What is Writing?

To write is to put down the graphic symbols that represent a language one understands, so that others can read these graphic symbols if they know the language and the graphic representation.[1] Understanding the definition of writing, many linguists have presented the definition of writing variously. Davies in his book  “Success in English Teaching” says that writing is probably the linguistic skill that is least used by most people in their native language.[2] Furthermore, Gould states that:

            “In short, writing is not private; it is always a form of social dialogue, a way of talking to someone. Writing is a discovery process, a way of finding out what you are thinking and what you want to say in particular situation.”[3]

Hart also gives more definition about writing, he says that writing is  a process of building larger units from smaller ones. that is, the writer uses  words to make sentences, sentences to make paragraphs, and paragraphs to make compositions-letters, reports, college themes.[4]

From those definition of writing above, it can be inferred that writing is a language skill which is used to communicate indirectly with other people. Therefore, since the people are not physically present, we must write as clear and precise as possible. It means through writing we are able to shares ideas, arouse feelings, persuade and convince other people. The ability to write well is also an asset in most careers. The search for a job usually requires a letter of application and a resume. A poorly written letter of resume invites rejection.[5]

General Purposes of Writing

       Although there are other writing purposes (for example, to entertain or to express oneself), most of the writing will be to inform or to persuade.

  1. To inform. Often your chief or only aim will be to provide information to your reader. Your assumption is that your reader knows little or nothing about the topic on which your wish to provide information.
  2. To persuade. In persuasive writing, your aim is to convince your reader to adopt a particular position, to take a particular action, or to do both. If, in a letter to your local newspaper, you oppose plans to build a shopping mall near your neighborhood, your purpose is persuasion.[6]

Kinds of Writing

       Being familiar with some kinds of writing is required for students who want to be good at writing skill. Thomas Cooley (1982) proposes several kinds of writing. They are as follows:

  1. Writing to inform : Exposition

       The main purpose of this kind of writing is to inform. Writing that aims to inform or explain in this way is often called “exposition”, from the latin word exponere, meaning “to place out”.

       Expository prose attempts to place out, or arrange, the world before us for examination, like exhibits at a fair or gallery. It answers the journalistic questions that reporters traditionally put to the world: who, what, when, where, how, and why?

  1. Writing to convince : Persuasion and Argumentation

       A persuasive writing has the shape of logical argument is often called argumentation. The kind of persuasive writing may be said to appeal more to the head than to the heart. Instead of exhorting readers to action or belief in a cause, it seeks to convince them that a particular line of reasoning is valid and applicable.

  1. Writing to create : Narration and Description

       Narration is writing that tells a story. It focuses upon what happened. Our uncharitable discharge is largely narrative.

       Good description can hope to do the same for people, places, and objects. Descriptive writing appeals directly to our physical senses. It tells us what the hospital room of test subject, No.331, for example, looks, feels, smells and even tastes like.

  1. Writing to express the self : Journals,  Autobiographies, Personal Essays

       The underlying purpose of this kind of writing is psychological release, one of the motives behind diaries, journals, private letters, and some other autobiographical forms.

       To a degree, all personal writing gives vent to the writer’s inner self. It is thus “expressive” in the root sense of allowing the ego to “push out”.[7]

Components of Writing

       In teaching of writing activities, a teacher is expected to be able to recognize the general components of writing; content, form, grammar, style and mechanics. Haris (1974:68-69) states the five general components of writing. He says:

     “Although the writing process has been analyzed in many different ways, most teachers would probably agree in recognizing at least the following five general components:

  1. Content: the substance of the writing the ideas expressed.
  2. Form: the organization of the content.
  3. Grammar: the employment of grammatical forms and syntactic patterns.
  4. Style: the choice of structures and lexical items to give a particular tone or flavor to the writing.
  5. Mechanics: the use of the graphic conventions of the language.[8]

Meanwhile, David Nunan (1989:38)says:

            “Successful writing then involves:

–          mastering the mechanics of letter formation;

–          mastering and obeying conventions of spelling and punctuation;

–          using the grammatical system to convey one’s intended meaning; to reflect given/ new information and topic/ comment structures;

–          polishing and revising one’s initial efforts;

–          selecting an appropriate style for one’s audience.”[9]

       From those statements above, it can be seen that a good writing is the writing which involves the mastery of the mechanics, the letter formation, spelling and punctuation, the use of grammatical system, and the selection of the appropriate style for the readers.

