may or may not be explicit, for example in assignment instructions, as a writer you still need to take responsibility for your text, and be clear about the purpose of your own text. Doing so will help guide your reading and planning, as well as the structuring and writing of your own text.

Establishing who the audience is

Who are you writing for? Who is your audience? Why are they going to read this text? What is interesting or important for them? What do they already know? How much do they need to know? What expectations will your audience have in terms of structure and format? How are they going to read the text/hear your speech?

As writers and presenters, we strive to make our communication meaningful for our target audience. As such, our intended audience – our readers/listeners – determine what is interesting and relevant. They determine whether a description is coherent (whether it is logical and understandable), or incoherent. Put simply, the better you know your intended audience, the more effective your communication.

Selecting and organising the information

Our intended audience influences how we select and organize the information we find in the pre-writing phase. How are you going to organise your information in an appropriate way for your particular audience with your specific purpose? What are the typical ways of structuring information within your context? (e.g. within your field, in a specific journal, for a specific group of people, etc.)

Effective planning and analysis in this early phase

By considering the above aspects and giving attention to the reader’s needs early in the writing process, your writing can communicate its information more efficiently. Once audience and purpose have been considered, a thesis statement can be constructed and written down and an outline sketched for the structure and organisation of your text. A significant benefit of including this pre-writing phase in your process is that you can avoid unnecessary and time-consuming revision (for example, to avoid irrelevant reading and/or writing), even though of course revision will always be a major part of your writing process.