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Savvy Ways to Excel in Essay Writing

Michael is an avid content writer and researcher with experience in crafting winning essays.

An essay is an opportunity to present a dynamic interchange of ideas.

An essay is an opportunity to present a dynamic interchange of ideas.

The Art of Essay Writing

Essay is a word derived from the French word "Essai" meaning an effort, sketch or attempt at something. This is an ideal summation of the task involved.

An essay differs from other projects both within and beyond academia in the sense that you need to come up with a product of your own unique creativity. Here, you have an avenue of expressing your personal view on something that you have observed, read about or experienced. You can inject your own personality, perspectives, emotions, as well as challenge the observations that other authors have made on the subject matter.

The title is the starting point of the process and this needs to be developed in such a way that you are able to systematically show the relationship between the whole and its parts. In the writing process, you will need to use examples, draw parallels, and discuss associations. To effectively achieve this, it is necessary to employ the use of metaphors, similes, allegories, symbolisms, or other methods of comparison. In order to make it unique and captivating to the reader, it is also important to inject unexpected angles or unpredictable conclusions.

Bear in mind that an essay is an opportunity to present a dynamic interchange of ideas. It is possible to be brief without being overly simple. You are on a mission to make every word and sentence count, therefore you should never sacrifice quality for quantity. Once you have finished writing your draft, it is helpful to read it out loud. This will engage your mind in such a way that you will at once start seeing all the discrepancies and imperfections of your writing.

Before exploring these points further, let's examine first how to properly prepare for the task.

It is a skill that you will draw from in future, whether you take on writing as a career or pursue a different professional path

It is a skill that you will draw from in future, whether you take on writing as a career or pursue a different professional path

Preparing Yourself

So the first question to ask before embarking on essay writing is whether we clearly understand the objective. For example, if you are a student working toward handing it in as an assignment, first ask yourself: am I absolutely certain that I fully understand what the expectations of this essay are? This may seem obvious, but it is is exactly where a significant percentage of essay writers fail.

One trap essay writers fall into is rushing to get the project out of their way such that they fail to invest the quality time required to thoroughly understand the topic and precisely what is required of them. Remember, a huge part of your success depends on getting everything right from the start.

If you have any doubts concerning the topic itself or the instructions given, then irrespective of how brilliant the ideas you may have are, do not proceed until all uncertainties have been settled. In essay writing, it does not really matter the effort that goes into the essay itself or how well it has been crafted and presented. It will all be a failure unless the guidelines are followed to the letter.

So don't hesitate to return to the instructor if you have to get all the facts straight. Avoid making any subjective assumptions. Remember, this is a skill that you will draw from in future, whether you take on writing as a career or pursue a different professional route. Therefore, practice the art of getting your objectives right from the beginning before embarking on the project.

Another point you need to bear in mind is to avoid writing as though you are doing this for your professor or your boss. You are really addressing a much wider audience! So study other writings by experts on the same theme in order to gain insight and draw inspiration. But remember to avoid all forms of plagiarism as well as paying agents to write on your behalf.

This is the lazy way out and it comes with a steep price. Today, there are numerous tools and resources in place to check the level of authenticity in a piece of writing. Duplicating will not only disqualify you as a writer, it will also sabotage the future you are aspiring to build for yourself.

Practical Steps on How to Write Your Essay

An essay is a means by which one is able to build a rational argument and defend that argument in writing. Within and beyond Academia, it is a means of improving one's research and communication skills.

Without developing these skills properly, one's academic and professional life can become both challenging and stressful. The better our writing skills become, the more confidence we gain, the more projects we can complete in a relatively short time and the more promising our professional lives will be.

Breaking down the essay writing process into the following six steps makes the task manageable and less stressful to complete. This is how you begin crafting a well-written essay.

(a) Select a Topic

If a topic has not already been assigned, you need to pick one that is clear and relevant. The topic needs to be something relevant to you and you are interested in. It also needs to be descriptive and in keeping with the aim of the project. Ask yourself, what do I plan to achieve by writing this essay? What am I hoping to communicate? What is my objective? Do I want to inform, persuade or narrate?

