Essays are common in elementary, middle, high school and college, and you may even need to write essays in the business world (although they are usually called "reports" at that point). An essay is defined as "a short piece of writing that expresses information as well as the writer's opinion."
For some, writing an essay is as simple as sitting down at their computer and beginning to type, but a lot more planning goes into writing an essay successfully. If you have never written an essay before, or if you struggle with writing and want to improve your skills, it is a good idea to go through several steps in the essay writing process.
For example, to write an essay, you should generally:
- Decide what kind of essay to write.
- Brainstorm your topic.
- Do research.
- Develop a thesis.
- Outline your essay.
- Write your essay.
- Edit your writing to check spelling and grammar.
While this sounds like a lot of steps to write a simple essay, if you follow them you will be able to write more successful, clear and cohesive essays.
Kinds of Essays
The first step to writing an essay is to decide what kind of essay to write. There are several main structures into which essays can be grouped:
- Narrative Essays: Tell a story or impart information about your subject in a straightforward, orderly manner.
- Descriptive Essays: Focus on the details of what is going on. For example, if you want to write a descriptive essay about your trip to the park, you would give great detail about what you experienced: how the grass felt beneath your feet, what the park benches looked like, and anything else the reader would need to feel as if he were there.
- Persuasive Essay: Convince the reader of some point of view.
- Comparative Essay: Compare two or more different things.
- Expository Essay: Explain to the reader how to do a given process. You could, for example, write an expository essay with step-by-step instructions on how to make a peanut butter sandwich.
Knowing what kind of essay you are trying to write can help you decide on a topic and structure your essay in the best way possible.
You cannot write an essay unless you have an idea of what to write about. Brainstorming is the process in which you come up with the essay topic. You need to simply sit and think of ideas during this phase.
- Write down everything that comes to mind as you can always narrow those topics down later.
You could also use clustering or mind mapping to brainstorm and come up with an essay idea. This involves writing your topic or idea in the center of the paper and creating bubbles (clouds or clusters) of related ideas around it. This can be a great way to develop a topic more deeply and to recognize connections between various facets of your topic.
Once you have a list of possible topics, it's time to choose the best one that will answer the question posed for your essay. You want to choose a topic that is neither too broad nor too narrow.
- If you are given an assignment to write a one page essay, it would be far too much to write about “the history of the US” since that could fill entire books.
- Instead, you could write about a very specific event within the history of the United States: perhaps signing the Declaration of Independence or when Columbus discovered the U.S.
Choose the best topic from among them and begin moving forward on writing your essay.
Once you have done your brainstorming and chosen your topic, you may need to do some research to write a good essay. Go to the library or look on the Internet for information about your topic. Interview people who might be experts in the subject. Keep your research organized so it will be easy for you to refer back to, and easy for you to cite your sources when writing your final essay.
Developing a Thesis
Your thesis is the main point of your essay. It is essentially one sentence that says what the essay is about. For example, your thesis might be "Dogs are descended from wolves." You can then use this as the basic premise to write your entire essay, and all of the different points throughout need to lead back to this one main thesis. The thesis will usually be used in your introductory paragraph.
The thesis should be broad enough that you have enough to say about it, but not so broad that you can't be thorough.
Outlining Your Essay
The next step is to outline what you are going to write about. This means you want to essentially draw the skeleton of your paper. Writing an outline can help to ensure your paper is logical, well organized and flows properly.
Start by writing the thesis at the top and then write a topic sentence for each paragraph below. This means you should know exactly what each of your paragraphs are going to be about before you write them.
- Don’t jumble too many ideas in each paragraph or the reader may become confused.
- You also want to ensure you have transitions between paragraphs so the reader understands how the paper flows from one idea to the next.
Fill in facts from your research under each paragraph which you want to write about when you write the essay. Make sure each paragraph ties back in to your thesis and creates a cohesive, understandable essay.
Write and Edit
Once you have an outline, its time to start writing. Write from the outline itself, fleshing out your basic skeleton to create a whole, cohesive and clear essay.
You will want to edit and re-read your essay, checking to make sure it sounds exactly the way you want it to. You want to:
- Revise for clarity, consistency and structure.
- Make sure everything flows together.
- Support your thesis adequately with the information in your paragraphs.
- Make sure you have a strong introduction and conclusion so the reader comes away knowing exactly what your paper was about.
- Revise for technical errors.
- Check for grammar problems, punctuation and spelling errors. You cannot always count on spell check to recognize every spelling error as sometimes you can spell a word incorrectly but your misspelling will also be a word, such as spelling from as form.
A lot goes in to writing a successful essay; fortunately, these tips for writing essays can help you along the way and get you on the path to a well-written essay.
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How to Write an Essay
By YourDictionaryEssays are common in elementary, middle, high school and college, and you may even need to write essays in the business world (although they are usually called "reports" at that point). An essay is defined as "a short piece of writing that expresses information as well as the writer's opinion."
Wait a day or so and re-read your essay. Get your essay done a couple of days before the due date so that you have time to go back and revise it to make it polished. Avoid turning in a first draft that you haven't double-checked for errors.
Correct errors related to grammar, punctuation and spelling. Consult a style book if you are unsure how to properly use quotation marks, colons, semicolons, apostrophes or commas. Avoid using exclamation points.
- Look for mistakes involving than/then, your/you're, its/it's, etc. Make sure you know how to use apostrophes correctly.
- Look for mistakes involving general punctuation. Check for run-on sentences, commas and periods inside quotation marks, as well as sparely-used dashes, colons, and semi-colons.
- At the same time, try to keep your language short, sweet, and to the point. A thesaurus is a great tool, but don't just use big words to sound fancy. The best essays are clear, concise, and easily understood by a wide audience.
- Focus on writing killer verbs for sentences. Verbs communicate the action in a sentence and drive the action. A great verb can be the difference between a bland sentence and a beautiful one.
- Use adjectives lightly. Adjectives are great descriptive words, but when used indiscriminately, they can burden an essay and make it less readable. Try to let the verbs and nouns do most of the heavy lifting before you focus on adjectives.
Avoid colloquial (informal) writing. Do not use contractions or abbreviations (e.g., don't, can't, won't, shouldn't, could've, or haven't). Your essay should have a serious tone, even if it's written in a light or lyrical style.
- When events happen in sequence: I first started to realize that I was in the minority when I was in middle school...My realization was confirmed when I proceeded to high school.
- If sentences elaborate on each other: Plants need water to survive...A plant's ability to absorb water depends on the nutrition of the soil.
- When an idea contrasts with another idea: Vegetarians argue that land is unnecessarily wasted by feeding animals to be eaten as food...Opponents argue that land being used for grazing would not be able to be used to create any other kind of food.
- If you're relaying a cause and effect relationship: I will be the first person in my family to graduate from college...I am inspired to continue my family's progress through the generations.
- When connecting similar ideas: Organic food is thought to be better for the environment . . . local food is believed to achieve the same goals.
Cut information that's not specifically related to your topic. You don't want your essay to ramble off-topic. Any information that doesn't directly or indirectly support your thesis should be cut out.
Have someone read your paper aloud to you, or record yourself reading it aloud and play it back. Your ears are sometimes better than your eyes at picking up mistakes in language. The essay should sound like it has a good flow and understandable words.
Rewrite any problematic body passages. If needed, rearrange sentences and paragraphs into a different order. Make sure that both your conclusion and introduction match the changes that you make to the body.