Honestly, throughout most of high school and college, I was a mediocre essay writer.
Every once in a while, I would write a really good essay, but mostly I skated by with B’s and A-minuses.
I know personally how boring writing an essay can be, and also, how hard it can be to write a good one.
Writing an essay? Don’t pull your hair out. Here are 10 tips to write a great essay. Photo by Stuart Pilbrow (Creative Commons)
However, toward the end of my time as a student, I made a breakthrough. I figured out how to not only write a great essay, I learned how to have fun while doing it.
That’s right. Fun.
Why Writing an Essay Is So Hard?
Here are a few reasons:
- You’d rather be scrolling through Facebook.
- You’re trying to write something your teacher or professor will like.
- You’re trying to get an A instead of writing something that’s actually good.
- You want to do the least amount of work possible.
The biggest reason writing an essay is so hard is because we mostly focus on those external rewards like getting a passing grade or our teacher’s approval. The problem is that when you focus on external approval it not only makes writing much less fun, it also makes it significantly harder.
Because when you focus on external approval, you shut down your subconscious, and the subconscious is the source of your creativity. What this means practically is that when you’re trying to write that perfect, A-plus-worthy sentence, you’re turning off most of your best resources.
Just stop. Stop trying to write a good essay (or even a “good-enough” essay). Instead, write an interesting essay, write an essay you think is fascinating. And when you’re finished, go back and edit it until it’s “good” according to your teacher’s standards.
Yes, you need to follow the guidelines in your assignment. If your teacher tells you to write a five-paragraph essay, then write a five-paragraph essay! However, within those guidelines, find room to express something that is uniquely you.
I can’t guarantee you’ll get a higher grade (although, you almost certainly will), but I can absolutely promise you’ll have a lot more fun writing.
10 Tips to Writing a Great Essay
Ready to get writing? Here are my ten best tips for having fun while writing an essay that earns you the top grade!
1. Your essay is just a story.
Every story is about conflict and change, and the truth is that essays are about conflict and change, too! The difference is that in an essay, the conflict is between different ideas, the change is in the way we should perceive those ideas.
That means that the best essays are about surprise, “You probably think it’s one way, but in reality, you should think of it this other way.” See tip #3 for more on this.
2. Before you start writing, ask yourself, “How can I have the most fun writing this?”
It’s normal to feel unmotivated when writing an essay. I’m a writer, and honestly, I feel unmotivated to write all the time. But I have a super-ninja, judo-mind trick I like to use to help motivate myself.
Here’s the secret trick: One of the interesting things about your subconscious is that it will answer any question you ask yourself. So whenever you feel unmotivated to write your essay, ask yourself the following question:
How much fun can I have writing this?”
Your subconscious will immediately start thinking of strategies to make the writing process more fun. Here’s another sneaky question to ask yourself when you really don’t want to write:
How can I finish this as quickly as possible?
Give it a try!
3. As you research, ask yourself, “What surprises me about this subject?”
The temptation, when you’re writing an essay, is to write what you think your teacher or professor wants to read. Don’t do this. Instead, ask yourself, “What do I find interesting about this subject? What surprises me?”
If you can’t think of anything that surprises you, anything you find interesting, then you’re not searching well enough, because history, science, and literature are all brimmingover with surprises. When you look at how great ideas actually happen, the story is always, “We used to think the world was this way. We found out we were completely wrong, and that the world is actually quite different from what we thought.”
As you research your essay topic, search for this story of surprise, and don’t start writing until you can find it.
(By the way, what sources should you use for research? Check out tip #10 below.)
4. Overwhelmed? Just write five original sentences.
The standard three-point essay is really made up of just five original sentences, surrounded by supporting paragraphs that back up those five sentences. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just write five sentences. Here’s what they might look like:
- Thesis: While most students consider writing an essay a boring task, with the right mindset, it can actually be an enjoyable experience.
- Body #1: Most students think writing an essay is tedious because they focus on external rewards.
- Body #2: Students should instead focus on internal fulfillment when writing an essay.
- Body #3: Not only will focusing on internal fulfillment allow students to have more fun, they will write better essays.
- Conclusion: Writing an essay doesn’t have to be simply a way to earn a good grade. Instead, it can be a means of finding fulfillment.
After you write your five sentences, it’s easy to fill in the paragraphs they will find themselves in.
Now, you give it a shot!
5. Be “source heavy.”
In college, I discovered a trick that helped me go from a B-average student to an A-student, but before I explain how it works, let me warn you. This technique is powerful, but it might not work for all teachers or professors. Use with caution.
As I was writing a paper for a literature class, I realized that the articles and books I was reading said what I was trying to say much better than I ever could. So what did I do? I just quoted them liberally throughout my paper. When I wasn’t quoting, I re-phrased what they said in my own words, giving proper credit, of course. I found that not only did this formula create a well-written essay, it took about half the time to write.
When I used this technique, my professors sometimes mentioned that my papers were very “source” heavy. However, at the same time, they always gave me A’s. Like the five sentence trick, this technique makes the writing process simpler. Instead of putting the main focus on writing well, it instead forces you to research well, which some students find easier.
6. Write the body first, the introduction second, and the conclusion last.
Introductions are often the hardest part to write because you’re trying to summarize your entire essay before you’ve even written it yet. Instead, try writing your introduction last, giving yourself the body of the paper to figure out the main point of your essay.
7. Most essays answer the question, “What?” Good essays answer the “Why?” The best essays answer the “How?”
If you get stuck trying to make your argument, or you’re struggling to reach the required word count, try focusing on the question, “How?” For example:
- How did J.D. Salinger convey the theme of inauthenticity in The Catcher In the Rye?
