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Answering Writing Prompts: Writing Review Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

How To Answer A Writing Prompt

Step 1: What Kind of Prompt Is It?

The first thing you want to do when answering a writing prompt is to determine which of the three types of prompts it is. This will help you instantly, because you'll know if your essay should be explaining something, telling a story, or persuading someone to agree with something. Let's use the following prompt as an example.

Imagine that you've been asked to design a park in your neighborhood. Think about what you would include in your park. How would the space be laid out? How will people in the neighborhood use the park? What kinds of plants would you use? Explain what your park design would look like.

You know that this is an expository prompt because you are being asked to explain something.

Step 2: What's the Topic?

Once you have identified the type of prompt with which you are dealing, your next step is to figure out what the prompt is asking you to write about. In other words, what is the topic? You've already determined that our sample prompt is an expository prompt. So, you will be explaining or describing something in your essay. But what will you be explaining or describing?

Imagine that you've been asked to design a park in your neighborhood. Think about what you would include in your park. How would the space be laid out? How will people in the neighborhood use the park? What kinds of plants would you use? Explain what your park design would look like.

The underlined portions of the prompt show you the topic. You are being asked to explain what your park design will look like. Your topic is a design for your neighborhood park.

Step 3: What about the Topic?

Now that you know what the topic is, you need to make sure you know what you are supposed to be writing about that topic. It's not enough to know that your topic is a design for your neighborhood park. Reading the prompt carefully will tell you exactly what you should be writing about the topic that's been introduced.

Imagine that you've been asked to design a park in your neighborhood. Think about what you would include in your park. How would the space be laid out? How will people in the neighborhood use the park? What kinds of plants would you use? Explain what your park design would look like.

The prompt has given you questions to think about before you start writing. The answers to these questions are what you are going to say about the topic. You're going to be explaining your park design idea, so you will need to include a description of not only what the park will look like physically, but also how it will be utilized by your neighbors.

Inside Track

Whenever you can, mark up the prompt. Circle sentences or phrases that stand out. Underline sections that seem important.

Step 4: Write!

You know the topic, and you know what you're going to write about that topic, so now you're all set to write. Just go through the steps outlined in this book. Start by doing some prewriting, webbing, and organizing, and then outline and start writing your essay. If you have a time limit in which to write your essay, you may need to cut these steps short, but we'll talk about that in the next chapter. When you're done writing, don't forget to make sure you have a thesis statement as well as well-constructed paragraphs with topic sentences.

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