Are you having a hard time with your essays? Are you struggling to put your ideas across? Do not fret- this article will give you pointers on how to write an essay that will have your reader glued to the end. If you are a student in high school or university, essay-writing should be a basic skill. At these levels, you will be given assignments that require you to research certain topics and develop your ideas by analyzing and interpreting evidence.
Essay writing may be easy-peasy for some people and a pain in the neck for others. Even so, it is a skill that requires you to have the know-how or a blueprint before you get down to it. Whether you are a 'pro' or a novice, this article will provide tips that will guide your essay-writing process. The anticipated advantages are two-fold: making the process easier for you and helping you write better essays.
An essay is a structured form of writing used for academic purposes to present new information or use existing facts and knowledge to reinforce an idea. The specific structure of an essay depends on the type of paper you are writing. Therefore, understanding the kind of essay you are working on is the first step to developing a literal masterpiece. Essays are grouped into four major categories:
These are creative writings that require the writer to assume a story-telling stance. In other words, it is a narration or, if you like, a super-condensed version of a novel. You are required to make it so interesting that the reader will be glued from the start to the end. Narrative essays require the writer to create vivid images that enable the reader to form graphic images in their minds. It would help if you used adjectives and imagery to clearly describe the people and events in the narrative. Even though story-telling is the big idea behind narrative essays, there should be a moral of the story- the underlying message. An example of a narrative essay could be "How did your life experiences shape you as a person?"
Unlike narrative essays, expository essays are based on facts and credible information. They give no room for personal opinions or suggestions- instead, the writer is expected to back the information therein with valid sources. The main agenda of this type of essay is educational through logic and facts. Most expository essays explain how to go about different processes in a step-by-step manner. For instance, "How to File Taxes in America" could make for an expository essay."
The structure of descriptive essays is very similar to that of narrative essays. Both require the writer to be creative and subjective. They depend more on the writer's writing skills and imagination than on facts and research. However, while narrative essays are focused on narration, descriptive essays are based on the writer's prowess to describe the paper's subject. You know you have ‘killed’ it when your descriptive prowess evokes all the senses of the reader. The reader should be able to imagine the sounds, the taste, and even engage emotionally. For instance, if you are describing the workings of a telescope, the reader should feel like they know how to use one by the time they are done reading the essay.
As their title suggests, these essays' purpose is to persuade the reader to lean towards a certain agenda. This type of paper would require you to assume a salesperson stance and viciously sell your idea to the reader. You should logically present your idea with enough evidence that leaves no room for doubt or counter-arguments. Also known as argumentative essays, these are the most common types of essays in universities. An example of a persuasive essay is "Should Students Wear School Uniforms?"
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For all the different types of essays, the writing process is the same. This is because the make-up of any standard essay is these three parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Still, it is essential to note that the time and effort applied are dependent on the type of essay. Essentially, there are three stages to pen down (or type) a top-tier essay. These are preparation, writing, and revision.
You cannot start building a house without a full-proof plan; you need to make arrangements for a good foundation, a steady body, and a strong finishing. You would also need to organize the resources required to ensure the job gets done perfectly. Just like building a house, you need to plan out your essay even before you put down the first word. Here are some of the steps you should take to ensure you are adequately prepared to start your essay:
1. Analyze the essay prompt – Before you take any step, ensure you understand what the essay entails. It does not matter whether you are a proficient essay writer or not; if you do not answer the question, you will fail. Therefore, ensure you understand the topic, the kind of research you need to do, and where to source your information.
2. Choose a convenient topic – If you are required to pick a topic for your essay, choose one that you are already familiar with. Also, ensure that it holds your interest all through- you could as well have fun writing an essay.
3. Conduct extensive research – Never make the mistake of starting an essay without all the information you require, especially when writing expository and persuasive essays. Use both primary and secondary sources and note down all the relevant information you will incorporate into your writing. Having ready-facts will enable you to present your argument better. Narrative and descriptive essays do not require as much research.
4. Thesis statement – A thesis statement is the focal point of an essay- it is the anchor that holds your piece together. You refer to this to ensure that your essay is relevant all through. Ideally, your thesis statement should be in the introduction of your essay. It could be something like, 'students should wear uniforms to school because it improves overall performance.'
