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DRAPES to elaborate in writing

Using D.R.A.P.E.S. to elaborate in writing

Dec 15, 2012 - Posted to  Essay Writing
Sometimes even great writers get stuck. Whether its a short story, persuasive essay, or general expository piece, the words may just stop flowing at any given moment. For situations like this the DRAPES technique can be implemented as a writer's safety net, and a rescue mechanism for shallow essays. Each letter in this popular acronym represents some common but very useful ideas to expand any piece of writing.
When developing paragraphs, a mixture of things are required to add variety, depth, and interest to the finished product. Some of the most basic of these things are dialogue, rhetorical questioning, analogy, personal experience, examples, and statistics-the words that are associated with the DRAPES acronym. Even though generally taught in middle school, all the concepts in this technique are actually quite effective for a range of writing levels and audiences.


Dialogue can work well with several types of writing but sometimes may be left out due to it seeming out of place or inappropriate. But beyond its appropriateness is really whether or not the writer is skilled enough to deliver it effectively- regardless of the framework that contains it. An example of this is with news stories. Dialogue has the potential of strengthening and intensifying any news story but is not often used by journalist, as is well known, perhaps due to fear of misquoting an individual or for other styling reasons. Similarly, outside of traditional fictional stories and plays dialogue is also used in creative nonfiction and may manifest itself in the form of a summarized or composited statements.

Some things to keep in mind when using dialogue

  • dialogue develops character so use wording that reveals personality and voice
  • dialogue helps move the story along; a lot can be understood from a brief conversation
  • keep dialogue short and pragmatic to avoid boring the reader
  • think carefully about when you need to summarize a conversation and when you need to write it out
  • try to do more of 'showing' rather than 'telling'; allow a character's qualities to be revealed through speech rather than author explanations

Rhetorical questions

Ah, what is a rhetorical question? A question that is not met to get answered. So what's the point of asking? As can be seen by these rhetorical questions, the purpose behind them is to promote productive thoughts and contemplations. And considering the rescue mission of the DRAPES method, a rhetorical question, as well as its accompanied answer, can provide you with great additions to your paper or essay.

So what do you need to know about rhetorical questions?

  • unless you can safely assume that the reader knows the answer to the question you should provide an answer to it
  • rhetorical questions are generally not permitted in any type of formal academic writings
  • they are often used to convince or persuade and are great for providing emphasis
  • overusing them can annoy the reader and take away from your writing


Writing without analogies is like a cream pie without the filling. Variety in explanation and description are hallmarks of great writing. Additionally, it's important to use analogies to support and explain main ideas. If done properly they can simplify complex ideas and help clear up any misconceptions.
Analogies are used to compare two things for the purpose of clarification. And since things may be said in several different ways, in most cases, the more thought the goes into each avenue and approach the more engaging and useful it is to the reader. Therefore remember to choose items that show a strong relationship relevant to the point or message that is being conveyed, even if it requires a little more hard work and effort.

Tips on using analogies

  • analogies rely on the reader's previous knowledge base
  • items being compared should be common ones that match the cultural context of the reader
  • if an analogy is not very clear you may risk confusing the reader even more
  • avoid lengthy drawn out analogies that only serve a minimal benefit
  • similar to rhetorical questioning, analogies should not be overused

Personal experience

Short stories or anecdotes are used quite often to allow the reader to better comprehend the material being presented. Sometimes even a reader that is 'turned off' by an uninteresting or complicated topic will liven up and pay attention when an interesting story comes to surface. Whether the story is extremely exciting or not, really isn't the main point, but just that it's a 'break from the discourse' that gives the reader a realistic interpretation of the topic, is what really counts. *Though just as it may excite, it can also turn away readers if it is extremely long or only marginally related to the topic.
In addition to writing a traditional anecdote, personal experience can also be given by simply stating one or two things that you already know about a topic without going into great detail, or by sharing a relevant fact gained from your experiences.

Using personal experience to enhance your writing

  • writing about yourself and your own experiences is a lot easier than making something up
  • personal experiences connect you with your readers and can even be a form of self-disclosure
  • try to be conscious when writing and not use things that are too personal, inappropriate or that you may regret later


Included in many writing techniques, the example is used to illustrate and further explain or elaborate topic sentences, statements, claims, or general concepts and ideas. Examples coupled with other facts and figures are some of the very basic foundations of evidential support for many structured writings such as research papers. An effective example is clearly paints a picture for the reader allowing them to better grasp the purpose and objective of a writing. Likewise, physical examples for abstract concepts are a crucial ingredient in the learning process. If writing about any idea that may be hard to grip, several useful examples should be placed strategically throughout the paper to improve comprehension for the reader.


The last component of the DRAPES rescue scheme is the incorporation of statistics. Similar to examples, statistics are often used as a piece of supportive evidence to validate a judgment or claim. The key difference is that statistics may actually provide more reliability to your text as they are sometimes more effective than examples due to the research that is involved in formulating them. This can be seen in the heavy use of statistics in both persuasive and argumentative papers. In these types of papers the point is to drive home the claim that is being supported with the aide of raw numbers and data. Likewise, people seem to love statistics because they often represent the reality of a situation rather than just what is perceived by others.*Though statistics may be troublesome if the credibility of the source of the study or data is questionable.

Things to keep in mind when incorporating statistics

  • be sure to reference your figures; if you're able to simply incorporate the name of the source right before the statistic then due so:
    For example; "According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics..."
  • non-reputable sources are usually a waste of your time as well as the readers
  • try to only use basic statistical data unless you know and understand more complex statistical procedures and calculations
  • since statistics are so powerful try to only use them in places that will really enhance your argument
As detailed above, all of the elements of the DRAPES method are exceptional writing techniques and if properly implemented should improve any piece of writing, whether in secondary school or at the university level.
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