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Higher Order Concerns (HOCs) and Lower Order Concerns (LOCs)

Summary:

This handout discusses the common Higher Order Concerns (HOCs) and Lower Order Concerns (LOCs) in writing.

When you are revising your papers, not every element of your work should have equal priority. The most important parts of your paper, often called "Higher Order Concerns (HOCs)," are the "big picture" elements such as thesis or focus, audience and purpose, organization, and development. After you have addressed these important elements, you can then turn your attention to the "Lower Order Concerns (LOCs)," such as sentence structure and grammar.

Keep in mind, however, that moving between HOCs and LOCs might be a natural process for you. Experienced writers may begin with HOCs and dip into the LOCs as they revise. Inexperienced writers may revise systematically through the HOCs and then the LOCs. In addition, LOCs, such as punctuation and spelling, may affect HOCs. For example, if the first sentence of your introductory paragraph is riddled with punctuation and spelling errors, readers may not move far enough into your work to get to your thesis statement. In these cases, you should address LOCs first.

Some HOCs

Thesis or focus:

  • Does the paper have a central thesis?
  • Can you, if asked, offer a one-sentence explanation or summary of what the paper is about?
  • Ask someone to read the first paragraph or two and tell you what he or she thinks the paper will discuss.

Audience and purpose:

  • Do you have an appropriate audience in mind? Can you describe them?
  • Do you have a clear purpose for the paper? What is it intended to do or accomplish?
  • Why would someone want to read this paper?
  • Does the purpose match the assignment?

Organization:

  • Does the paper progress in an organized, logical way?
  • Go through the paper and jot down notes on the topics of the various paragraphs. Look at this list and see if you can think of a better organization.
  • Make a brief outline. Does the organization make sense? Should any part be moved to another part?
  • Ask someone to read the paper. At the end of each paragraph, ask the person to forecast where the paper is headed. If the paper goes in a direction other than the one forecasted by the reader,

    is there a purpose for it, or should you rewrite?

Development:

  • Are there places in the paper where more details, examples, or specifics are needed?
  • Do any paragraphs seem much shorter and in need of more material than others? (For more help, see our page on paragraphing.)
  • Ask someone to read the paper and comment if something is unclear and needs more description, explanation, or support.

Some LOCs

Sentence structure, punctuation, word choice, spelling

  • Are there a few problems that frequently occur? Keep a list of problems that recur and check for those.
  • Read the paper aloud watching and listening for anything that sounds incorrect.
  • Ask yourself why you put punctuation marks in certain places. Do you need to check any punctuation rules? (For more help see our handouts on punctuation.)
  • For possible spelling errors, proofread backwards, from the end of a line to the beginning.
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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.