5. Create a draft – The same way an artist makes a sketch before drawing a masterpiece is the same way you need to have an outline for your essay before you start typing. A draft will make it easy for you to track your progress and ensure that you reach the required word-limit.
This is the main part of an essay. So, you need to give it your all. Once you have prepared enough and have a pretty good idea of what to write, you should use a writing formula that works for you. Here is one:
The way you present yourself in the introduction will determine whether a reader will yearn for more or get turned off. Therefore, you should make it as catchy as possible. The first sentence especially should pique the interest and curiosity of your audience. Also known as the hook, this sentence could be an anecdote, an interesting fact, an intriguing question, or a bold statement.
The introduction should also give the reader a rough idea of what the essay will be about. You could achieve this by providing background information on the subject, leaving the most important details for your essay's body. This is where you formulate your thesis statement, which is the essay's central argument, as we have already established. Usually, the thesis statement is one or two sentences long. It should appear at the end of your introductory paragraph. The introduction should make up 10-20% of your essay.
The Main Body
This is the 'flesh' of your essay, hence the term' body.' It is where the juicy details are found. Essentially, the main body of the paper is where you get to develop your ideas. If it is a narrative essay, this is where you get to tell the main story. If it is a research-based essay, the main body is where you present your arguments, present your evidence, analyze and interpret the information and the sources you have gathered.
The body of an essay is organized in paragraphs, each carrying its own idea. A topic sentence introduces a paragraph's idea, which is then supported by the other sentences of the same paragraph. The supporting sentences present evidence, data, and quotes to reinforce the main idea. Transition words should be utilized to create a smooth flow between the sentences. Also, you should arrange the paragraphs in such a way that one leads to the next one- like in a chronology.
The number of paragraphs depends on the type and complexity of the essay. In a standard high school essay, three body paragraphs are the required amount. For more advanced graduate essays, the paragraphs should be as many as there are ideas to present- it could be five paragraphs, it could be ten. The main body makes up 60-80% of the essay.
You have to finish an essay in style. You cannot come this far to leave the reader hanging and yearning for closure. The conclusion sums up your essay in a few short sentences. It should not take up more than 10% of your essay. To have a conclusive last paragraph, first, restate the thesis statement. Remind the reader what the essay has been all about. Then summarize your main points in a couple of sentences. Finally, in a sentence or so, defend the stance you have taken in the essay.
Remember to be as unique as possible when writing the conclusion. By this point, the reader is probably exhausted, so if you want to keep them glued to the end, you may want to avoid cliché phrases like 'in a nutshell' or 'to sum it all up.' Also, do not introduce new ideas in the conclusion section- remember you are supposed to be winding up.
Human beings are not devoid of error; in fact, we often make mistakes repeatedly before finally getting a thing right. The same applies to writing essays. Unless you are a robot, chances are very low that your essay will be perfect on your first try. Therefore, make a point of thoroughly revising your essay to note and correct important errors. The most common mistakes include:
Grammar and punctuation errors:
When typing, we pay little attention to spellings, punctuations, and even sentence structures, because the focus at that point is to put across the main ideas. Also, you cannot entirely depend on spell check to clean up after you. Therefore, make a point of proofreading your work and ensure everything is perfect. Applications like Grammarly are extremely useful in cleaning your grammar before you submit your essay.
When using information gathered from other authors, it is vital to cite the sources. Re-read your essay to make sure that you have used quotations appropriately and paraphrased without compromising your work's authenticity. Quotes are used when a whole sentence or part of a sentence has been borrowed from another source. You paraphrase to present borrowed information in your own words. It is almost impossible to have a completely unique paper; therefore always credit those whose information you used. Luckily, there are softwares like Turnitin that can help assess the percentage of plagiarism in your essay so you can revise it before submission.
Essay writing is not always a smooth ride. It comes with turbulence, bumps, and rough roads. Depending on the type of essay, the required length, and the topic, the experience could range anywhere from enjoyable to excruciating. Whatever the case, we hope that the pointers in this essay will make things easier for you. Remember that just like every other skill, it takes practice to write a good essay, so make the time.