Honestly, throughout most of high school and college, I was a mediocre essay writer.
Every once in a while, I would write a really good essay, but mostly I skated by with B’s and A-minuses.
I know personally how boring writing an essay can be, and also, how hard it can be to write a good one.
Writing an essay? Don’t pull your hair out. Here are 10 tips to write a great essay. Photo by Stuart Pilbrow (Creative Commons)
However, toward the end of my time as a student, I made a breakthrough. I figured out how to not only write a great essay, I learned how to have fun while doing it.
That’s right. Fun.
Why Writing an Essay Is So Hard?
Here are a few reasons:
- You’d rather be scrolling through Facebook.
- You’re trying to write something your teacher or professor will like.
- You’re trying to get an A instead of writing something that’s actually good.
- You want to do the least amount of work possible.
The biggest reason writing an essay is so hard is because we mostly focus on those external rewards like getting a passing grade or our teacher’s approval. The problem is that when you focus on external approval it not only makes writing much less fun, it also makes it significantly harder.
Because when you focus on external approval, you shut down your subconscious, and the subconscious is the source of your creativity. What this means practically is that when you’re trying to write that perfect, A-plus-worthy sentence, you’re turning off most of your best resources.
Just stop. Stop trying to write a good essay (or even a “good-enough” essay). Instead, write an interesting essay, write an essay you think is fascinating. And when you’re finished, go back and edit it until it’s “good” according to your teacher’s standards.
Yes, you need to follow the guidelines in your assignment. If your teacher tells you to write a five-paragraph essay, then write a five-paragraph essay! However, within those guidelines, find room to express something that is uniquely you.
I can’t guarantee you’ll get a higher grade (although, you almost certainly will), but I can absolutely promise you’ll have a lot more fun writing.
10 Tips to Writing a Great Essay
Ready to get writing? Here are my ten best tips for having fun while writing an essay that earns you the top grade!
1. Your essay is just a story.
Every story is about conflict and change, and the truth is that essays are about conflict and change, too! The difference is that in an essay, the conflict is between different ideas, the change is in the way we should perceive those ideas.
That means that the best essays are about surprise, “You probably think it’s one way, but in reality, you should think of it this other way.” See tip #3 for more on this.
2. Before you start writing, ask yourself, “How can I have the most fun writing this?”
It’s normal to feel unmotivated when writing an essay. I’m a writer, and honestly, I feel unmotivated to write all the time. But I have a super-ninja, judo-mind trick I like to use to help motivate myself.
Here’s the secret trick: One of the interesting things about your subconscious is that it will answer any question you ask yourself. So whenever you feel unmotivated to write your essay, ask yourself the following question:
How much fun can I have writing this?”
Your subconscious will immediately start thinking of strategies to make the writing process more fun. Here’s another sneaky question to ask yourself when you really don’t want to write:
How can I finish this as quickly as possible?
Give it a try!
3. As you research, ask yourself, “What surprises me about this subject?”
The temptation, when you’re writing an essay, is to write what you think your teacher or professor wants to read. Don’t do this. Instead, ask yourself, “What do I find interesting about this subject? What surprises me?”
If you can’t think of anything that surprises you, anything you find interesting, then you’re not searching well enough, because history, science, and literature are all brimmingover with surprises. When you look at how great ideas actually happen, the story is always, “We used to think the world was this way. We found out we were completely wrong, and that the world is actually quite different from what we thought.”
As you research your essay topic, search for this story of surprise, and don’t start writing until you can find it.
(By the way, what sources should you use for research? Check out tip #10 below.)
4. Overwhelmed? Just write five original sentences.
The standard three-point essay is really made up of just five original sentences, surrounded by supporting paragraphs that back up those five sentences. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just write five sentences. Here’s what they might look like:
- Thesis: While most students consider writing an essay a boring task, with the right mindset, it can actually be an enjoyable experience.
- Body #1: Most students think writing an essay is tedious because they focus on external rewards.
