How to Improve your Essay-Writing Skills

By
Zofeya Dookie, Edited by Alina Gao‍
Published on
September 15, 2022

‍Whether it be for a major assignment, or a casual self-introductory essay assigned by a  teacher, we have all written essays before. Essay-writing is a fundamental skill you will need for the rest of your life (most prominent in high school/college), and honing your abilities to produce well-written ones early on will help you to become a more fluent writer. Becoming better at essay-writing leads to being less stressed when assigned one. Eventually, you will become so experienced that you can treat it as no big deal. Below are some tips to help you become an expert at writing essays.

Always check the rubric/guidelines (if applicable) beforehand.

Being provided with a list of steps you must take in order to get a good grade on your paper is one of the most generous things you can be given as a student. Learn to utilize these tools and read over each section of the guidelines carefully. Be sure to highlight/emphasize key details you must adhere to in order to receive the most credit/highest number of points possible. 

Know what you’re going to write about before you start writing.

While it may be tempting to just sit down and “get your essay over with,” it is much more beneficial for your grade if you have a good idea of the content of your essay’s topic before you start writing about it. I recommend keeping a separate document of your condensed research, and then begin collecting pieces of evidence you might want to use in your essay beforehand. If you are familiar with the content, it will show through your writing in comparison to vague, incoherent writing that can result from being unfamiliar with it. Take advantage of online library databases, search engines geared towards students, and any resources your teacher has provided you with, especially class notes. 

Create a strong thesis.

Since your thesis is essentially the main point of your paper, it is imperative that you produce a solid, but debatable one that you can support with evidence. Before finalizing your thesis, do proper research to ensure that you will have enough evidence to support it. Make sure that your thesis is not so generic that it could be inserted into any essay, but also not so specific that you’re overflowing your writing with unnecessary information in just the thesis. 

Try different ways of going about writing your essay.

Many of us usually write our essays from beginning to end, but there are other ways of writing them that can also prove to be helpful. One of them is writing your body paragraphs first, and then using the main points from those paragraphs to extract your thesis. Once you have your thesis, you can formulate your introduction and conclusion as well. In addition, having an outline handy is always a good way to prevent confusion and errors in organization. Even if it’s simple and not very detailed, switching around paragraphs will prove to be much easier in the outline, than in your writing itself. 

         Don’t be afraid to create multiple drafts/messy pieces before the final published one.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my career as a student thus far, it’s that nothing will turn out perfect on your first try. Even if it takes several drafts and hours of dedicated revising and editing, keep polishing your piece until you are satisfied with it. Of course, we may get carried away and might start nitpicking at everything at one point, but the point is to not shy away from identifying mistakes and looking over your work while you have the chance. Consider using grammar-checking tools to evaluate any convention errors in your writing. A thesaurus can also be very handy for when you want to modify your word choice to be more concise/elaborate. 

      Engage in peer-review.

 Many classes make it a requirement to exchange essays with classmates for peer-review, but in the instances that yours doesn’t, I still highly suggest getting someone like a friend or family member to read it for you and give you feedback. After looking over your own writing repeatedly, you can become tired of looking at it and might not be able to see anything else that needs changing. Having a fresh pair of eyes read it before your teacher/professor views it is essential because they will be able to point out things that you didn’t see. In most cases, they might also be able to give an idea of how your grader will feel while reading it as well. 

    Always read your essay out loud/have it be read to you before submission.

Though different from editing (which is actively making adjustments to your writing while working on it), proofreading is just as important to ensure that your writing is fluent and all thoughts have been executed correctly. If you can’t read it out loud, copy and paste your essay into a text-to-speech program and have it be read to you (Google Translate works great for this if you’re short on time). 

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