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Anyone can learn to produce an academic essay if they begin with a few basic essay-writing rules.
An academic essay must be based upon a solid but debatable thesis, supported by relevant and credible evidence, and closed with a succinct and thorough conclusion.
By adhering to the best way to write an essay, you can create valuable, persuasive papers even when you're under a time crunch!
What Makes a Good Essay?
As previously noted, the foundation of any good academic essay is its thesis statement.
Do not confuse your thesis with your opening sentence. There are many good ways to start an essay, but few essays immediately present their main ideas.
After you draft your thesis, you can begin to develop your essay around it. This development will include the main supporting points of your essay, which will scaffold its main body.
Essays also typically include a relevant and compelling introduction and conclusion.
Understanding How to Write a Good Essay
When writing an academic essay, you must take a number of qualities and characteristics into careful consideration. Focus, development, unity, coherence, and correctness all play critical roles when it comes to distinguishing an exceptional essay from one that is less than perfect.
The following essay-writing tips can help writers organize, format, and support their essays in ways that fit their intended purpose and optimize their overall persuasiveness. Here are 12 essay tips for developing and writing your next academic paper.
1. Know What You Are Going to Write About Before You Start Writing
While untrained writers might just sit down and start typing, educated and experienced writers know that there are many steps to writing an essay.
In short, you should know what you want to say before you type a single word. The easiest way to narrow down a thesis and create a proper argument is to make a basic outline before you begin composing your essay.
Your outline should consist of rough notes that sketch out your introduction (including your thesis), the body of your essay (which should include separate paragraphs that present your main supporting points with plenty of evidence and examples), and your conclusion (which ties everything together and connects the argument back to your thesis).
2. Acquire a Solid Understanding of Basic Grammar, Punctuation, and Style
Before getting into more refined essay-writing techniques, you must have a solid grasp of grammar, punctuation, and style. Without these writing fundamentals, it will be difficult to communicate your ideas effectively and ensure that they are taken seriously.
Grammar basics include subject and verb agreement, correct article and pronoun use, and well-formed sentence structures. Make sure you know the proper uses for the most common forms of punctuation. Be mindful of your comma usage and know when a period is needed.
Finally, voice is tremendously important in academic essay writing. Employ language that is as concise as possible. Avoid transition words that don't add anything to the sentence and unnecessary wordiness that detracts from your argument.
Furthermore, use the active voice instead of the passive whenever possible (e.g., "this study found" instead of "it was found by this study"). This will make your essay's tone clear and direct.
3. Use the Right Vocabulary and Know What the Words You Are Using Actually Mean
How you use language is important, especially in academic essay writing. When writing an academic essay, remember that you are persuading others that you are an expert who argues intelligently about your topic.
Using big words just to sound smart often results in the opposite effect—it is easy to detect when someone is overcompensating in their writing.
If you aren't sure of the exact meaning of a word, you risk using it incorrectly. There's no shame in checking, and it might save you from an embarrassing word misuse later!
Using obscure language can also detract from the clarity of your argument—you should consider this before pulling out a thesaurus to change a perfectly appropriate word to something completely different.
Want to learn more? Read 10 Academic Phrases Your Writing Doesn't Need.
4. Understand the Argument and Critically Analyze the Evidence
While writing a good essay, your main argument should always be at the front of your mind. While it's tempting to go off on a tangent about an interesting side note, doing so makes your writing less concise.
Always question the evidence you include in your essay; ask yourself, "Does this directly support my thesis?" If the answer is "no," then that evidence should probably be excluded.
When you are evaluating evidence, be critical and thorough. You want to use the strongest research to back up your thesis. It is not enough to simply present evidence in support of an argument. A good writer must also explain why the evidence is relevant and supportive.
Everything you include should clearly connect to your topic and argument.
5. Know How to Write a Conclusion That Supports Your Research
One of the most overlooked steps to writing an essay is the conclusion. Your conclusion ties all your research together and proves your thesis. It should not be a restatement of your introduction or a copy-and-paste of your thesis.
A strong conclusion briefly outlines the key evidence discussed in the body of an essay and directly ties it to the thesis to show how the evidence proves or disproves the main argument of your research.
Countless great essays have been written only to be derailed by vague, weakly worded conclusions. Don't let your next essay become one of those.
6. Build a Solid Thesis to Support Your Arguments
A thesis is the main pillar of an essay. By selecting a specific thesis, you'll be able to develop arguments to support your central opinion. Consider writing about a unique experience or your own particular view of a topic.
Your thesis should be clear and logical, but it should also be debatable. Otherwise, it might be difficult to support it with compelling arguments.