- Body #2: Students should instead focus on internal fulfillment when writing an essay.
- Body #3: Not only will focusing on internal fulfillment allow students to have more fun, they will write better essays.
- Conclusion: Writing an essay doesn’t have to be simply a way to earn a good grade. Instead, it can be a means of finding fulfillment.
After you write your five sentences, it’s easy to fill in the paragraphs they will find themselves in.
Now, you give it a shot!
5. Be “source heavy.”
In college, I discovered a trick that helped me go from a B-average student to an A-student, but before I explain how it works, let me warn you. This technique is powerful, but it might not work for all teachers or professors. Use with caution.
As I was writing a paper for a literature class, I realized that the articles and books I was reading said what I was trying to say much better than I ever could. So what did I do? I just quoted them liberally throughout my paper. When I wasn’t quoting, I re-phrased what they said in my own words, giving proper credit, of course. I found that not only did this formula create a well-written essay, it took about half the time to write.
When I used this technique, my professors sometimes mentioned that my papers were very “source” heavy. However, at the same time, they always gave me A’s. Like the five sentence trick, this technique makes the writing process simpler. Instead of putting the main focus on writing well, it instead forces you to research well, which some students find easier.
6. Write the body first, the introduction second, and the conclusion last.
Introductions are often the hardest part to write because you’re trying to summarize your entire essay before you’ve even written it yet. Instead, try writing your introduction last, giving yourself the body of the paper to figure out the main point of your essay.
7. Most essays answer the question, “What?” Good essays answer the “Why?” The best essays answer the “How?”
If you get stuck trying to make your argument, or you’re struggling to reach the required word count, try focusing on the question, “How?” For example:
- How did J.D. Salinger convey the theme of inauthenticity in The Catcher In the Rye?
- How did Napoleon restore stability in France after the French Revolution?
- How does the research prove girls really do rule and boys really do drool?
If you focus on how, you’ll always have enough to write about.
8. Don’t be afraid to jump around.
Essay writing can be a dance. You don’t have to stay in one place and write from beginning to end. Give yourself the freedom to write as if you’re circling around your topic rather than making a single, straightforward argument. Then, when you edit, you can make sure everything lines up correctly.
9. Here are some words and phrases you don’t want to use.
- You (You’ll notice I use a lot of you’s, which is great for a blog post. However, in an essay, it’s better to omit the second-person.)
- To Be verbs
Don’t have time to edit? Here’s a lightning-quick editing technique.
A note about “I”: Some teachers say you shouldn’t use “I” statements in your writing, but the truth is that professional, academic papers often use phrases like “I believe” and “in my opinion,” especially in their introductions.
10. It’s okay to use Wikipedia, if…
Wikipedia isn’t just one of the top 5 websites in the world, it can be a great tool for research. However, most teachers and professors don’t consider Wikipedia a valid source for use in essays. However, here are two ways you can use Wikipedia in your essay writing:
- Background research. If you don’t know enough about your topic, Wikipedia can be a great resource to quickly learn everything you need to know to get started.
- Find sources. Check the reference section of Wikipedia’s articles on your topic. While you may not be able to cite Wikipedia itself, you can often find those original sources and site them.
The thing I regret most about high school and college is that I treated it like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.
The truth is, education is an opportunity many people in the world don’t have access to. It’s a gift, not just something that makes your life more difficult. I don’t want you to make the mistake of just “getting by” through school, waiting desperately for summer breaks and, eventually, graduation.
How would your life be better if you actively enjoyed writing an essay? What would school look like if you wanted to suck it dry of all the gifts it has to give you?
All I’m saying is, don’t miss out!
How about you? Do you have any tips for writing an essay?
Use tip #4 and write five original sentences that could be turned into an essay.
When you’re finished, share your five sentences in the comments section.
And remember, have fun!
