Six Essay Writing Tips That Actually Work

You have an essay due in two days, you’ve barely considered your subject matter, and you don’t know how to start writing. Do you:  

  1. Panic?
  2. Forget about it, I have plenty of time (. . .I think)
  3. Read these tips and get that essay done?

If I were you, I’d pick C. With these tips, you’ll be off and writing in no time!

1. Write a thesis statement first. 

A thesis statement is your essay’s main argument, claim, or idea. A good essay will be organized around supporting this statement, so it makes sense to first craft your thesis statement and build your essay around it. 

Your thesis statement should address what you will be talking about in your paper and should summarize your main argument or point. This may seem difficult, but keep in mind that a thesis statement is not a summary of everything written in the essay compounded into one sentence (this is how run-on sentences are born). Your thesis statement should be your main argument; nothing more, nothing less.

2. “Schedule” your essay

Consider these two questions: 

  • How much time do you have until your deadline?
  • How much work would you need to do on your essay for it to be done in that time? 

Let’s say you have five days to write a five-page paper; you can decide to write 2 and a half pages in two days or one page per day to have the paper completed in time. 

Whatever amount of work you ‘assign’ yourself, make sure you commit to doing that work! Trust me- when the deadline rolls around, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you have your essay completed on schedule. 

3. Got sources? Get more. 

In the art of essay-writing, it’s always better to have a surplus of sources that can serve to support your thesis statement. Thoroughly read your sources and supporting material and take note of how they can fit into your essay to support your main points. 

Many writers recommend utilizing the 60/40 approach(hyper link)  to quoting and paraphrasing; 60% of your work should be in your own words, while 40% should consist of supporting sources. 

4. Body first, conclusion and introduction last.  

The introduction and conclusion of a paper are simply a succinct summarizing of what you are going to express in the body of your essay, so writing the body first will simply save you time when writing these last two sections. You can also avoid the pitfall of plotting out points in your introduction and conclusion that may never make it into the actual body. 

5. Keep your language formal and professional 

Please, I beg you, no “you guys” or, “I think”s. Do as I, an ENL grad student, do and use an online thesaurus for synonyms to replace simplistic words in your text. Avoid the first person and 

don’t address the instructor directly. Unless, of course, they specified that you should. 

6. Understand your audience. 

This is perhaps the most crucial advice I could give you. Understanding who you are writing your essay is incredibly important to how you tailor your language, your format, and even your narrative style. Different instructors require different types of writing; I would not write the same essay for a biology professor as I would for a history professor.

 If you are writing for an audience outside of academia, this point becomes even more salient. Whether or not your audience absorbs and understands your message depends entirely on how you express it to them. Understand who you are writing for and ‘adapt’ to them, so to speak. 

Hopefully, these tips will guide you as you write and polish your multiliteracy endeavors. Happy writing!