One mistake made by essay writers is deviating from the title. Whether or not it has been provided or you have been allowed to choose one, remember that the subject matter of the essay must always be in line with the topic.

(b) Determine the Scope

The question to ask here is: How broad is the intended subject matter of the essay? Is it a general field or is the essay intended to tackle a specific issue while providing several relevant examples? Knowing this will help you better prepare yourself for the writing process.

Begin with the end in mind. Jot down the summary of your conclusion first because this will give you a target to aim at and you will be clear on where you are heading before you begin your journey. It will prevent you from being scattered or wavering in your work and will keep you consistent and relevant to the theme. This will also help you reach the end of the essay in a shorter time and thereby free up more time for editing and proofreading.

(c) Create an Outline

A lot of writers tend to skip this part. They view it as time-consuming. They would prefer to spend their time and energy writing the essay itself instead of summarising it first in an outline. While it may appear to be unnecessary, an outline is actually a time-saver.

There is a vast ocean of information out there, so beginning with a clear outline will help prevent you from losing your way when you begin the research. The outline should consist of a thesis statement or main concept of the essay, followed by supporting arguments. It should be numbered or bulleted and arranged in paragraphs.

Here is where "failing to plan is planning to fail" takes on a really practical application. You need to have a structured plan beforehand. Put down your points in sequence before developing and expanding them accordingly. You are the director of this show, so be prepared and set your scene like a professional.

Proofreading involves a lot more than spell-checking. It is an evaluation of how well your paragraphs are ordered, how grammatically accurate your statements are, how smooth the flow is from one idea to another and how presentable the overall format and structure is to the reader.

(d) Research

Research does not just involve digital or written sources, but also other sources like interviews, podcasts, lessons and speeches. Remember that primary sources are more authoritative than secondary sources. It is the depth and quality of your research that will help you grasp the scope of the theme and the strengths and weaknesses of your argument.

Peruse the research material you have gathered with a questioning mind. You can develop a critical mind through practice. For example, if you are studying a secondary source, ask yourself: What is the real motive behind their holding onto this opinion? Are they approaching the issue from a neutral standpoint or is their opinion subjective?

Another helpful strategy is to brainstorm with others, especially those you are acquainted with. This will help you clarify your position. If you are able to communicate your argument and receive feedback, it will be easier and more effective for you to present it on paper.

(e) Write

After you have outlined your essay, the next step is to begin writing it. The first paragraph is the introduction, and so you need to ensure that it contains an arresting or attention-grabbing statement. This first paragraph needs to have captivating words which immediately draw in the reader and makes them want to find out more. It should also arouse enough curiosity that makes the reader connect with the rest of the content. There ought to be a clear transition from this to the thesis statement which usually appears at the end of the first paragraph.

Each paragraph thereafter should start with one of the main ideas of the thesis statement followed by sentences that elaborate further on that point. Provide examples in each case in order to strengthen the main idea you are tackling in each paragraph. These paragraphs constitute your essay's main body.

The final paragraph is the conclusion of your entire essay and it is the piece that gives a closing view on the main subject. You could begin this paragraph with a summary of the thesis statement and then provide perspectives on the future based upon the arguments that have been set forth in your essay.

(f) Proofread

This is the final step, but contrary to what a lot of people believe, the most important part of essay-writing. Proofreading involves a lot more than spell-checking. It is an evaluation of how well your paragraphs are ordered, how grammatically accurate your statements are, how smooth the flow is from one idea to another and how presentable the overall format and structure is to the reader. Your proofreading needs to be conducted in the context of the original objective of the project.

Ask yourself, is the content of this essay logical? Is there a proper transition from one sentence to another and is the manner in which the points have been presented clarify and strengthen the argument? Have I used the correct font type and font size? Is there redundancy in the essay? Are there words that have been repeated too often? Are there parts of the essay that appear fragmented or detached from the rest of the body?

So beyond just checking for spelling errors, you are looking for anything that could potentially put off the reader. One effective way of making sure you do not miss anything is reading the paper out loud and then correct accordingly as you move along.

