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Writing Center

Understanding Writing Expectations

So What?

Whether writing for school, work, ministry, or another purpose, it is important to understand what is expected. Writing expectations will vary, and they may be presented in a detailed or brief way. Therefore, a writer must know how to unpack a writing prompt and ensure that all aspects have been covered. If a writer does not respond well to a given writing prompt, then readers (professors, colleagues, peers, etc.) may think that the writer has purposely left out information or is ignorant about the topic. Thus, it is important to know how to break down a writing prompt to make sure it has been thoroughly addressed so that the resulting written text will be well received by readers.

Summarized Explanation

  • Read the writing prompt thoroughly.
  • Dissect the writing prompt.
  • Create an outline based on the writing prompt.
  • Check the effectiveness of the final written text using the original writing prompt.

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Detailed Explanation

A writing prompt instructs someone to write about a given topic with specific expectations. A writing prompt might include assignment guidelines at school, presentation standards at work, or sermon templates at church. When a writer receives a writing prompt, he/she must read it closely at least two times. After this initial step, a writer can then begin to dissect the prompt. This involves pulling out the key components that the writer must respond to. The dissected material helps a writer create a briefpreliminary outline, which will be used as a guide for beginning the written text. Once the written text is finished, the writer should always return to the original writing prompt and ensure that the written text satisfies the requirements of the writing prompt.

Examples

Writing prompt for school:

Offer a comparative analysis of the two readings from this week’s lesson by comparing at least three literary devices present in both texts. The comparative analysis should include an introduction, body, and conclusion, and it should be at least three pages long. The comparative analysis should include additional support from the course textbook and this week’s lecture notes.

Read-throughs: Done

Dissection: Comparative analysis, 2 readings, 3 literary devices, 3-part essay, 3 pages, textbook, lecture notes

Outline:

Introductory Paragraph (0.5 pages)

Body Paragraphs (2 pages)

  • Paragraph 1: 1st literary device comparison
    • Support from readings 
    • Support from textbook
    • Support from lecture notes
  • Paragraph 2: 2nd literary device comparison
    • Support from readings 
    • Support from textbook
    • Support from lecture notes
  • Paragraph 3: 3rd literary device comparison
    • Support from readings 
    • Support from textbook
    • Support from lecture notes

Concluding Paragraph (0.5 pages)

Writing Prompt for Work:

Design a PowerPoint presentation to teach to new employees who need to review safety training. The presentation should be about 30 slides. The presentation should cover the four pillars of accident prevention in an office setting. Make sure to reference the training manual often. And the presentation should be engaging.

Read-throughs: Done

Dissect: PowerPoint, new employees, 40 slides, 4 pillars accident prevention, engaging

Outline:

Introduction (5 slides)

Body Section

  • Section 1: Pillar 1 (5 slides)
    • Support from the training manual 
    • Relevant engaging images
  • Section 2: Pillar 2 (5 slides)
    • Support from the training manual 
    • Relevant engaging images
  • Section 3: Pillar 3 (5 slides)
    • Support from the training manual
    • Relevant engaging images
  • Section 4: Pillar 4 (5 slides)
    • Support from the training manual
    • Relevant engaging images

Concluding Slides (5 slides)

Writing Prompt for Ministry:

Prepare a 10-minute promotional video for the new virtual Bible study for adults that will begin next month. The video should compel church members to register for the Bible study and invite their friends. And it should give them a preview of what to expect and explain how they should prepare for the study (materials, prayer, etc.).

Read-throughs: Done

Dissection: 10 minutes, video, virtual Bible study, adults, next month, register, invite, preview, prepare

Outline:

Introductory section (2 minutes)

Body section (7.5 minutes)

  • Why people should register
    • How to do it
  • Why people should invite their friends
    • How to do it
  • Why people should expect
    • How to prepare (e.g., materials and prayer)

Concluding Section (30 seconds)