How to Write an Essay

In this article, we are looking at steps on writing an essay: choosing its type and format , writing an essay outline to help you score an A.

Andrew Newman
Updated on

At one point in the academic field, students come across various assignments that entail essay writing. Knowing how to write a presentable paper is a skill that every student ought to have. This article will provide well-detailed steps of how to write an essay like a pro.

What is an Essay?

Before we move straight to the steps of writing an essay professionally, first, let’s familiarize ourselves with the definition of an essay. So what is an essay? An essay is generally a short piece of writing that expresses the author’s perspective about a specific subject or matter. Usually, essays are part of the many tasks students are assigned at school or university. Essay writing is prominent in various institutions because of helping students develop several skills necessary in life, such as analytic thinking, research, creative skills, and many more.

This article will discuss various writing tips that can assist you to score an A in your essay. To become proficient at writing an essay, you need to do the following:

  1. Select an essay type and its format
  2. Brainstorm a topic
  3. Compose a thesis
  4. Construct an essay outline
  5. Write the draft and the essay itself
  6. Check spelling and grammar

Let’s see each step of becoming proficient at writing an essay in detail.

Select an Essay Type and Format

This step requires you to define what type of paper you are writing. There are four main essay categories:

  • Descriptive– describes a specific topic or situation
  • Persuasive– sways the reader to accept a particular opinion
  • Informative– Educates your readers with new information
  • Explanatory– Explains a particular process or situation, for instance: how to ride a bicycle.

Most Popular Types of Essays

  • 5-Paragraph Essay: This is an essay written in the standard five-paragraph style. This style is applicable for persuasive, expository, or narrative writings.
  • Persuasive: This essay aims to convince the audience about a particular topic or idea.
  • Cause-and-Effect: This paper details the effect relationship between two subjects; an author presents how one thing, idea, or event directly impacts another.
  • Compare and contrast: This one entails an in-depth analysis of the similarities and differences between the two elements.
  • Creative Writing: This type of writing requires an author to pick their topic and style to put together a fascinating story.
  • Narrative: Although it is similar to creative writing, the author must follow a particular set of formatting guidelines when composing a story.
  • Expository: The purpose of this paper is to educate the reader or audience about a specific subject or matter. Does not incorporate persuasions and opinions.
  • Process: This paper follows a step-by-step structure in giving directions or guidelines explaining how something is done.
  • Descriptive: This essay requires the author to give a complete overview of a specific topic or matter. This paper aims to paint an image that is vivid and moving in the audience’s mind.
  • Analytical: This piece of writing involves a critical assessment of a particular matter or topic. Furthermore, crucial thinking and implementation of personal interferences are required.

Essay Format and Style Requirements 

A standard essay format comprises three primary parts: an introduction, body, and conclusion. Your paper’s topic and the assigned instructions should guide your writing and organization.

The most common essay formats come with strict requirements. Although institutions accept single-spaced papers, it is wise to ensure that your essay is double-spaced. You should present your paragraphs comprehensively. Also, you can include a single tab at the beginning of every paragraph. The most common fonts to apply are Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, and Cambria.

When it comes to citing sources from your research, various citation styles are applicable. Depending on the academic subject you undertake in your school or college, the citation style to use might vary. For instance:

  • Students mainly use APA (American Psychological Association) when specializing in Education, Psychology, and Sciences.
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) style is commonly used by students undertaking Cultural Arts, Language and Literature, and Humanities.
  • Chicago/Turabian Style is used for Business, History, and Fine Arts disciplines.

Depending on the length of an essay, the average high school essay length ranges from 300 to1000 words, college admission essays are usually between 200-650 words, and undergraduate college essays vary from 1500-5000 words. Keenly pay attention to the requirements of your instructor-typically given along with your assignment.

Brainstorm a Topic

This is where you have to generate ideas for your topic. In the process of wondering what to write about, ideas might pop up, and it is vital to write them down and narrow them later. You may use clustering or mind mapping to brainstorm and develop an essay idea to facilitate the process. One helpful way of developing your topics more profoundly is through brainstorming. In addition, it allows you to identify relations between several sides of your subject.

Consider the following when deciding on what to write about:

  • Before writing your paper, ensure you have access to all the materials you require. If it is up to you to decide, select a topic that you are familiar with. Writing about a theme or matter you are conversant with makes the process easy and fascinating.
  • Define the Purpose: What are you trying to achieve? It could be educating people about a particular matter or convincing them to agree with your perspective. Even though you aim to narrate a story, have a clear comprehension of your writing’s purpose. This ascertains that your audience will fathom you properly, meaning that you won’t waste time and effort.
  • Subject Depth: How intense do you want your writing to be? The depth of your discussion matters; you can choose to go broad or narrow it down to a specific point. All the same, ensure that the topic is not too deep for your understanding. Also, check that it is neither broad nor narrow- broad can result in you losing focus of the specific matter, while narrow can lead to insufficient information for the discussion.
  • Define the heading: The title should be short, summarizing, and straightforward. It should clearly state what the paper entails. In addition, it needs to be fascinating and catchy.

