Writing isn’t everyone’s strong suit, but practice makes perfect when it comes to refining those essay-writing skills. Essays require a certain format and style – that may also change depending on the rules of an academic institution. However, various best practices can be beneficial if someone wants to improve their essay writing skills.
Knowing what works and practicing the right techniques can go a long way towards crafting better essays, whether for tests or assignments. Here are 5 tips every student should keep in mind when they’re busy writing (or practicing for) their next essay.
1. Create a mind map and build an outline first
No exceptional essay gets written without having a solid plan in place first. Few (if any) writers can start writing and finish a well-structured story or argument with zero planning. The first step is to start researching the topic to understand its scope and specifics.
Use that information to create a mind map of all the important parts to hit on. If the essay has any specific requirements, then be sure to include those points too. Then, use the mind map to create an outline for the essay, which should be structured to support the argument being made. But more on that later.
2. Use the active voice
Stick to the active voice when writing an essay as it describes the subject in clear terms. It’s also easier to read than the passive voice. The active voice conveys a sense of confidence and authority on the topic, perfect for more formal academic writing. The passive voice, on the other hand, is often used for crafting creative prose that follows a more lyrical or mysterious undertone. It’s not exactly fitting for academia unless it’s for a story-based language essay.
3. Stick to the correct structure
When writing an essay, always keep the main argument in mind as this is what each segment is meant to support. Sometimes, a teacher or curriculum will provide a pre-made structure that the essay has to follow, which is great. In the absence of that, some structural rules apply to almost every academic essay.
Always start with a thesis statement that describes the argument and provides information on what the essay will be about. After that, start with an introduction and continue with paragraphs divided into segments as necessary to illustrate different points of the argument. End it with a solid conclusion that wraps up the main idea and the essay’s points.
4. Don’t be afraid of cutting parts
Yes, reaching that word count matters, and it’s painful to cut big chunks of a thesis because that means new parts need to be added. But if it means the flow improves and the argument is better substantiated, then cut away.
Few essays are good enough on the first take and will require multiple read-throughs and drafts. Often, when writing, people are too close to their subject and can’t see the flaws in their work. Taking some time away from it, then reading through it all again can reveal areas that can be improved upon that weren’t obvious earlier.
5. Get feedback
While proofreading your work is still vitally important, it’s good to get an outside perspective too. That’s why every publication has an editor – sometimes writers are just too close to their work to see its flaws. Asking a teacher/lecturer or fellow student for their input on an essay or practice essay can be intimidating, but it’s worth it!
An impartial view will spot areas that need improvement or places where the argument doesn’t make sense. A good teacher would be thrilled that anyone’s taking an interest in improving and should be happy to offer some comments. Barring that, try to seek out the help of a writing center at the school, if that’s available.
Creating well-written essays, regardless of the topic, is a skill like any other, and it can be built up over time. All it takes is a little practice. However, researching a new topic for an essay can take people all over the internet, which isn’t always a friendly place.
Malware and hackers are always on the lookout for new people to exploit, and they often hide in plain sight on legitimate-looking websites. So make sure to take security precautions like using a VPN while researching a topic for a new essay. What is a VPN? It’s software that secures a device’s network connection so that hackers can’t hop on and steal any information.