Writing Tips

10 Tips for Writing Better Essays

Throughout your educational career, and well beyond it, you’ll be asked—and at times you’ll be required—to write brief essays. In an effort to save you some educational headaches, I’ll let you in on a little secret that I didn’t learn until I got to college: If you learn how to write well, you’ll make your academic experience much easier and you’ll make better grades with less work. So it pays to acquire the skills needed to sit down and write a clear, well-constructed essay. But how do you do it? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.

And while you’re practicing, it pays to learn the rules of the literary road. That way, you won’t keep practicing the same old mistakes. Instead, you’ll learn the right way to write, and you’ll be glad you did.

So here are ten tips that will help you write better essays, make better grades, and have a better time doing it:

Tip #1: Grammar Matters: Good grammar gives your essay credibility; poor grammar detracts from your message. So take the time to learn the basic grammatical rules that apply to the English language. At first, this task may seem like a royal pain, but it’s easier than you think. In fact, you can become a decent grammarian by studying just five minutes a day. And if you do, your efforts will be rewarded many times over, and for the rest of your life.

Tip #2: Start with a Brief Written Outline: A few quick notes can help you organize your thoughts.

Tip #3: Your Essay Should Have a Beginning, a Middle, and an End: Even if you’re only writing a three-sentence essay—even if you’re only writing a one-sentence essay—this rule still applies.

Tip #4: Begin with a Bang: The essay’s first sentence should make your reader want to read the second one.

Tip #5: Use a Heaping Helping of Clear, Declarative Sentences: When writing brief essays, don’t be cryptic, murky, mysterious, or tricky. Remember, you’re writing an essay, not a Russian novel. So when in doubt, keep your message simple and straightforward.

Tips #6: Vary the Structure of Your Sentences: Okay, the basic structure of the typical English sentence is simple: NOUN + VERB + OBJECT. But too many sentences that sound like “Joe hit the ball” make for poor (sometimes quasi-unreadable) writing. So use a mixture of strong, eye-friendly sentences mixed with a few longer, more complex sentences that allow you to strut your literary stuff. By avoiding monotony, you’re being kind to your reader.

Tip #7 Find the Theme, Announce It, and Stick with It: If you want to be the next great Russian novelist, be obscure; if you want good grades and more career choices, be clear.

Tip #8: In the Middle of Your Essay, You Get to Make Your Point: Make sure you make it. If you’re writing a persuasive essay, back up your assertions with facts, quotes, dates, and as much other literary ammunition as you can muster in the time that’s allowed for mustering.

Tip #9: Work Quickly: Few things in life are more boring than sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike. Besides, it may never strike. So a better strategy is to write first and expect inspiration to follow. So if you have an essay to write, get busy writing it, even if you’re sure that you’ll need to revise your work later. By the way, this strategy is great practice for all those timed essays that will inevitably determine what kind of grades you earn in school, or what college you get into, or what grad school propels you into the career of your choice.

Tip #10 Finish with a Flourish: Your essay should go out with a roar, not a whimper. So, try to wrap things up with a memorable sentence that sums things up in an appropriate, thought-provoking, entertaining fashion.

There you have it: ten tips for writing better essays. I hope — and expect — that these ideas will be helpful. And I hope that you’ll have as much fun writing your essays as I’ve had writing mine.

All the best,

Criswell Freeman