7. Develop an Interesting Opening Paragraph to Hook In Readers from the Get-Go
No matter how you begin your essay, you must strive to capture the reader's interest immediately. If your opening paragraph doesn't catch the eye and engage the brain, any attempt at persuasion may end before the essay even starts.
The beginning of your essay is crucial for setting the stage for your thesis.
8. Always Remember to Edit and Proofread Your Essay
Any decent writer will tell you that writing is really rewriting. A good academic essay will inevitably go through multiple drafts as it slowly takes shape. When you arrive at a final draft, you must make sure that it is as close to perfect as possible.
This means subjecting your essay to close and comprehensive editing and proofreading processes. In other words, you must read your paper as many times as necessary to eliminate all grammar/punctuation mistakes and typos.
Here are some common mistakes you should learn to avoid in academic writing.
It is helpful to have a third party review your work. Consider consulting a peer or professional editing service. Keep in mind that professional editors are able to help you identify underdeveloped arguments and unnecessarily wordy language, and provide other feedback.
Get Critical Feedback on Your Writing
9. When Developing Your Essay's Main Body, Build Strong and Relevant Arguments
Every sentence in the main body of your paper should explain and support your thesis. When deciding how much evidence to include in an academic essay, a good guideline is to include at least three main supporting arguments.
Those main supporting arguments, in turn, require support in the form of relevant facts, figures, examples, analogies, and observations.
You will need to engage in appropriate research to accomplish this. To organize your research efforts, you may want to develop a list of good research questions.
Learn how to write a research question that will help frame your research.
10. Choose the Format of Your Essay before Writing It
The final shape that your essay takes depends a great deal on what kind of format you use. Popular college essay format types include the Modern Language Association of America (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), and Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago style).
These formats govern everything from capitalization rules to source citation. Often, professors dictate a specific format for your essay. If they do not, you should choose the format that best suits your field.
11. Create Clear Transitions between Your Ideas
Although unnecessary transition words are the enemy of clarity and concision, they can be invaluable tools when it comes to separating and connecting the different sections of your essay.
Not only do they help you express your ideas but they also bring a cohesive structure to your sentences and a pleasant flow to your writing. Just be sure that you are using the right transition words for the right purpose and to the proper effect.
12. Always Include an Organized Reference Page at the End of Your Essay
As a key component of MLA, APA, and Chicago Style formatting, the reference or Works Cited page is an essential part of any academic essay.
Regardless of the format used, the reference page must be well organized and easy to read so that your audience can see exactly where your outside information came from.
To produce a properly formatted reference page, you may have to familiarize yourself with specialized phrases and abbreviations, such as "et al."
How to Write a Good Hook for an Essay
The key to a good hook is to introduce an unexplored or absorbing line of inquiry in your introduction that addresses the main point of your thesis.
By carefully choosing your language and slowly revealing details, you can build reader anticipation for what follows.
Much like an actual worm-baited fishing hook, a successful hook will lure and capture readers, allowing the writer to "reel them in."
How to Get Better at Writing Essays
You can get better at writing essays the same way that you improve at anything else: practice, practice, practice! However, there are a few ways that you can improve your writing quickly so you can turn in a quality academic essay on time.
In addition to following the 12 essay tips and guidelines above, you can familiarize yourself with a few common practices and structures for essay development.
Great writing techniques for essays include brainstorming and tree diagrams, especially when coming up with a topic for your thesis statement. Becoming familiar with different structures for organizing your essay (order of importance, chronological, etc.) is also extremely helpful.
How to Write a Good Introduction for an Essay
To learn how to write a good essay, you must also learn how to write a good introduction.
Most effective essay introductions begin with relatively broad and general subject matter and then gradually narrow in focus and scope until they arrive at something extremely specific: the thesis. This is why writers tend to place their thesis statements at the very end of their introductory paragraph(s).
Because they are generally broad and often relate only tangentially to an essay's main point, there is virtually no limit on what the beginning of a good introduction can look like. However, writers still tend to rely on somewhat cliché opening sentences, such as quotations and rhetorical questions.
How to Write a Good Conclusion for an Essay
Briefly put, a good conclusion does two things. It wraps up any loose ends and drives home the main point of your essay.
To learn how to write a good conclusion, you will want to ensure that no unanswered questions remain in the reader's mind. A good conclusion will restate the thesis and reinforce the essay's main supporting points.
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About the Author
Scribendi's in-house editors work with writers from all over the globe to perfect their writing. They know that no piece of writing is complete without a professional edit, and they love to see a good piece of writing turn into a great one after the editing process. Scribendi's in-house editors are unrivaled in both experience and education, having collectively edited millions of words and obtained nearly 20 degrees collectively. They love consuming caffeinated beverages, reading books of various genres, and relaxing in quiet, dimly lit spaces.