Every person will get a chance to write their first essay. In fact, there will be several instances in a person’s life when essay-writing skills will come in handy, long after college graduation is over. This is why it is essential to have a clear grasp of even just the basics of essay-writing.
But without knowing these essentials, it can be quite challenging for one to start. Fear not, a professional essay writer shares the following tips to improve your writing skills:
1. Make an outline
Before you even start, make sure you know what you’re going to write about. If you have a choice, choose a familiar topic or one you are curious to know more about. Once you’ve settled on the subject matter for your essay, you need to find the focus of your discussion.
The simplest way for you to narrow this down is to create a basic outline. This should include the basic essay elements, namely the following:
- Introduction (which should have a clear thesis statement)
- The body of the essay (including separate paragraphs discussing supporting details)
- Conclusion (summarizes everything together)
2. Steer clear of repetition
Always bear in mind that repetition is an essay killer. Although this may seem difficult when you’re writing a six-page paper on a single character, avoiding repetition is crucial in refining your writing skills. When your readers see the same words, they may assume that you’re one lazy writer.
Below are some tricks that will help you eradicate repetitive words and eliminate wordiness:
- Replace the word or phrase with something related or similar whenever you feel that you need to keep or stress an idea.
- Try substituting a pronoun for a proper noun like “she” instead of stating the name over and over again.
- Use the thesaurus to expand your vocabulary or remind yourself of other alternative words that you can use. However, don’t choose unusual words that merely sound good. Using certain words for the sake of variation is a risky move as they may convey a different underlying meaning, which can ultimately damage your writing more than a simple repetition would.
- Be mindful of word choice or proper usage; not all synonyms can and should be used interchangeably.
A great technique in eliminating offending repetition involves the following steps:
- Cross out repetitive words or phrases in the sentence.
- Next, encircle keywords in your sentences but skip words like a, of, it, while, etc.
- Create a new sentence that keeps the encircled words but gets rid of the repetitive ones.
This technique may require you to add more ideas to supplement the thought. As difficult as this may be for a first-time essay writer, it will help you expand your sentences – eventually improving your paper.
3. Write in the active voice
The best way to breathe life into your essay is to write in the active voice. This means that in every sentence you write, the subject performs the action. Here are examples for comparison:
- Active – Georgia threw the ball.
- Passive – The ball was thrown by Georgia.
To know whether you’re writing in the passive voice, look for the “to be” verb (is, was, be, or been) followed by the past participle (usually a verb ending with -ed). Then, ask yourself who is the performer of the action (verb). Move that subject in front of the verb, then make the appropriate grammatical changes.
4. Have a solid understanding of basic grammar, punctuation and style
Grammar, punctuation and style are all essential if you want the reader to understand your essay. Before you write, make sure you have solid knowledge of basic grammar. Grammar basics will include proper article and pronoun usage, subject-verb agreement, and well-structured sentences.
Moreover, you should know the proper uses for common punctuation marks. Be mindful of the way you use a comma and know when you need to use a period.
5. Do away with trite phrases
As much as possible, force yourself to avoid using idioms or clichés to improve your writing skills. Most readers will appreciate reading about your original thoughts rather than processed or canned sentiments. Reduce the number of metaphors and similes, especially if they’re common ones.
6. Write in the present tense
A key tip in improving your writing skills is to make it a habit to write everything in the present tense. It doesn’t matter if you watched the movie last week, or the author wrote it centuries ago. When you write an essay, do so as if the characters and events exist in the here and now.
7. Sweat the small stuff
Never forget to re-check what you wrote. Whether it’s a spell check or a grammar check, looking back at what you wrote can help you eliminate errors before turning your paper in. It will only take you a moment and will save you from the embarrassment of misspelling an author or a character’s name.
When editing your essay, always pay close attention to suggested replacements. However, you shouldn’t rely solely on this and still use your eyes to find every mistake before handing it in. Even brilliant essays will get low grades when you leave simple mistakes unchanged.
8. Use the right language
In essay writing, how you use language is vital. Remember that you’re trying to persuade your readers that you’re an expert who knows what you’re writing about. However, using big words often just to sound smart may have the opposite effect as it’s easy to detect when you’re overcompensating in your writing.
When you aren’t sure of the exact meaning of a certain word, you risk using it incorrectly. What’s more, the use of obscure language may also take away the clarity of your statements. Keep this in mind whenever you use a thesaurus to change a good-enough word to something entirely different.
9. Have the main argument in mind
It’s easy to go off-tangent about an interesting side note of your topic. However, this can make your essay less concise which is why you should always have the main argument in mind. Whenever you include evidence in your essay, always ask yourself if it supports the main idea of the essay.
If the answer to the question is “no”, then, you shouldn’t include that evidence. Be critical and thorough when evaluating evidence as you’d want to use the strongest research to support your statement. Everything you include in your essay should have a clear connection to your argument and topic.
10. Support your essay with a proper conclusion
The conclusion is one of the most overlooked parts of an essay. Most students or first-time essay writers are in a haste to finish that they don’t bother making a great conclusion. When in fact, your conclusion is what ties your research all together to prove your idea, notion, or thesis.
Your conclusion shouldn’t be a reiteration of your introduction. To create a proper conclusion, quickly outline the key evidence that you discussed in the body of your essay. This will either prove or disprove your main argument in your essay.
There are many great essays that become wrecked by vague and weak conclusions. Don’t let your essay be one of those.
Practice until you improve
Not all people are thrilled about writing an essay. But instead of pondering about it, you should at least know that there are many beneficial reasons as to why you should write essays.
Don’t lose hope even if your first essay appears feeble now, with constant practice and by applying the tips above, you can always improve.
Taimoor Liaquat is the CEO at MyPerfectWords.com, renowned as the global source for professional writing services at all academic levels. The company’s team of world-class native English-speaking essay writers with advanced degrees at elite US universities ensures high-quality custom content for all clients.