Tips for Writing an Essay

Throughout your many years of school, you will never avoid the essay assignment.  This will be thrown at you over and over and over – so many times that you’ll eventually look back and find yourself in disbelief that you’ve actually written that many essays.  Whether you’re analyzing literature for an English class, writing personal statements for college applications, or taking a stance on an issue for an ACT writing task, you are going to need the same set of fierce writing skills to compose a well-structured and logical essay.  Some people have a better knack for writing than others and those natural inclinations cannot be taught – but there are certain mechanics that if taken seriously, can allow anybody to put together a solid piece of writing.

Identify the point of each paragraph.  No matter how well-written an essay is, the greatness will be completely lost if the piece is dangerously unorganized.  No one likes to read through an essay that sounds like a person’s rambling inner thoughts with no clear direction.  So prior to beginning each paragraph, ask yourself exactly what point you are trying to get across and then spend the duration of that paragraph covering that specific topic and only that specific topic.  This will make your reasoning for the overall essay ten times easier to understand because the reader will be able to digest each part of it separately, one section at a time.  You are eliminating the chances of a reader getting lost and not being able to process the ideas smoothly.

Organize those points effectively.  If your paragraphs are not placed in a logical order, that confusion you were hoping to get rid of will, in fact, arise.  English teachers have been training you how to do this since elementary school, however, so it is likely you won’t have an issue with it.  But just incase, here’s a reminder of the simple 5-paragraph essay – a structure you can almost always count on to work for your essay’s purpose.  Begin with an introductory paragraph that gives some brief context for what overall topic you will be addressing and then wrap it up with a thesis statement summarizing the points you will be making in your body paragraphs and how they will prove your main claim on the big subject.  Follow up with these three separate body paragraphs, each addressing a point you identified previously; just make sure they are following each other in a subsequent order so each paragraph supports information from the one before it.  Finally, end with your conclusion paragraph, re-stating your thesis and summing up what was said in your body paragraphs.  Describing the elements of this well-known essay structure may seem silly, but it’s actually beneficial to be thoroughly reminded of its aspects since you may naturally want to breeze through it and unintentionally end up forgetting some of its key steps.

Have a Thesaurus open and handy (a book or the website).  Especially when you’ve been writing for hours on end and are getting tired and bored, you’ll be more likely to repeat words too frequently.  As you are writing each individual sentence, it may not seem like a bad idea to describe things as “intriguing,” but when you look back and read through every sentence at a normal pace and see that word over and over, it will just be awkward and hurt the smooth flow you want your essay to have.  So if you find yourself wanting to describe your points with the same handful of adjectives, go to your helpful resource for synonyms and save your essay from mediocrity.

Read your words aloud.  You will get such a better grasp of how your essay sounds and comes across if you speak your words out loud.  It will give you a great idea of how the essay sounds off paper and in the mind of a person reading it.  While you’re at it, do your best to put yourself in the shoes of the teacher or proctor who will be grading it so you can keep their mindset prominent as you digest these words.  After all, what matters is that it sounds good to them since they’re the ones judging it.  Another tip to successful writing – think about your audience.

Proofread and edit.  It is perfectly understandable that you’ll be extremely anxious to dot and cross those last i’s and t’s and turn this essay in the moment you have finished.  But little grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes are bound to happen along the way and you’ll never catch them if you don’t dedicate a final read-through to simply searching for these errors.  It may be the last thing you’ll want to do at that moment, but it could turn your essay from good to great.  You’ll be very happy later on that you put forth this extra effort.

By focusing on these steps as you write, you will create an interesting essay that flows well and truly makes sense.  Treat your essay as something you are building that you want to look fantastic – these are your tools for successful construction.