Writing Learning Activities

       Writing is considered as the teaching activity which spends most time in the classroom. Because of the limitation of the time in the classroom, the teacher often gives writing as the homework for the students. Frequently, writing is regarded  as the status of homework. In relation to the writing learning activities, Harmer (1991) prints out:

“It is often easier to provide opportunities for spoken communication in the classroom than it is for the written medium. Frequently writing is relegated to the status of homework. This is a pity  since writing, especially communicative writing, can play a valuable part in the class.”[10]

        From the statement above, it is clear that writing has little opportunity in the classroom. Good writing should have some basic skills, a good deal of practice and some specific training. Paul Davies states that good writing skills usually develop from extensive reading, some specific training, and a good deal of practice. Writing involves the following basic skills:

–          hand writing or typing

–          spelling

–          constructing grammatical sentences

–          punctuation[11]

       in addition to recognizing some basic skills, students should also often do some writing activities in the classroom. Teachers of English can help students practice writing by giving some instructional for writing activities, such as:

  1. The sentences in the following paragraph have been jumbled. Write them out in the correct order.
  2. Finish the following sentences in a way that makes the underlined word clear. For example:

     An expert is someone who ……..

  1. The following story is written in the present tense, rewrite it in the past.
  2. We have come to an exciting point in the story. Write down what you think will happen next, and why.
  3. For a survey on child education in this country: could please state your main criticisms of the way you were brought up?[12]

The Writing Process and Process Writing

(Anthony Seow)

Process Writing

We need to systematically teach students problem-solving skills connected with the writing process that will enable them to realize specific goals at each stage of the composing process.

4 basic writing stages

o     Planning

o     Drafting

o     Revising

o     Editing

1   PLANNING (Pre-writing)
Group Brainstorming
Ø  Group members spew out ideas about the topic.
Ø  .students form words related to a stimulus supplied  by the teacher.
Rapid Free Writing
Ø  Individual students freely and quickly write down single  words and phrases about the topic.
Wh- Questions
Ø  Students generate who, why, what, where, when and  how questions about a topic.
Ø  Teacher – student, student – student.
Ø  Students/ writers focused on the fluency of writing  and are not preoccupied with grammatical accuracy or the neatness of the draft.
Ø  Responding intervenes between drafting and revising
Ø  Students review their text on the basis of the  feedback given in the responding stage.
Ø  Students are engaged in tidying up their texts as  they prepare the final draft for evaluation by the teacher.
Ø  They edit their own or their peer’s work for  grammar, spelling, punctuations, etc.
Ø  Analytical à based on specific  aspect of writing ability.
Ø  Holistic à based on a global  interpretation of the effectiveness of that piece of writing.
Ø  Publishing
Ø  Sharing
Ø  Reading aloud
Ø  Displaying texts on notice boards
Imitative, Writing  down
Ø  Imitate from the text (English letters, words, or  sentences)
Ø  dictation
Intensive, Control  Writing
Ø  Change present tense to past tense
Ø  Guided Writing
Ø  Dicto-comp
Ø  Note-taking
Ø  Diary or journal writing
Ø  Dialogue journal (student records thought)
Display writing
Ø  Shot answer exercises
Ø  Essay examinations
Ø  Research reports
Real writing
Ø  Academic
Ø  Vocational/technical
Ø  Personal à diaries, letters,  post cards, notes,  personal messages,  etc.
Ø  Dialogue journal (student records thought)

[1] ….., Language Teaching (A  Scientific Approach), Mc Graw-Hill, Inc. 1974. p143
[2] Paul Devies,. Success in English  Teaching. Oxford University Press. 2000, p. 96
[3] Eric Gould, et. Al, The Act of  Writing, Random House, New York. 1989. p. x-xi
[4] Andrew W. Hart & James A. Reinking.  Writing for Career Education Students. St. Martin’s Press. Inc. 1986. p.2
[5] Andrew W .Hart. ibid. p.2
[6] Andrew W. Hart. Ibid. p 3
[7] Thomas Cooley, Guide to Writing.  W W. Northon & Company. New York-London. 1992. p. 18-22
[8] David P. Haris, Testing English as  the second language, Tata Mc. Graw-Hill, 1974. p. 68-69
[9] Nunan, ibid. p. 38
[10] Jeremy Harmer, The Practice of Language  Teaching. LONGMAN. 1991, p. 139
[11] Paul Davies, ibid. p.96
[12] Penny Ur, ibid. p.163