Six basic rules to rock at writing essays.
1. Find your voice!!
o Show your personality in your writing; capture the voice in your head with your words on the paper – just make sure it is written in a clean, crisp, and correct way. o Write the “one liners” that pop into your head when you’re thinking about something, as long as they fit the topic and flow of your essay. o Don’t be afraid to use upper level vocabulary as you write your essay, especially if it fits with the topic and flow of your writing. Commonly used words should be spelled correctly, but you won’t be penalized for misspelling an upper level vocabulary word, as long as you use it in the correct context.
2. Count on the facts and ANALYZE!!!
o Break apart your topic and explain it, piece by piece. o If you are asked to analyze a passage that has been provided, chose an angle, stick to it, and use examples from the passage to prove your point of view (POV), including direct quotes! o Remember – don’t assume the reader knows what you are talking about – you have to completely explain what you mean and why it is important. o Always back up what you say by using examples and details. o If you are writing a persuasive essay, make sure your supporting details/examples are plausible (realistic), whether they are true or not. Don’t use examples that are too “out of this world,” you might lose credibility with the reader. If you do feel the need to pick an angle that is “out of this world” – such as writing about a field trip to Saturn – write the essay in a realistic manner (taking off from NASA, booster rockets, astronaut food, etc…).
3. Use those adjectives, adverbs, and figurative language!!
o Be as descriptive as you can – let the reader know the color, the number, the style, the way, the speed, etc… Remember, you are creating a picture in your reader’s mind. o Be creative in enhancing your writing – don’t be afraid to embellish, embellish, embellish!! o Use metaphors, similes, personification, etc, to help the reader visualize the picture you are creating with your words. o Help them “see” what youare writing by providing a point of reference.
4. Keep it clear!!
o Don’t try to explain complicated ideas in only one sentence. Break your thoughts into two or three well written sentences. o Vary your sentence length through the essay, using a combination of shorter and longer sentences. o Reread when you have time and BE HONEST – does what you wrote really make sense exactly the way it is written?
5. Edit, edit, edit!!
o Don’t be afraid to change ideas around as you brainstorm (pre-write), create rough drafts, and write your final copy. o Make sure to capitalize correctly and to use punctuation. Even in a “rough draft” it matters!!! These are basic writing skills that should be automatic!
6. Stay on topic!!
o Once you establish your main idea (thesis), make sure you stick with it! o Don’t let your writing wander into a tangent – remember you are writing to prove your ideas (for expository, persuasive, and analytical writing). If you wander, you might lose the support of your reader. o Pick an angle and stick with it.
• On average, a basic essay written in class or in one night should be five to seven(ish) paragraphs. Five paragraphs is a minimum – anything shorter can’t really be called an essay. • Around paragraph six or seven, you need to start wrapping up your ideas and forming a conclusion. • Each paragraph should have an average of four to six sentences. Four sentences is a minimum – anything shorter can’t really be called a paragraph. • Around sentence six, you should begin transitioning into your next paragraph. (And compound sentences only count as one sentence, not two!!) • Practice using different lengths of sentences and paragraphs inside an essay.
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• This is your first paragraph in your essay.
• Use a great hook! Your first sentence should grab your reader’s attention. Use a question, or an exclamatory statement, or some unusual fact or detail. Think about what would get your attention; what would make you want to keep reading that essay? • Establish your thesis (main idea)! You need to pick your angle – and explain that angle to your reader. If the topic is really broad or large, chose a small part inside that topic you find really interesting – narrow the topic. Make sure all the details, stories, examples you use in the rest of your essay are connected to that narrowed topic. • Get creative and make it interesting!!! Timed essays are known for having the worst topics as prompts – it is up to you to find a way to make it creative and interesting. Turning a pedestrian prompt into something interesting and worth reading is the mark of a good writer!
• This part of the essay should about three to five paragraphs long. • The purpose of the essay body is to prove the main idea (or thesis) you’ve chosen for your essay. Use details, facts, and descriptions to back up the angle of your essay. • If you are analyzing a passage that has been provided, cite examples from that passage to support your thesis/POV. Use at least one direct quote in your essay from the passage. • Decide on two or three “arguments” to back up your main idea (thesis) and then trace these “arguments” with lots of details, descriptions, and examples. Remember – you are not only proving your point, you’re creating a picture in the reader’s mind. • Use transitions! When paragraphs don’t seem to “go together” an essay can sound choppy and confusing. When you trace your ideas, you show how they are connected, and one idea should flow into the next. The best writers can use “implied transitions” – restating the last idea from the previous paragraph in the first sentence of the new paragraph.
• This is the last paragraph in your essay.
• Wrap it up! The purpose of the conclusion is to wrap up your details, facts, and examples. • Restate your main idea – that angle you decided onin your introduction – but not in exactly the same words. Paraphrase the main idea from your introduction when you write the conclusion. • Don’t leave them hanging! Make sure your essay has a definite end. Don’t leave the reader wondering what you meant; make sure you’ve finished explaining and restating your original main idea.