You need to allow as much time as possible for proofreading. Be as meticulous as possible, but don't overdo it. You may find parts of your essay need to be deleted altogether and other parts require additional research. There may be sections that need to be rewritten. Your essay may have passed through the first four stages well, but it is this final stage of proofreading that ultimately determines its viability.

How to Excel in Each Type of Essay

(a) Expository Essay

Exposition is a process that begins by identifying the foundational ideas and facts and then analyzing the relevant research material. The goal of this essay is to deepen the reader's understanding concerning the subject. It is also known as an explanatory essay. Your responsibility is to analyze the subject at hand systematically and then explain it by providing examples of the main points and giving proper analogies.

This type of essay is used to cover the perspectives of others concerning a subject or provide a description of an occurrence or event. The exposition should bring to light interpretations through writing.

This is the piece of writing that trains you further in developing your communication skills by increasing your reader's awareness with your knowledge and insight. Here, the evidence you use to back up the facts you present should be up-to-date and relevant.

Stick to writing in the third person and as much as possible and steer clear of using such terms as I, we or our. This will make your essay formal and academic. Don't go into lengths trying to explain your viewpoints, since this is normally done in the persuasive essay.

Ensure that your thesis statement is not too long. Maintain logic and coherence and fluidity in the style you use for the reader to easily move from one point to another. When you reach the conclusion, restate the thesis in a summarized form.

The main difference between the expository and persuasive essay is that in the latter, your points of argument must be presented and backed up in such a way that it is clear to the reader your views are more convincing than those of opponents. It is more like a debate where you examine the strengths and weaknesses of your argument and then the viewpoints of the opposing side before making a persuasive presentation.

(b) Critical Essay

Critical has its roots from the Greek word 'kritikus' which means 'to discern'. This is the essay that challenges the concepts behind an issue. You are on a journey of discernment.

in a critical essay, Simply stating the facts is not enough to bring about a convincing presentation. the question is how effectively and clearly you are able to present and defend your arguments, backing them up with solid evidence.

As you read through the research materials you need to separate yourself from the author's flow of thought and adopt a neutral stance. In this way you will be able to find a position to challenge those views instead of taking them at face value on the basis that the author is an authority in their field.

Remember, what is important to the reader is not that you agree with the evidence or not, but that you stay true and logical as far as the subject matter is concerned. It's not enough to come up with criticisms, they need to be objective.

(c) Evaluation Essay

What exactly is the difference between an analytical essay and an evaluation essay? Well, the latter moves beyond simply explaining what the subject is or how it works and delves into how valuable it is.

Here, you need to provide a background to the subject matter - historical or otherwise - and show how cause and effect are related. You examine a subject thoroughly and then present a rational judgment on the same.

However, you need to do this in such a way that the reader is able to understand that the point of view presented is actually correct. A certain level of competence is therefore required on your part as a writer, in order to complete a proper evaluation.

After introducing and clarifying the thesis, subsequent paragraphs should validate the conclusion you have made and refute any contrary arguments. It is important however to realize that this should not be presented as an argumentative essay. Rather, there should be a logical expression of your view on the matter.

The more objective and unbiased the opinions presented, the more credible the essay. Supportive facts, examples, statistics, expert opinions and other elements are key to making the essay a success.

Your style of writing should always conform to the goal of the essay which is to evaluate. Where different cases are compared, there should be a balanced delivery. Despite the fact that the writer is called upon to explain his or her position, they should not be overly subjective.

Ensure that your essay arouses curiosity. Employ the use of the senses to enliven your writing. Bring out descriptions that demonstrate how the subject matter felt, tasted, smelt or sounded like. This will slip the reader into your shoes, making them feel like they are going through the experience with you.

(d) Descriptive Essay

This is the type of essay that covers a subject or theme, more intensively. The objective of the descriptive essay is to illustrate a subject so clearly, that the reader is able to vividly picture it in their mind's eye. The essay begins with a general idea, which is then further developed in the subsequent paragraphs.

If you are describing a subject, you also need to include its context or environment in your explanation. The more appealing, distinctive and captivating your description is, the more the reader is drawn in.

Generalizations will make your content weak. Therefore try as much as possible to remain meticulous in your review. Remember, you do not have to be verbose to make the essay clear and interesting.

