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Writing a Good Essay
Writing a good essay can seem like a challenging task at first, but when you break down the individual parts it is an attainable task. The first thing you have to do is pick a good, supportable topic. Once you have your topic you’re ready to start.
There are three main sections to an essay:
You will need to flesh out each of the sections to create a good essay. Before we break down what specifically goes into each section of an essay, let’s talk about pre-writing.
You have your topic, but what is the point of your essay going to be. Write one or two sentences summarizing the point of your essay.
Take your topic, think about the sentences you’ve just written and brainstorm some supporting ideas as well as ways you may want to structure them. Once you have brainstormed at least 10-15 points or more you can start going through them; picking out the stronger points and discarding the weaker points. Organize your list of strong points into a logical order and set it to the side for a moment.
Reread your one or two sentences summarizing your topic and your list of points. Think about how they fit together to make your point and then think about how you would tie all of that up together with a bow. That bow is your conclusion; write it as one to two sentences.
Now let’s get down to business what goes into each section. What do you do with your brainstorming and pre-writing?
The introduction is usually one, but no more than three paragraphs long. It includes the thesis and problem or question to be addressed in the essay. Additionally it sets the tone for the entire essay. An essay must not only have a good introduction, but must have a strong introductory or first sentence. Let’s explore the parts of the introduction in more depth.
The thesis sets the premise for the essay. The thesis statement is often the first sentence of an essay. The thesis is not just the topic of the essay it is the purpose or the point, the main idea. It is important that is be clear and direct. If the thesis statement is not the first sentence it needs to be contained within the first paragraph of the essay. The key points of the essay should support the thesis.
The other part of the introduction is the problem or question this is not the same as the thesis. This is what you are answering or clarifying with your essay. If the introduction is more than one paragraph long it does not have to be in the first paragraph, but does need to be with in the introduction.
The body is the meat and potatoes of your essay. It is where you really layout out your argument and facts. It is also known as the supporting paragraphs or main part of your essay because it is where you are going to support your thesis and answer your question or problem.
Body paragraphs should typically be five to seven sentences long. Each paragraph should focus on one point and be relevant to the thesis; you don’t need to restate the thesis or draw a direct correlation, the point should just be relevant. The first sentence of the paragraph should state its topic, also known as a topic sentence. Paragraphs should contain supporting facts and details for your argument. The body should be structured so that each paragraph logically builds on or supports each other toward a logical conclusion. Remember your essay has a topic and you want to write to that; there shouldn’t be any dangling or pointless off topic paragraphs or sentences. Keep your essay tight building up your argument wisely.
Like the introduction the conclusion will usually be one paragraph, but not more than three. A common misconception is that the conclusion is a restating of the introduction. That’s not exactly accurate. If you have done things right so far you have laid a solid foundation with your Introduction and your body has built on itself to a conclusion. So when you get to writing the conclusion you will summarize your introduction and the points you made in the body. However it is important not to simply restate what you have already said. Wrap things up neatly for the reader don’t just bore them by restating what you have already said.
Other Important Tips
Writing the essay is clearly the most important thing to do, but there are a few other things that you should do to polish up your essay.
- Keep a consistent verb tense throughout the essay. Sometimes it can be easy to slip from one verb tense to the next. Proofread your writing to make sure that you are using a consistent verb tense throughout.
- Subject/ verb agreement, it is very difficult to read a sentence let alone an essay where the subjects and verbs don’t agree. If in doubt an easy trick to see if you have a problem with subject/ verb agreement is to read the sentence out loud. If it sounds funny to you, there’s probably an issue.
- Watch for incomplete sentences and run-ons. This is why editing and proofreading are so important. If you need to get a friend or classmate to peer edit for you.
- It is preferable to have an essay be written in an active voice rather than passive.
- Be careful with comma usage. Commas are very easy to over and misuse. So please double check your usage.
- Semi colons should only be used to join independent clauses or in complex series.
- Make sure to spell check.
- Check for correct word usage- ie. their, there, they’re it can be easy to use the wrong form of a word and sometimes really hard to pick up when you are rereading your own work. Spell check will not always catch these errors.