Essay writing is an integral part of your college experience. If you thought that you said farewell to it leaving high school, I have a bad news and a good news. Bad news – you are going to write A LOT of essays. The good news – you will learn some crucial skills while writing them.
They make you write essays for a reason. To write a good essay you will have to engage your analytical skills, your sound judgment, your passion, and creativity. These same skills and talents you are going to need at work in order to handle important tasks. At school, they prepare you for college, but at college, they get you ready for real life. Recitation of someone else’s opinions will bring you neither A now, nor raise in the future.
If you thought you could just order your work from a service, whenever you do not feel like writing, you are wrong. You will be making yourself a great disservice by not learning how to do the job without help. Here are some tips I have for you as a teacher, a writer, and a straight-A student in the past.
Do your Homework
The first tip sounds the most boring but it is, actually, where the fun is. You will have to familiarize yourself with the topic. Read the required book or do some research, find out more about the subject.
Many students skip this step. They want a shortcut and since research is the most time-consuming stage of essay writing, foregoing it seems to them an optimization of a sort. This is a grave error! Research is a basis for your essay. Everything you are going to write will be built on it.
Do it with sticky notes and highlighter. This is important! Make notes for future quotation to support your opinion. Your teacher expects you to back up your claims and statements with relevant quotes. In fact, you READER always wants you to back up your claims, so you are going to need this skill if you want to write any compelling text – from business blog to a novel.
When you see something interesting, something you agree or disagree with, something at all relevant to the essay prompt – mark it. The more, the better. Believe me, you will need it. A plethora of quotes at your fingertips will equip you to argue on the variety of issues related to the topic.
If you have some thoughts along the way – make notes of them. You enthusiastically agree with something? Strongly disagree? Have doubts? Questions? Put it on paper! All this will make for a great argument.
Don’t Start from the Beginning
As every guide goes, there should be an introduction, the main part, and the conclusion. This is how a reader will consume your text. Yet this is not how arguments happen and this is definitely not the order in which you have to write your essay.
Start with the main part – this is where everything happens. This is where you play with your prompt, challenging it or supporting with evidence (a.k.a. quotes from the previous issue). This is where you search for the truth, ask your questions, compare, analyze, synthesize ideas from different sources, and evaluate everything critically (that includes your own opinions).
If you think that your initial prompt has nothing to do with reality, and all the evidence is contradictory – state it. Imagine the prompt is something that your opponent said and try to prove them wrong. Proof by contradiction is legit! You are bound to reach somewhere (a.k.a. arrive at the conclusion).
Now, when you have the result of your argument, it’s time to look at your prompt once again and see if it stood the challenge. Now document the result. Congratulations, here is your conclusion. If you need to, you can restate the key points of all paragraphs from the main body.
Then (and only then) you are finally ready to crown your magnum opus with the introduction.
Avoid Cliches in the Introduction
Actually, you should avoid them as such. However, the introduction is often more prone to have cliches than any other part of an essay. Writing an introduction is often a tedious task. If you think, you are the only one who just writes a prototype placeholder and then gets back to it only to discover that you cannot think of anything better – I have great news for you. Most of us struggle with this tiny yet obligatory piece of writing we have to put at the beginning.
To make it simpler, I have a hack. I start it with: “Okay, here is the deal”. Alternatively, you may just say this magic phrase in your mind, instead of typing it. You are going to delete it later anyway. Either way, it will help you to outline your introductory statement in the most succinct manner possible because after that you are bound to explain what the deal is in a few simple words. This is the best way to get your reader hooked.
Why? Because that way you are getting straight to the point without all these dragging clichés that we all hate. They take up space and your reader’s time while adding no value to the text. Want some examples?
- “Everyone knows that writing can be hard.” – If everyone knows, what’s the point in telling us that?
- “It is hard to overestimate the importance of writing skills today.” – Yet you will try?
- “Needless to say, writing is crucial to success nowadays” – Needless, but you’ve said it.
Well, you get the idea.
Polish it up
When your essay is written, it is time to smooth it out. Proofread, proofread, and then proofread again. You will find many embarrassing typos, I promise. Do it yourself or with the help of services. Free tools like Grammarly or HemingwayApp will help you with grammar, spelling, wording and sentence structure.
Then, read it again, aloud. This is when you will find awkward “tongue-twisting” coincidences of consonants, long sentences, and other shortcomings. They will not decrease the value of your arguments but can dampen the overall impression of your writing, so better work to amend them.