Common mistakes when choosing an essay topic:

  • Most students tend to select boring topics because they are easy to write about. Writing about a boring topic will result in an uninteresting paper. For instance, choosing a broad topic, “computer games,” rather than narrowing it down to “computer games and the violent impacts it can have on kids,” can make your paper dull to read.
  • Many students want to portray their intelligence, so they end up choosing challenging and foreign topics. If a topic is too complex, it can be challenging to find information about it, or it might not be easy to pass on to your readers.
  • Composing an inappropriate title that doesn’t relate to the topic/content can draw away the reader’s concentration. Keep in mind; a good essay title can make your paper stand out.
  • Selecting a topic that does not correspond with the specific assignment.

How to Start an Essay: Research 

Good research is the pillar of an outstanding paper. Conducting research depends not only on you visiting the library or searching online but also on you interviewing professionals in that subject. Get out there, socialize with experts, ask them to share their experiences, challenges, and advice. You can also watch interviews through platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.

Compose a Thesis

A thesis statement is a sentence that gives an overview of what the essay entails. It should highlight the primary ideas of your paper. Furthermore, it should be specific and solely based on what to discuss in your body paragraphs. Afterward, you will then need to support it using some evidence.

Good thesis statement example:

The constitution provides everyone with rights; however, there are some limitations regarding this providence in the law.

You can comprehend what the rest of the essay will be about by reading the thesis statement. Also, a thesis should entice you to want to read the rest of the paper.

Outlining Your Essay

A paper’s outline is a map that guides the writer in composing a top-notch final draft. It ascertains that the paper is well-structured, logical, and flows appropriately. Outlines assist writers in arranging their ideas to develop an essay. In your outline, list your primary ideas, arguments, and supporting sources. It is vital to outline your essay as it will guide and keep you on track.

How to Make an Outline

Below is an example of an outline:

  • Introduction paragraph
  • Hook statement;
  • A preview of the subtopics you will discuss in the body;
  • A thesis statement.
  • Body Paragraphs
  • Topic sentence- should state the subtopic and be opened with a transition;
  • Claim- a piece of argument that will be defended;
  • Evidence- Information to support the claim;
  • An explanation- describes how the evidence defends the claim;
  • Concluding sentence.
  • Concluding Paragraph:
  • Restatement of the thesis statement;
  • Rephrasing main subtopics;
  • Concluding statement.

Introduction

The introduction section should outshine the rest of the text. Take advantage of this opportunity and compose something that will grab the reader’s attention and persuade them to read the entire paper. Each introduction must:

  • Grab the reader’s attention;
  • Give background information on the topic;
  • Disclose the primary claim or thesis statement.

The sentence that grabs the attention of a reader is known as a hook. Depending on the essay type and audience, hooks can be anecdotal or informative. A solid hook will influence the audience to want to read more.

Example of a great attention grabber:

The point where my life changed was when I lost my elder brother in a drastic suicide almost fourteen years ago in his home.

Background information provides the audience with context and allows them to comprehend the writer’s perspective altogether. The thesis statement is the focal point or focus of the essay.

Body Paragraphs

This is the section where you discuss and develop the primary points of the topic. It is the most extended part of the paper. Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence, then write a second that supports the ideas presented in the topic sentence and conclude it by elaborating upon that idea ( it can be description, explanation, or illustration).

Below is the structure of the body paragraphs:

  • A straightforward topic sentence
  • Particular evidence or supporting detail;
  • Transitions between sentences and paragraphs;
  • A concluding sentence that ties the evidence or details back to the main idea and brings the paragraph to a logical end.

Conclusion

This is the section where we finalize the paper. Here you give an overview of the entire paper, remind the reader about the essay’s primary argument, and leave them with some final thoughts. Below is what you should include in your conclusion:

  • Reflect on your introduction by speaking about essentials;
  • Restate your thesis- Since the reader has gone through the entire paper rephrasing the thesis will make more sense.
  • Remind the reader why your arguments are vital;
  • Don’t bring new ideas to a conclusion;
  • Conclude it with a final impression or general statement.

Writing the Essay

Earlier on, we talked about composing an outline. Here is where you use it to create an entire, cohesive, and precise essay.

The First Rough Draft

Putting your thoughts together in a rough draft comes with a lot of pros. You can gauge if your topic needs more research or whether you need to switch topics. Once you have written your first draft, read it more than once and follow our advice:

  • Verify the clarity of your piece and, if necessary, remove any irrelevant information from the piece, check it for grammar mistakes.
  • Check the flow of your text and add proper transitions between paragraphs if you have not included some.
  • Ascertain that your paper is based on the topic you have picked.

The information that you include in the body paragraphs should support your thesis. Every paragraph should incorporate a topic sentence ( the most significant sentence that informs the reader of what the paper entails). Also, ensure that your text flows smoothly by applying transitions between paragraphs. They link paragraphs and will prevent your paper from sounding disjointed.

Questions to Check by Yourself before Submitting an Essay:

  • Did you do good research on the topic?
  • Do you have a strong thesis?
  • Did you use the best examples to back up your thesis?
  • Have you managed to present your topic successfully in the final draft?
  • Does the conclusion give an exciting look into the future of this topic?

Checking Spelling and Grammar

Once you are done writing the paper, reread it to check for mistakes and typos. Remember to also look for technical errors, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. In addition, for your writing to flow smoothly, ensure to include transitions between paragraphs.

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