- How did Napoleon restore stability in France after the French Revolution?
- How does the research prove girls really do rule and boys really do drool?
If you focus on how, you’ll always have enough to write about.
8. Don’t be afraid to jump around.
Essay writing can be a dance. You don’t have to stay in one place and write from beginning to end. Give yourself the freedom to write as if you’re circling around your topic rather than making a single, straightforward argument. Then, when you edit, you can make sure everything lines up correctly.
9. Here are some words and phrases you don’t want to use.
- You (You’ll notice I use a lot of you’s, which is great for a blog post. However, in an essay, it’s better to omit the second-person.)
- To Be verbs
Don’t have time to edit? Here’s a lightning-quick editing technique.
A note about “I”: Some teachers say you shouldn’t use “I” statements in your writing, but the truth is that professional, academic papers often use phrases like “I believe” and “in my opinion,” especially in their introductions.
10. It’s okay to use Wikipedia, if…
Wikipedia isn’t just one of the top 5 websites in the world, it can be a great tool for research. However, most teachers and professors don’t consider Wikipedia a valid source for use in essays. However, here are two ways you can use Wikipedia in your essay writing:
- Background research. If you don’t know enough about your topic, Wikipedia can be a great resource to quickly learn everything you need to know to get started.
- Find sources. Check the reference section of Wikipedia’s articles on your topic. While you may not be able to cite Wikipedia itself, you can often find those original sources and site them.
The thing I regret most about high school and college is that I treated it like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.
The truth is, education is an opportunity many people in the world don’t have access to. It’s a gift, not just something that makes your life more difficult. I don’t want you to make the mistake of just “getting by” through school, waiting desperately for summer breaks and, eventually, graduation.
How would your life be better if you actively enjoyed writing an essay? What would school look like if you wanted to suck it dry of all the gifts it has to give you?
All I’m saying is, don’t miss out!
How about you? Do you have any tips for writing an essay?
Use tip #4 and write five original sentences that could be turned into an essay.
When you’re finished, share your five sentences in the comments section.
And remember, have fun!
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an introductory paragraph, a body paragraph, and a conclusion.
the introductory paragraph introduces the topic of which you are writing and contains a thesis, or the sentence that includes all the topics that you're going to be writing about. it usually starts with an attention grabber like a quote, statistic, background info, etc.THe body paragraph(s) include the details about each topic and support the main point/thesis statement and begins with a topic sentence, which is going to tell what is going to happen in the paragraph. it shows the topic of the paragraph. In the body you can also include a counterarguement, something that goes against your topic and protested against using the word "however", and then proving against it with an opinion or fact. but this is usually used for persuasive essays and shows the POV of the opposing side. the conclusion concludes the essay by wrapping up your points, repeating whatever you feel needs to be repeated, and restating your thesis by paraphrasing it.
i will give you an essay i wrote (i'm a sophomore) about controversial issues in the play 'A Raisin in the Sun' by Lorraine Hansberry.
" It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly or wrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned that our ***** families are happier when they live in their own communities.” This was said by a man named Karl Lindner in Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun. This is said by a man who is trying to convince a black family from moving into a neighborhood of white people, simply because of the fact that they are black. Some people think that this play is too outdated to be an example of discrimination, and that it is too stereotypical. However, in these more modern times, we still see this happening, whether it may be about moving location or simply to land a job. A Raisin in the Sun is an important piece of American literature because it displays the way Americans have changed over time.
-2nd paragraph removed to save space-
Beneatha Younger is another character from A Raisin in the Sun. Beneatha is an example of a different type of discrimination; sexism. Beneatha had always dreamed of being a doctor, which is a fabulous dream. But considering the fact that she is black, and, pointed out by Walter, that she is a woman, and the chances of her becoming a doctor are slim. Walter tried to convince Beneatha not to go to medical school, clearly for selfish reasons so he could get the money for his liquor store. But his persuasion to her was that she was a girl, and that not many girls turned out to be doctors. There have always been disputes between men and women discrimination, and there is nearly always a preference for males. For example, men typically have higher-paying salaries than a woman for the exact same job. Women are also interrupted more than men. Men are usually expected to join the army, and when a woman has the desire to do so, she is questioned why. Another example is that, in a high-school environment, whenever there is a joke said in the classroom, more people tend to laugh if a boy had said it, rather than a girl. This is a very minor case, but it still proves the point that sexism is another form of discrimination and that this topic is still discussed today.
Some people may argue that A Raisin in the Sun is too outdated. They may claim that the stereotypes in the play are inaccurate and that this takes place in a time before segregation was resolved, so of course they were treated the way they were. But because of the fact that it includes other forms of discrimination, not just segregational, makes it something that is beneficial to the human being. It helps us understand why segregation is bad, why it receded, and why it should never advance again. It also puts us in the shoes of blacks that were mistreated by our country not that long ago. A Raisin in the Sun is a great example of literature because it shows that discrimination and stereotypes will always be an issue in America, despite no matter how hard we try to make it otherwise.
Despite the play taking place in a rather old-fashioned time than what we live in today, A Raisin in the Sun is a great learning tool. It gives us an insight on why discrimination is wrong, and it can also give hope to those who have been discriminated before. In my opinion, any person, whether they be American, Black, Mexican, Asian, Native American, anyone, should read A Raisin in the Sun. It teaches goals about family values, discrimination, and dealing with those around us who look down at us because they have something better, whether it is money, materialistic things, or intelligence. People have always faced these problems and we still do, and that’s what A Raisin in the Sun is all about. "
subject + position + reasons = an effective thesis. revise.