Better Essay Writing Tips

Top tips for writing better essays

An essay is a short piece of non-fiction about a particular topic. It’s a common assignment in school and university, so you’ve probably already written a few. Essays can take many different forms. Narrative essays tell a story, while persuasive essays make an argument. Exploratory essays pursue an idea. No matter what kind of essay you’re writing, the principles below will help you connect with your readers.

Know your purpose

If you’re writing in response to an assignment, make sure you understand what you are being asked to write about. If you’re writing for another reason, it’s just as important to understand your goals. Whether you want to share information or an experience or get readers to change their minds, your purpose will determine the choices you make in your essay.

Understand your audience

The more you know about who will be reading your essay, the better. Readers who are experts on your topic will already have some background knowledge. Readers who are your age will be familiar with the same films and songs you’re likely to mention. The less you know about your audience, the more you’ll need to define your terms and provide context for your examples.

Brainstorm about your topic

Jot down everything you can think of related to the subject you’re going to write about. Some people make lists, while others draw diagrams or maps. The point is to quickly note lots of ideas in order to get started. If you don’t have any ideas, open a newspaper, turn on the television, or just look around. Chances are you’ll see something that suggests a topic.

Decide on a thesis

Your thesis is the claim you’re going to make about your topic. Consult the notes you made when you brainstormed to figure out what you want to say. Turn that idea into a complete sentence that makes a claim and includes your explanation or reason for that claim. Be prepared to change your thesis a bit as you work out your reasons and ideas.

5 Develop your essay

Now that you have a thesis, you need evidence to support your claim. Start by listing your reasons for believing what you do. Research what you need to; statistics and quotations will help you make your point. Personal stories also make good, unique examples that no one else could provide.

Create an essay structure

Organize your essay according to your purpose. If you’re writing a narrative, you’ll probably arrange your material in chronological order. Consider using flashbacks to create tension. For an argument, you might list your reasons in order of importance. Every essay has a beginning, middle, and end, but not every essay requires a formal introduction or conclusion.

Read more about structuring your writing.

Connect your ideas

Readers need a road map through your essay. Employ transitions to help them move from one idea to the next. Transitions are often individual words such as ‘then’, ‘but’, or ‘therefore’. Also, consider headings and repetition, devices that can also create good transitions.

Read more about cohesion in writing.

8 Choose memorable language

Use concrete, specific words. Write about a ‘bird’ and your reader won’t know whether it’s large, small, friendly, mean, or if it can even fly. Write about a ‘red tailed hawk’ and your reader will have a clear picture. Concrete words help the reader better understand what you want to communicate.

Read more about word choice.

Invent a strong title

People are busy and nobody has to read your essay. Write a title that makes them want to read it. You can get readers’ attention with an intriguing question or clever phrase, but make sure your title clearly conveys your essay topic. A simple subtitle will help you do this. Your title should also be searchable, since so many publications now appear online.

10  Edit and proofread your essay

Carefully check your work for errors. First, read your essay aloud. If anything sounds awkward, revise until you like the way it sounds. Second, make sure your grammar, punctuation, and spelling are all correct. When you think your essay is perfect, have a friend check it again.

Read more aboutwriting essays.

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Academic essay writing is a style that anyone can learn to produce, once they know the basics of writing an essay. An academic essay should provide a solid, debatable thesis that is then supported by relevant evidence—whether that be from other sources or from one's own research. Most research follows a standard set of guidelines. Remembering some basic principles for academic essay writing will allow you to create valuable, persuasive papers, even if you're under a time crunch.

Make an outline. Know what you are going to write about before you start writing.

Before you even start writing an essay, it is important to know what you want to say. The easiest way to narrow down a thesis and create a proper argument is to make a basic outline before you begin writing your essay. The basic structure of an academic essay includes the following elements: an introduction that includes the thesis; the body of the essay, which should include separate paragraphs discussing evidence that supports the thesis; and a conclusion that ties everything together and connects it to the thesis. When it comes to how much evidence should be included in an academic essay, a good guideline is to include at least three solid points that directly support your thesis.

Acquire a solid understanding of basic grammar, style, and punctuation.

Grammar, style, and punctuation are incredibly important if you want your research to be understood and taken seriously. Before writing an essay, make sure you have a solid understanding of basic grammar. Grammar basics include verb and subject agreement, proper article and pronoun usage, and well-formed sentence structures. Make sure you know the proper uses for the most common forms of punctuation. Be mindful of your comma usage and know when a period is needed. Finally, in academic essay writing, voice is important. Try to use the active voice instead of the passive whenever possible (e.g., "this study found" instead of "it was found by this study"). This will make the tone of your essay stronger. Ensure your language is concise. Avoid transition words that don't add anything to the sentence and unnecessary wordiness that detracts from your argument.

Use the right vocabulary. Know what the words you are using actually mean.

How you use language is important, especially in academic essay writing. When writing an academic essay, remember that you are trying to persuade others that you are an expert who can make an intelligent argument. Using big words just to sound smart often results in the opposite effect—it is easy to detect when someone is overcompensating in their writing. If you aren't sure of the exact meaning of a word, you risk using it incorrectly. Using obscure language can also take away from the clarity of your argument—you should consider this before you pull out that thesaurus to change that perfectly good word to something completely different.

Understand the argument and critically analyze the evidence.

In the process of writing an academic essay, you should always have your main argument in mind. While it might be tempting to go off on a tangent about some interesting side note to your topic, doing so can make your writing less concise. Always question any evidence you include in your essay; ask yourself, "Does this directly support my thesis?" If the answer is "no," then that evidence should probably be excluded. When you are evaluating evidence, be critical and thorough. You want to use the strongest research to back up your thesis. Everything you include should have a clear connection to your topic and your argument.

Know how to write a proper conclusion that supports your research.

One of the most overlooked areas of academic essay writing is the conclusion. Your conclusion is what ties all your research together to prove your thesis. It should not be a restatement of your introduction or a copy-and-paste of your thesis itself. A proper conclusion quickly outlines the key evidence discussed in the body of an essay and directly ties it to the thesis to show how this evidence proves or disproves the main argument of one's research. There have been countless great essays written, only to be derailed by vague, weakly worded conclusions. Don't let your next essay be one of those.

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