Essay Writing Tips – 6 Steps to Writing a Great Essay

If writing an essay seems like a daunting experience, then learning how to break the process down into a number of easy steps will give you the confidence you need to produce an interesting, high quality piece of work. This article provides 6 essay writing tips that will take you from an initial idea through to the finished product.

1. Select your topic carefully

If your topic has many different aspects, then a very useful essay writing tip is to narrow it down to one specific area, and make sure you explain this in your introduction. This will make for better reading than if you try to cover everything, and will definitely improve the quality of your work. If you get to choose your own topic, make it something you are interested in. This way the research will become much easier and your enthusiasm will ‘rub off’ on your readers.

2. Do Your Research

Another useful essay writing tip is to make sure you spend sufficient time looking into all the aspects of your chosen topic. Read as much relevant material as possible, and make notes along the way so you don’t forget anything. Also note down where you have got your ideas from; i.e. author name, book or article title and page number.

3. Write Down the Main Arguments

Once you’ve researched your subject, summarise the main arguments and ideas you have read. Do not copy other people’s words, just choose the important points and summarise these in your own words. This is a highly important essay writing tip – whatever you do, make sure you don’t plagiarise another author’s work.

Prepare the basic structure of the essay in dot point headings, using only a few words to describe each main point. Play around with the structure until you feel that the sequence is right. Put the most important point first, followed by the next most important point, and so on.

Then paste your research summaries under each heading (you can delete these later).

4. Fill Out the Body of the Essay

This is where you discuss in detail your thoughts and ideas on the chosen topic, and ‘fill out’ the summaries you wrote earlier. Under each main point, introduce the evidence supporting your theories, together with arguments and any other points you wish to make. A good essay writing tip is to make sure these are thought provoking and interesting, as well as informative.

End each paragraph or section with some type of conclusion, or ‘lead in’ sentence to the next paragraph.

Now that you have written the main body of the essay, you can go back to writing the ‘Introduction’, followed by the essay ‘Conclusion’.

5. Write Your Introduction

In some ways this is the most important part of your essay. One of the best essay writing tips is to use the introduction to grab the reader’s attention and give them a ‘taste’ of the information to come that will make them want to keep on reading.

Describe briefly what the essay is about, and your research sources, and explain what the reader will get out of reading the essay. Finish the introduction with a clear explanation of your point of view, or of the main essay idea.

6. Write Your Conclusions

Start this section by briefly summarising the results and conclusions of your research. Tell the reader what your main conclusion is, and why. Make sure you have also checked and formatted your references that will go at the end of the essay.

A great essay writing tip is to end the essay with a memorable, thought provoking statement that in some way ‘sums up’ your findings.

These essay writing tips will help you to produce a well structured essay, but don’t forget to edit and proof read your work thoroughly to ensure there are no spelling, grammatical or punctuation errors.

Choosing the Best Essay Topics

Writing is an activity that has a sequence of logically well constructed sentences dedicated towards representing in essence the viewpoint of an individual. There are many simple factors that are considered when choosing the appropriate topics for essay. The style and the structure of an essay depend on the specific type of essay that you are writing on but the basic construction of an essay remains the same almost everywhere. The introduction is where the writer ushers in the topic of the essay and makes a thesis statement if necessary. When choosing a topic for essay keep in mind that you consider your level of knowledge and experience on the topic.

Successful essays depend a lot on how the topic for essay was chosen. The occasion for which the essay is to be written affects the language that you can you in essays. For example an essay written for a college paper will be very different from an essay written on some topic of general interest at least on most occasions.

The classifications are very broad, some factors are environment dependent. The environment also determines what topic for essay is chosen. It is not always necessary to be outspoken and outright. It helps sometimes to be tactful and soft spoken.

