3 Basic Essay Writing Tips

Posted on November 1, 2011 by


I saw a recent blog post about essay writing tips, and I realized that it’s around the time of the semester where most students have an impending due date on a paper. However, the list was pretty scant, and I felt like I could spice things up. I’ve been looking around on some writing tips websites, I have taken a lot of English courses, and I have amassed a good deal of tips that just might help you improve your paper writing experience. Their list was quite simple, and their 10 are as follows:

10. Avoid Procrastination
9. Understand the Assignment
8. Use an Outline
7. Look at Examples of Academic Essay Writing

6. Do not Plagiarize
5. Write a Rough Draft
4. Write Multiple Drafts
3. Use Direct Language
2. Follow Desired Formatting
1. Use an Editor

The blog also had a little blurb under each of the tips, but I knew that I could make this list more beneficial to the average student. There are a lot of “tips” that are common knowledge, and some that could easily be condensed into one tip. So here are my big 3, and you’re welcome to argue with me.

1.) Use quotes effectively. They will improve your credibility, and help the reader understand the specific parts of an article or text that you’re pointing to.  However, there are some important things you need to remember when quoting anything. First, you need to introduce the quote. The reader needs to be aware of the context of the quote, which could include a short summary of integral plot points in a novel, or a summary of the basic thesis of a scholarly article. Next, you need to quote correctly. Here’s a great resource for MLA quote citations: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/03/. Lastly, you need to explain your quote. Why is it important that you added this quote? How does this quote support your thesis, or how does it complicate it? Sometimes it’s important to add quotes that conflict with your thesis to help refine your argument: “While John Doe does say _____, I believe he undervalues the importance of _____.” Make your quotes tie seamlessly into your own voice, and let them act as evidence, not speed bumps.

2.) Organize your thoughts. This is a big one. When you sit down to write a paper, it’s a lot better to have some sort of idea of where you want to go before you start staring at the little blinking icon on a blank document in Word. There’s a real anxiety caused by an endless sea of white in front of you. If you have an idea of how you want one of your paragraphs to sound, but you’re not entirely sure on your thesis, just begin writing. Things can be refined later, and actually getting some of your thoughts down will help get the ball rolling. It may even help to sit down and start mapping things out with a pencil and paper, away from the teeming multitude of distractions present on the computer.

3.) Proofread. Edit. Proofread. Edit. Rinse. Repeat. I can’t stress how important this process is. Nobody sits down and writes a perfect first draft, and this includes you. Every time you change a word to be more precise you’re improving your paper, and the time you put into it shows. Trust me, your first draft is just a guideline of how your paper is going to look, but that’s not cause for concern. This point dovetails perfectly with the previous one: your rough draft doesn’t need to be perfect, so just make some progress. When you first start writing you just need to have ideas, no matter how incoherent they may be to someone else. The revision process will get you to your final destination. When you feel comfortable with your paper, let a friend or family member read it, and get their impressions. You’re not looking for value judgements of “good” or “bad,” but you want to hear if they understood your argument, what parts worked for them, what parts didn’t work for them, and where the writing got a little confusing. Make them explain their criticisms, so that you can understand how to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

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