The addition of just a few transitional words in the passage above helps the writerindicate how the different parts of the passage are logically related and strengthensthe "flow" of the sentences.
Three Problems to Avoid
Transitional words and phrases help strengthen writing, but they can be misused.Below are three things to be wary of as you bring transitional words and phrasesinto your essays.
Make sure the logical connections are clear as you use transitions.
Because transitions indicate relationships between words and ideas, they can bemisused if the relationship indicated by the transitional words is unclear or doesnot exist.Example: George's wife stands at the window and looks out at the rain falling onthe empty streets. For example, she sees a cat huddled under a table in the rain.("For example" does not make sense here because the woman seeing the cat isnot a clear "example" of anything in the first sentence.)Example: George's wife decides to go out into the rain to get the cat.Consequently, George sits in bed reading his book. ("Consequently" doesnot make sense here because it is unclear how George sitting in bedreading is a consequence of the woman deciding to get the cat.)
Avoid the overuse of transitions.
Transitions are supposed to guide readers through your writing, but overuse oftransitional words and phrases can have the opposite effect and can make yourwriting confusing.Example: Writing an essay can be challenging. However, there are techniquesthat can make the process a little easier. For example, taking plenty of notes onthe subject can help the writer generate ideas. Therefore, note-taking is animportant "pre-writing" strategy. In addition, some people "free-write," writingquickly for ten or twenty minutes to see what ideas arise. However, taking notesand free-writing are only the beginning. Ideas must eventually be organized in alogical way. Consequently, an outline can help the writer make sense of therough material generated through the note-taking and free-writingprocess. Therefore, writing an outline is another important step in the writingprocess. However, some writers are able to conceptualize a sense of logicalorder for their ideas without actually writing an outline. Nevertheless, thesewriters seem to have some kind of outline in their minds. In addition, an outlineshould help the writer formulate a thesis for the essay. Consequently, an outlinecan help give focus to the essay. (This passage could be stronger with fewertransitional words and phrases. Especially when the transitions are used at thebeginnings of sentences, they can become annoying or even confusing toreaders if they are overused.)
- Determine the purpose and structure of the process analysis essay.
- Understand how to write a process analysis essay.
The Purpose of Process Analysis in Writing
The purpose of a process analysis essay is to explain how to do something or how something works. In either case, the formula for a process analysis essay remains the same. The process is articulated into clear, definitive steps.
Almost everything we do involves following a step-by-step process. From riding a bike as children to learning various jobs as adults, we initially needed instructions to effectively execute the task. Likewise, we have likely had to instruct others, so we know how important good directions are—and how frustrating it is when they are poorly put together.
Writing at Work
The next time you have to explain a process to someone at work, be mindful of how clearly you articulate each step. Strong communication skills are critical for workplace satisfaction and advancement. Effective process analysis plays a critical role in developing that skill set.
On a separate sheet of paper, make a bulleted list of all the steps that you feel would be required to clearly illustrate three of the following four processes:
- Tying a shoelace
- Parallel parking
- Planning a successful first date
- Being an effective communicator
The Structure of a Process Analysis Essay
The process analysis essay opens with a discussion of the process and a thesis statement that states the goal of the process.
The organization of a process analysis essay typically follows chronological order. The steps of the process are conveyed in the order in which they usually occur. Body paragraphs will be constructed based on these steps. If a particular step is complicated and needs a lot of explaining, then it will likely take up a paragraph on its own. But if a series of simple steps is easier to understand, then the steps can be grouped into a single paragraph.
The time transition phrases covered in the Narration and Illustration sections are also helpful in organizing process analysis essays (see Table 10.1 “Transition Words and Phrases for Expressing Time” and Table 10.2 “Phrases of Illustration”). Words such as first, second, third, next, and finally are helpful cues to orient reader and organize the content of essay.
Always have someone else read your process analysis to make sure it makes sense. Once we get too close to a subject, it is difficult to determine how clearly an idea is coming across. Having a friend or coworker read it over will serve as a good way to troubleshoot any confusing spots.
Choose two of the lists you created in Note 10.52 “Exercise 1” and start writing out the processes in paragraph form. Try to construct paragraphs based on the complexity of each step. For complicated steps, dedicate an entire paragraph. If less complicated steps fall in succession, group them into a single paragraph.
Writing a Process Analysis Essay
Choose a topic that is interesting, is relatively complex, and can be explained in a series of steps. As with other rhetorical writing modes, choose a process that you know well so that you can more easily describe the finer details about each step in the process. Your thesis statement should come at the end of your introduction, and it should state the final outcome of the process you are describing.
Body paragraphs are composed of the steps in the process. Each step should be expressed using strong details and clear examples. Use time transition phrases to help organize steps in the process and to orient readers. The conclusion should thoroughly describe the result of the process described in the body paragraphs. See Chapter 15 “Readings: Examples of Essays” to read an example of a process analysis essay.
Choose one of the expanded lists from Note 10.54 “Exercise 2”. Construct a full process analysis essay from the work you have already done. That means adding an engaging introduction, a clear thesis, time transition phrases, body paragraphs, and a solid conclusion.
- A process analysis essay explains how to do something, how something works, or both.
- The process analysis essay opens with a discussion of the process and a thesis statement that states the outcome of the process.
- The organization of a process analysis essay typically follows a chronological sequence.
- Time transition phrases are particularly helpful in process analysis essays to organize steps and orient reader.
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