Some students enjoy writing essays. Others do not. Whether you’re in the first or the second category, the fact is that essays are an essential part of high school and college and maybe even in your future profession.
Learning to write well will not only help you earn better grades, but will help you develop skills such as crafting an argument, doing research, organizing thoughts and ideas and expressing yourself well. Here are some important practices to adopt for those who want to develop their essay writing abilities:
1) Read a lot
Reading other people’s writing can help you to develop your own. Check out articles in reputable newspapers and magazines. Read critically and consider different styles and techniques you wish to adopt.
2) Do good research and take good notes
You won’t be able to write an essay at all without proper preparation. And that means taking the time to read and research. As you read, take notes and mark all the passages you find interesting or relevant to your topic. Make sure your research is written by credible, academic sources. No point in reading something that will be discredited by your teachers.
3) Why should the reader care?
As you begin to craft your argument, bear this question in mind constantly: “Who cares?” You might not be writing about the most polemic subject. Maybe your essay is on the Pythagorean theory. Okay, great. Why is the Pythagorean theory relevant to an average citizen? Where do you see it reflected in everyday life? If you can make your topic relevant to the person reading it today, your essay will be more successful.
Outlining can help you organize your thoughts and build up support for your argument. A good outline can make the writing process much easier.
5) Use active voice
Passive voice is pretty boring to read. Not only that, it sounds overly formal and can even be confusing. Consider the following two sentences:
The ball was thrown by Jack to Chris.
Jack threw the ball to Chris.
Which one is easier to understand? Which one sounds better?
Avoid extravagance in your writing. Don’t use fancy vocabulary words. Break up complex sentences into bite-sized chunks. Remember that your goal is to present your argument and get your point across. It’s not to make the reader work hard to understand you by having to reach for the dictionary every few words.
Repetition is a dangerous pitfall that many students end up falling into. It can be challenging to avoid restating certain words or phrases. So, get out your thesaurus and look for other ways to express the same thing. It livens up the language and makes for more interesting writing.
8) Avoid cliches
Every writer is prone to resorting to cliches now and then. They’re so ingrained in our minds that it can be hard to find a different way to describe something. Make the effort to be original in your work. Here’s a list of popular cliches to avoid.
9) Pay attention to feedback
Sometimes the key to improving your essay writing is staring you right in the face. Or perhaps written in the margins of your last essay by your professor. If your teachers have been telling you to go more in depth with your analysis, to cut out the fancy word-play or to include more research in your essays, then you’ve already got your first step on how to improve your writing. You may also want to schedule a meeting with your teachers and ask for advice.
The editing step is an important one in the writing process. It can make the difference between an average essay and a great one. While editing, you should look for:
- Punctuation and grammar errors
- Awkward phrasing
- Holes in your argument
A second or even third pair of eyes can also help you identify mistakes and gaps in your logic.
Though it may seem like some students were born excellent writers, everyone can become a good essayist if they practice and apply the skills they’ve learned. Good luck and happy writing!