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Essays are generally authors own point of view or an argument regarding the subject that he/she is talking about. Essays are distinguished into two categories formal and informal category. Essays written by students on various topics such as social issues, environmental matters, adapting to changes, technology up gradation and its role in our lives, how to overcome fears and deal with stress, famous monuments and their stories etc, are the common topics that school students work on and such topics come under formal essays. Topics like a review of a novel, experiencing joy, a trip to your favorite destination, learning a new skill or activity, your experience in summer camp, competing in a difficult exam, best lived moment etc, are the topics written by students for homework, school magazine, and such topics come under informal essays. Formal and informal essays are written differently.
The major difference between formal and informal essays – Using the type of language or to be the more clear choice of words, sentence framing, tense used and choice of person (first person, second person, third person) play an important role in distinguishing them.
In the case of the informal essay, the choice of words is quite simple. Jargon words are avoided. Everything is mechanically put. The essay is written in the third person and the tense used is according to your content and time period. Stick to one particular tense. Don’t shift tenses because it’s one of the most distracting things for readers to endure. Sentence structure used for writing a formal essay is simple and short -consists of a noun, a verb and naming a word.
In the informal essay, the choice of words put to use are fancier and its presented in a story format. It’s written for enjoyment. The sentence structure is more of long, relaxed style, less rigid and the kind of tense put to use is again according to the content and time period. Informal essay is written in conversational style its as though the writer is directly speaking to the reader.
These are all the basic points used in distinguishing the format between formal and informal essay.
To make your essay worth reading be it formal or informal there are ways and methods to make them attractive and readable.
A) Collecting Information
To begin with – gather information, read books, online research, analysis of a news piece etc are some ways to gather information or collect facts for your topic. Suppose your teacher prescribes you to go to the library and have a read on your topic, it’s worthwhile because you may find something extra that will give depth, breadth and new perspective to your argument.
B) Make An Outline
Before you start writing it is important to plan how you are going to put forth your argument. This is the most important and yet the most neglected step by students. Poor structure of the sentence, unclear lines of argument, is clear signs for you to practice outlining your essay or planning.
1) To begin with be sure of what you are going to convey in the beginning. It is always better to give an idea about the essence of your essay to the reader.
2) Second, re-read whatever you have written. If you think that you have misplaced your ‘main point’ or if you feel some information is missing or some facts need to re-checked – organize whatever you feel can make your essay easy to read. Plan out your thoughts before you put them into a sentence. Put your thoughts in sections and link your ideas together.
3)Next, fill the skeleton order by order. Decide what will be your conclusion because an abrupt ending is what irritates the reader.
C) Writing Style, Vocabulary, and Context
Your writing style can be anything as pink and flowery or as scientific and direct. However to get good grades it is imperative for you to be precise and style-wise there are two types of wrongness, one is over- complication and vagueness. The subject on which you have written your essay has its own vocabulary and learning that is essential. The small words are small details of the essay when linked gives the entire picture of your essay so you need to know the meaning of those small words. Before you use any word you need to know what it means and think about the context you are putting them. The meaning of the word with the context you are wanting to portrait should go rightly or else the reader would perceive a different idea of your essay. Use terms that help you contribute the development of essay and nothing of the flow is lost.
D) Punctuation and Good Grammar
Any professor or any teacher would not want to read an essay that is poorly constructed with poor grammar. Employ you sentences with good grammar, punctuation, and syntax. Precise and sophisticated sentences make the world of difference. Effective punctuation is essential to convey your arguments.
E) Tone of Voice
The tone of the voice helps in constructing a better essay. Read through your old essays if they are not absorbing and engaging then you haven’t used the right tone. Essays can be interesting if you establish a confident tone of voice and a confident voice tone assures the reader that you know what you are talking about and that they are in the safe hands.
F) Active Editing And Proofreading
Don’t submit your article without editing it. Check out for some common trouble areas in your final draft. Eliminate unnecessary words. When proofreading the spell checker will not tell the word you used is the right word. Check for commonly confused words and common errors online to help you use the correct word in your essay.
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