How to Write a Process or How-To Essay

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How-to essays, also known as process essays, are much like recipes; they provide instruction for carrying out a procedure or task. You can write a how-to essay about any procedure that you find interesting, just as long as your topic fits the teacher's assignment.

Steps for Writing a Process Essay

The first step of writing your how-to essay is brainstorming.

  1. Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper to make two columns. Label one column "materials" and the other column "steps."
  1. Next, begin to empty your brain. Write down every item and every step you can think of that will be needed to carry out your task. Don't worry about trying to keep things in order yet. Just empty your head.
  2. Once you've noted every fact you can think of, start to number your steps on your brainstorming page. Just jot a number beside each item/step. You may need to erase and scribble a few times to get the order right. It's not a neat process.
  3. Your next job is to write an outline. Your essay could contain a numbered list (like you are reading now) or it could be written as a standard narrative essay. If you are instructed to write a step-by-step without using numbers, your essay should contain all the elements of any other essay assignment: an introductory paragraph, a body, and a conclusion. The difference is that your introduction will explain why your topic is important or relevant. For example, your paper about "How to Wash a Dog" would explain that dog hygiene is important for your pet's good health.
  1. Your first body paragraph should contain a list of necessary materials. For example: "The equipment you will need depends somewhat on the size of your dog. At the very minimum, you will need dog shampoo, a large towel, and a container large enough to hold your dog. And, of course, you will need a dog."
  1. The next paragraphs should contain instructions for following steps in your process, as enumerated in your outline.
  2. Your summary explains how your task or process should turn out if it is done correctly. It may also be appropriate to re-state the importance of your topic.

What Can I Write About?

You may believe that you are not expert enough to write a process essay. Not true at all! There are many processes that you go through every day that you can write about. The real goal in this type of assignment is to show that you can write a well-organized essay.

Read over the suggested topics below for a little inspiration:

  • How to make a perfect paper airplane
  • How to dye your hair
  • How to wear makeup
  • How to survive a weekend with family
  • How to play basketball

The topics are endless!