  • Consider the audience: Always make it a point to consider your audience. If you have time to write the essay then you can brainstorm the topic, it helps to converse with peers about it and get the general opinion on the topic. Choose a catchy topic that is targeted to the interests of your audience.
  • Narrow your work down: Narrow down the possible topics for essay and make a list of the extremities of the topics available to you. Make sure that you do not choose a controversial topic to write an essay that has a high degree of importance unless you are familiar with the topic in question.
  • Research the topic: Research the topic if you have to. There are many online guides that will help you write a powerful essay. Web sites dedicated to hosting articles offer in great detail a good variety of sound articles which offer valuable help in writing drawing from a large database of topics for essay.
  • Use your imagination: Imagination has a very important role to play in the process of writing. One thing to remember when choosing topics for essay is the importance of your personal creativity and viewpoint. Adding your own individual element is just as important as writing with the correct structure or the correct grammar. Blunt writing only dulls the reader’s affections towards your work.

Make a summary of the possible topics for essay. Work out the variables carefully and make a final list. Before you draft your work make sure that you have selected a topic that will highlight your opinion and the need to act upon the topic.

How to Write a First-Person Essay

First-person essays span space, time and subject: the city dump, an obsessive bird, or a toy from the 60s–all subjects of essays I’ve published–are just one shuffle of an endless deck of compelling themes. Mongrel lot or not, it’s never the subject of an essay that tells, but the style and stance of its author–what might seem the least likely of essay subjects can be made a piquant page-turner by a writer’s winning hand. We’ll look here at choosing the topic, slant and voice of your essay, constructing a lead, building an essay’s rhythm and packing a punch at essay’s end.

Tackling a Topic
Because one of the great appeals of the personal essay is the conversational tone essayists take, it seems a given that it’s best to be conversant with your subject. But “write what you know” can also be an inkless cage; some of the best essays are a voyage of discovery for both writer and reader. You might accidentally flip some breakfast cereal with your spoon and have an epiphany about the origins of catapults. That little leap might take you seven leagues into the history of siege engines and voila!–a piece for a history journal comparing ancient weapons to new.

Subjects sit, stand and float all around you: should you write about baseball, bacteria or bougainvilleas? The key is engagement with your topic so that the angle your writing takes is pointed and penetrating. You don’t write about cars, you write about the fearful symmetry of a 1961 T-Bird. The essayist should be, to paraphrase Henry James, one of the people on whom nothing is lost. Idly looking over at a fellow driver stopped at a traffic signal might be a moment to yawn, but it might also be a moment to consider how people amuse themselves in their vehicles. An essay here about new car technology, an essay there about boredom and its antidotes.

Essays are literally at your fingertips: consider a piece on how fingerprint technology evolved. Or at your nosetip: my most recently published essay was about a lurking smell in my house that led to a mad encounter with attic rats. Humble topics can spur sage tales: Annie Dillard’s recounting of seeing a moth consumed in a candle flame morphs into a elegy on an individual’s decision to live a passionate life. You don’t need glasses to find your topics, just a willingness to see them.

Slant and Voice
Which way should your essay tilt? Some essays wrap blunt opinions in layered language, ensnaring a reader with charm, not coercion. Louis Lapham’s essays often take a political angle, but any advocacy is cloaked in beguiling prose. A how-to essay might explain a process, but its steps wouldn’t be the mechanistic ones of a manual, but more the methods of throwing procedural doors open, lighting from within. Personal-experience or “confessional” essays done well deftly get away with impressionistic strokes: words evoking sensations, scents, and subtleties. Consistency in tone is compelling: leading your reader through your essay with sweet conceptual biscuits only to have them fall hip-deep in a polemical cesspool at essay’s end is counter-productive. Essays need elasticity-they can feint and jab at ideas, but shouldn’t sucker-punch.

Essays are personal–the best of them can seem like conversation with an intelligent, provocative friend, but one with remarkable discretion in editing out the extraneous. Whether the word “I” appears at all, you must be in your essay, and pungently. It can’t be simply “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”; it must be “How I Spent My Summer Vacation Tearfully Mourning My Dead Ferret.” Never hide in an essay. Essays aren’t formless dough, they are the baked bread, hot and crusty. Cranky, apprehensive or playful, your candid voice should be a constant: you don’t want your essays to roar like a lion in one paragraph and bleat like a mewling lamb in another (unless it’s done for effect).

