CoverObjectivesThe Writing ProcessAddressing the PromptPrewritingWritingRevisingOriginalityTimed Writing 1Integrated Writing 1Essay Shape and OrganizationIntroduction ParagraphsBody ParagraphsConclusion ParagraphsA Shifting StructureExample EssayTimed Writing 2Integrated Writing 2Descriptive EssaysExample Descriptive EssayPrewritingWriting: Word ChoiceSources: QuotingRevisingRevise a Descriptive EssayCreative WritingTimed Writing 3Integrated Writing 3Personal StatementsExample Personal StatementTypes of Personal StatementsOrganization For Comprehensive Personal StatementOrganization for Personal Statement with PromptRevisingWriting: DevelopmentExample Personal StatementMini-Writing: Formal EmailsTimed Writing 4Integrated Writing 4Problem-Solution EssaysExample Problem-Solution EssayPrewritingWriting: UnitySources: SummarizingRevisingRevise a Problem-Solution EssayMini-Writing: ReviewsTimed Writing 5Integrated Writing 5Argumentative EssaysExample Argumentative EssayPrewritingWriting: CohesionSources: ParaphrasingRevisingRevise an Argumentative EssayReflectionsTimed Writing 6Integrated Writing 6Using SourcesFinding SourcesCitationsReference Page

Addressing the Prompt

One of the most essential steps of writing is ensuring that you fully understand what you are being asked to write about. 

Verbs 

First of all, the verb used in the prompt is an important signal to you on how you need to write your essay. If you think carefully about the meaning of the verb, it will help you decide on your organization and you can use it to check that you included all of the necessary information.

Example Prompt Verbs

  • Describe your home city.
    • This topic is more general. You could approach it by describing the people who live in your city, history, architecture, popular tourist sites, or even the urban planning. 
  • Compare and contrast your home city and Provo, UT.
    • You need to explain similarities and differences. You must include both in order to completely respond to the prompt. This requires you to do a little more than describe the characteristics of the two places, you need to also make some judgements about them.
  • Summarize the speaker's thoughts about Provo, UT.
    • In this response, your supporting ideas should be limited to the content in the original source. You should not have any of your own ideas mixed into this answer. It should also be limited to the opinion about the city, not about any other area in Utah.
  • As the use of technology increases, there is a growing expectation that students have access to reliable high-speed internet for homework. However, homes and apartments nationwide have varying degrees of accessible internet (both in terms of infrastructure and cost). How do you think we should respond to this as a society? Support your position on this issue with reasons and examples.
    • The question is about more than your opinion. The idea of supporting your ideas implies that you need to bring in additional sources to add strength to your argument. If the prompt is timed, you would need to focus your support on general knowledge or personal experience to give reasons and examples.

1 Exercise: Prompt Analysis

  1. Take a look at these TOEFL Writing practice items from ETS 
  2. Identify the prompt for each writing task.
  3. Discuss what the prompt verb would require the writer to do? How would a successful response be organized?

Content

Next, you need to understand what content you are expected to include. The prompt may be very narrow because the topic is very specific. In other cases, the prompt may be very general and allow you space to make personal decisions about what supporting ideas to include.

Always remember to review the prompt throughout the writing process to make sure that the focus of your essay matches the same scope as the prompt.

Example Content Breakdowns

  • Describe your home city.
    • This topic is more general. You could approach it by describing the people who live in your city, history, archetecture, popular tourist sites, or even the urban planning. If you had the opportunity, it would be wise to clarify with the teacher if there is a more specific explanation of what aspect of your city should be described. 
  • Compare and contrast your home city and Provo, UT.
    • Again, this topic is fairly broad. You know you need to talk about what is the same or different, but it could again be about many different attributes of the two cities.
  • Summarize the speaker's opinion about Provo, UT.
    • In this response, your supporting ideas should be limited to the content in the original source. You should not have any of your own ideas mixed into this answer. It should also be limited to the opinion about the city, not about any other area in Utah.
  • As the use of technology increases, there is a growing expectation that students have access to reliable high-speed internet for homework. However, homes and apartments nationwide have varying degrees of accessible internet (both in terms of infrastructure and cost). How do you think we should respond to this as a society? Support your position on this issue with reasons and examples.
    • The content of this essay is restricted to internet accessibility for students specifically. Your focus should only be on the student population, not on others that also face challenges with internet access. Additionally, you need both reasons and examples as support, excluding one of those types of support would result in an incomplete response.

2 Exercise: Writing Prompts

Choose a topic (content) for your partner to write about. Choose a verb that identifies a specific task. You can use this resource (UARK Verb chart) to help select an appropriate verb for your prompt. Write a prompt and exchange it with a partner. Analyze your partner's prompt for the task and content that the writer should target.

Constraints

Finally, you should also look at any limitations included in the prompt. Constraints could include