Writing an essay can definitely be a challenging task, and many people have trouble figuring out where to start – commonly referred to as “writer’s block.” Being able to effectively compose a written response to a topic is a vital skill you will use throughout your educational journey, and many students will find themselves submitting heavily-weighted essays with their college applications. Here are some quick and easy tips to help write a great essay!
Always make an outline first. Students often skip this step, especially if the required essay response is timed (like a prompt on an in-class exam). Although it may seem difficult to justify spending the first 10-15 minutes creating a detailed outline, the results will pay off later. Having an outline prepared helps to avoid getting stuck in the middle of your response, and also provides a definite “game plan” for your essay.
Start with a standard five-paragraph essay. The standard essay format should consist of at least five parts – an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You can always go back and add more supporting arguments or additional paragraphs later, but it’s important to get the “meat and potatoes” of your essay done first. It also helps to arrange your outline into five parts, making this step even easier!
Make sure you have a thesis statement and topic sentences. It’s important to remember what you are specifically addressing in your essay. Regardless of the essay type (persuasive, descriptive, personal anecdote, etc.), you should have a thesis statement at the end of your introduction that states the main theme of your essay. This same thesis statement should be reiterated in your conclusion. Also, make sure to double check that each paragraph has a clearly stated topic sentence and appropriate transitional words or phrases.
Revise, revise, and revise again! This is probably the most important step to writing a great essay. You should always expect to write at least a couple drafts before editing your final product. If you’ve been focusing on a certain paragraph for a while, it can really help to take a step back and read your essay in its entirety. In the case that you are writing a timed-response essay, a draft may not be possible. However, we still recommend devoting at least 10-15 minutes (at the end of the exam) to revise your essay before submitting it.
Add the final touches and polish your work. Although perhaps not as time-consuming as the writing process itself, it is still important to make sure your essay is formatted properly. Make sure you have an appropriate title and any information that is requested by your teacher. Many high school and college students will be expected to compose an essay in a professional format, such as MLA or APA. These styles have specific requirements, ranging from page numbers to citation formats. The last thing you want is to lose points for a formatting issue, so make sure your essay adheres to the required guidelines!