Whether or not you choose to work in a communicative role, remember it is always important to master the ability to explain your point of view clearly in the modern world, including any uncommon views you may have.

(e) Persuasive Essay

Persuasion has to be based on a credible argument rather than fact. For example, if you wrote on the theme "Pain and sleep medication is addictive", few would disagree. Hence, there would not be a real basis for a challenging piece of writing. However, if you wrote on the topic "All sleep and pain medication should be banned", then you will have opened up a debate.

In a persuasive essay, you focus on your side of the argument. In this way, this essay is not one where you explain concerning your personal opinion (as is the case in a personal essay), or where you simply present the pros and cons of something. Your points must be backed up by what you have gathered through thorough research.

What type of evidence is required in a persuasive essay? It needs to be specific, with solid sources quoted as opposed to generic statements. For example, are you able to show how much damage is caused by using sleep medication and the statistics and tests that prove it? If so, you can start building your case from there.

Introduce the issues that stand against the theme of the essay. This will help the reader understand the topic more clearly because the opposite side of the matter will have been presented before the rest of the content.

(f) Personal Essay

This tends to be more informal and will contain narrative aspects as well as some entertainment value. A personal essay should be structured in such a way that it provides an unbroken reviewing experience. It should be written in story form covering an incident or incidents that have occurred. These could be either situations which you have personally experienced or you have some personal knowledge about.

Though the explanation is personal, it should also be in the language that a reader can understand and relate with. If what you are writing about is a unique experience, try to use ordinary events to describe it.

Ask yourself, how does this experience compare with something that is in everyday life? Provide examples and paint them as vividly as possible so that correct image is evoked in the mind of the reader. Avoid using the format and language of a documentary report.

Employ the use of the senses to enliven your writing. Bring out descriptions that demonstrate how the subject matter felt, tasted, smelt or sounded like. This will slip the reader into your shoes, making them feel like they are going through the experience with you. And don't forget to ensure that your essay arouses curiosity.

Despite the fact that this is a personal account, avoid pushing conclusions to your reader. This may make them feel trapped. Instead, extend an invitation and draw them in such that they will arrive at those conclusions by themselves. Your descriptions concerning any events, how you reacted and so on, will help you build a clear path for the reader.

Use your personal essay to teach concerning the life lesson that you learned through your experience. When information is personal and firsthand, you have a much more authoritative platform from which you can impact your reader.

Additional thoughts

  1. It is important to view the three aspects of an essay (introduction, main body and conclusion) not in sequential or consecutive format, but as a triangle. This is because in reality, each section supports the other.
  2. Write as though to an audience which may doubts concerning your thesis as soon as they read it. Your job is to preempt these doubts and challenge them beforehand. Therefore be diligent to quote experts and other sources in order to present a balanced argument. Your writing should include responses to any opposing views, as this will give credibility to your position. The use of contrast adds legitimacy to your argument. For example, if your topic is "Imprisonment does not reform convicts", review statistics first and see what percentages of repeat offenders there are.
  3. Your introduction is a synopsis of the essay. It should give the reader a taste of what is to come and what to expect in the rest of the content. It not only introduces the subject of your essay, it also introduces and acquaints the reader with your style of writing and how you bring your points across. Your introduction should summarize the main content and provide a glimpse as to how the conclusion will be made. It is meant to adequately prepare the reader for the rest of the content.
  4. Evaluate yourself. Are there any underlying prejudgements or biases that you have on the subject that could potentially sabotage your work?
  5. Be aware of your style and how it impacts the reader. Stay keen on your tone, language, vocabulary and the length of your sentences. Are each of these are suitable for your audience? Your style should always be tailored to fit in with your target reader(s). Avoid making any irrational assumptions about how much they know or don't know about the subject.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Michael Duncan (author) from Germany on February 24, 2021:

Yes indeed, same here. Decades later and still reaping gratefully from the seeds sown back then in the formative years.

Liz Westwood from UK on July 29, 2020:

This takes me back to my early years of English study. I owe a lot to an inspirational English teacher at the time, who instilled good essay-writing techniques in us.

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