6 secrets to writing a great essay
Why does the word “essay” strike terror into the hearts of students?
Maybe because a blank page can seem like the size of Antarctica when you’re not sure how to fill it.
Tip 1: Begin with the end in mind
This will give your work direction. Trying to write an essay without this is like the difference between getting on a horse that gallops straight towards its destination and wandering around aimlessly without a map. Yes, you might find your way eventually but it’ll take a lot longer.
Know where you’re going and make that clear to the reader from the outset.
Tip 2: Give it a striking title
Try to avoid giving your essay the same title as everyone else in your class. For instance, if your essay is about the causes of World War 2 then 90% of your classmates will probably call their essay “The Causes of World War 2”.
But you’re more original than that, so prove it – for instance, you could use a relevant quote about your topic or create a startling image that pulls the reader in. George Orwell’s famous essay, Shooting an Elephant, does the latter.
Tip 3: Open with a hook
You’ve created a great title – now what? Well, ideally you want your first sentence to be equally great. Good openings include:
– A question.
– A quote.
– A bold or controversial statement (that you’ll attempt to either prove or refute).
– An attention grabbing statistic or piece of information.
– An anecdote – the perfect opening anecdote should be relevant, interesting and illuminating. For inspiration, read the work of Malcolm Gladwell – he’s a master at using them.
Tip 4: Don’t let the reader go to sleep!
Remember – your teacher is marking dozens of essays so if you keep your work interesting they’ll love you for it. Try:
– Linking from paragraph to paragraph to create flow.
– Including well-chosen quotes.
– Addressing questions to the reader.
– Using appropriate humour – satire and irony can be very effective in an academic essay. Use both sparingly though.
– Experimenting with misdirection – create an expectation that you’re making a particular argument then turn things on their head midway through.
– Including short, relevant anecdotes.
Tip 5: Omit unnecessary words
This will tighten your work and give it flow. Don’t be tempted to pad.
Ever seen a brilliant movie with a rubbish ending? Didn’t it spoil the whole film with you? Exactly. Don’t do the same for the essay you’ve spent hours slaving over. Effective endings include:
– Linking back to your opening sentence.
– Finding a quote that sums up your argument.
– Using a strong piece of concluding imagery.
– Asking a final question (which can can be rhetorical).
Remember – your essay is a journey that you’re taking the reader on. Make it as enjoyable as possible so that when they reach their destination, they feel that it’s all been worthwhile.
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