Lead or Lose
Leads are big. If your first bite of a meal is bitter, you’re likely to put the fork down and call for take-out. You’ve got to grab readers from the get-go. One method is direct address. Here’s the lead from an article of mine about dictionaries:

Think of your favorite book. No, better yet, go and get your favorite book, feel its heft in your hand, flip through its pages, smell its bookness. Read a passage or two to send that stream of sparks through your head, the alchemy that occurs when the written word collides with the chemicals of your consciousness. Delight is the fruit of that collision.

It tells the reader to do something, with a visual and sensual context. It’s hard for a reader not to read that lead and avoid doing what it requests, at least in the reader’s imagination. Here’s another lead of mine that takes a different tack, one of identification or empathy:

Scuttlebutt had it that Barbara Cartland, the doyenne of romance writers, did much of her early writing at the piano, stark naked. However that strains credibility, everyone’s heard of writers who insist they can’t write without their ancient manual typewriters with the missing keys, or their favorite fountain pens (or maybe even a stylus and hot wax). Writers can be a peculiar lot, and it’s not surprising that their composing methods can be all over the map.

Besides beginning with a memorable bit about Ms. Cartland, it invites the readers to consider their own pecadillos about favorite objects and fetishes, whether they are writers or not. You want the reader here to nod yes, agree that people are odd, and move forward into the piece. Sometimes a question that has a universal appeal can do the trick. Consider this:

Could listening to a barking dog actually drive you mad? I fear it could. Worse yet, I fear this not in theory, but in fact: barking dogs are making me a sweaty mess.

The statement shapes my own problem into one that might apply to many. You’ll drag a dog lover or hater (and that’s a broad audience) deep into the essay by this lead leash.

Structure and Rhythm
Most essays aren’t built on journalism’s inverted pyramid, stacking essential information up front and moving to leaner layers as factual momentum fades. Instead, essays often take elliptical paths that meander around in a subject’s fields, picking its flowers, discarding them, looking to metaphoric hills beyond, then up-close at the ground below. An accomplished essayist like Edward Hoagland wends his way through paragraphs, often taking a quick conceptual turn that might seem a misstep or a dead end, but he always re-establishes his rhythm, much like a jazzman vamping and then returning to the deeper theme.

Hoagland is a good study on the magic of cadence and the musicality of words; he makes the difficult art of weaving layered points of view with bright language seem easy. That’s not to say that a more straightforward path through your essay isn’t the best course. Mark Twain’s “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed” essentially plots a chronological rendering of the hapless-and hilarious-exploits of a band of Civil War bumblers, Twain prominent among them. Determine if your material is the sort that should sneak up on readers to win their confidences or overwhelm them with the sustained march of topic vigor.

Wrapping It Up
Just as a good lead hooks readers and draws them along for the ride, a good conclusion releases them from your essay’s thrall with a frisson of pleasure, or agreement, or passion, or some other sense of completion. Speaking of the lead, circling back to your lead in your conclusion is one way to give your readers that full-circle sense. Find a way to restate your thesis that reflects the journey the essay has taken. Or stand over the fallen body of your original conceit, if your essay’s body moved from first concept light to its setting sun.

Only if you have subtle skills can you leave your readers hanging on an ambiguity or wondering at your waffling–readers want customer satisfaction, and essays that have a “new fiction” inconclusiveness don’t scratch that itch. Unless of course you can construct the kind of conclusive inconclusiveness of the last paragraph of H. L. Mencken’s “Imperial Purple”:

Twenty million voters with IQs under 60 have their ears glued to the radio; it takes four days’ hard work to concoct a speech without a sensible word in it. Next day a dam must be opened somewhere. Four Senators get drunk and try to neck a lady politician built like a tramp steamer. The Presidential automobile runs over a dog. It rains.

Whether you annoy them or astound them, leave your readers with something of yourself. They’ll return to your writing hungry for more.