Master the Art of Essay Writing

10 Essential Tips for Writing Like a Pro

Writing a great essay is an essential skill for students, teachers and professional writers alike. It doesn’t matter if you are writing a personal essay or a research paper, you must keep in mind some basic principles to make your writing clear, convincing and direct.

In this article, I’ll go through 10 basic tips for writing a top-notch essay. This type of writing comprises showing your opinion on a specific topic using arguments for and against and reaching a conclusion.

1. Choose a topic you are passionate about

Those of us who write professionally know the difference between writing about a subject we love and writing about something that isn’t as exciting. In the first case, the words come out alone.

Therefore, if you are starting to write essays, start with something that you are passionate about. In this way, you will remain motivated to continue and also, what you write will have much more power over your audience.

The easiest way to choose a topic is to tell about what you know the most. Make a list of all your hobbies, experiences, even jobs that you have been carrying out. Think of things that someone with little experience in the subject would ask you. Ask your friends and family what they think you are the best at and believe it!

As Justin Cox shares in his book “Write Now”:

“A few years ago, my wife and I […] were talking about life and the future. She told me that I was a fantastic writer and could turn it into a career.”

2. Research the topic thoroughly

You already know what you want to write about and you can’t wait to get started, but… wow wow, wait a bit! Are you sure that what you are going to write interests someone, apart from your family and friends? Because, after all, most writers write because they would like someone to read their work.

Apart from looking at the Google search results, I suggest you read books and articles of different kinds. Also, listen to podcast interviews on the subject. Look for official studies or university research if your topic is something more technical.

The aim is to collect as much information as possible about what interests your readers and thus write an essay that is as contrasted as possible with the opinions of other professionals.

3. Make an outline

Before you start writing your essay, it is essential that you plan its structure well. “Outlines keep your ideas organized. […] To make an effective outline, first list all of the points that you want to make in an essay.” recommends Jacob Neumann, an associate professor at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, in his book “A Professor’s Guide to Writing Essays: The No-Nonsense Plan for Better Writing” (not an affiliate link!). I recommend you to read this book even if you aren’t a professor!

There are different types of essays, but they all follow a similar structure: the opening, the body and the closing. I detail each part below.

The opening

It would be the first paragraph and it involves the presentation of the idea on which you are going to express your opinion. It has to be short. In one or two sentences, capture the reader’s attention and establish your argument.

Tips:

– Briefly tell a short, real or invented anecdote.

– Tell an amazing fact.

– Start with one or more questions about the topic.

– Speak in a general and impersonal way in order to capture attention.

– As far as possible, avoid repeating the same words that you use in the title. Although you should focus on a keyword in the title (for SEO). This keyword would be the one that the entire essay would be about, so consider it carefully.

The body

It would be one or more paragraphs where you develop your main idea. Write a draft with the ideas and arguments against or in favor that you are going to develop. You must present each group of ideas jointly and coherently, forming different paragraphs.

For example, a first paragraph with arguments in favor and a second with arguments against.

Tips:

– Use standard connectors, for example: on the one handon the other hand, or by contrast.

The closing

This is the conclusion. In two or three sentences, summarize what final opinion you have reached based on the arguments previously described in the essay’s body.

Tips:

– We can end with a question: In conclusion, can we rely on exams to test our knowledge?… and from there, develop the final opinion.

– Always use formal and appropriate language. Avoid technical terms, use a clear and direct language.

4. Use evidence-based arguments and examples

The key to writing great essays is to base them on evidence. You can use quotes from experts, excerpts from books you have read, statistics, case studies, and any other type of information that supports your arguments.

When choosing what to include as evidence, it is very important to look for reliable sources. For example, if your essay is about health, a reliable source would be the CDC (Centers of Disease Control and Preventions), which is a US government website.

How you use evidence in your essays is also very important. It is not worth just putting a quote from a famous expert, but explaining how he supports your arguments and what logic he brings to the context of your topic.

5. Delve into counterarguments

Another interesting aspect when creating an essay is to look for counterarguments to your opinion. Thinking about what your readers would object to in advance is a good way to persuade even the least convinced.

One way to look for counterarguments is to add a “not” in front of any statement that defines your major focus. This way if you write about keeping a positive journal, you would search the internet for “what to do if I can’t keep a journal”.

6. Use clear and direct language

Think about it. How would you feel if you read an essay that begins with terminology that you don’t understand and you have to look it up in the dictionary? If you are a student and they have sent you to read the lousy writing and then talk about it, you will have to make the effort. If not, I’m sure you will quit before you finish the first paragraph.

Using clear, easy-to-understand language is essential if you want to get many people to read your essays. To do this, you should know that there is the Flesch reading-ease test that evaluates your writing and determines what type of reader could understand your work well. The score goes from 0 to 100 and, for example, Reader’s Digest magazine has a score of 65 on average, while Harvard Law Review only 30.

On the other hand, if you have to use specific terminology, be sure to explain well and with examples what each term consists of. Let’s say you want to talk about how “atmospheric water generators” work. Here, the first thing to do would be to explain what an atmospheric generator is and what it is for.

Common pitfalls to avoid

Here are some things to avoid when expressing yourself in an essay:

  • Avoid using passive voice.
  • Don’t use too many adjectives or adverbs in a row, because they can confuse the reader.
  • Delete the “that” when possible (I believe that you need… -> I believe you need to…)
  • Cut wordy phrases (In the event that…, in order to…).

Useful language for essay writing

Here are some useful starters to convey your opinion and your convictions on the topic at hand:

  • Saying what people think

Some/many people feel that…

Others argue that…

One/Another point of view is that…

It is sometimes said/claimed that…

It is widely believed that…

It is generally agreed that…

  • Expressing your opinion

I personally feel that…

I firmly believe that…

I partly/fully agree that…

In my opinion…

  • Expressing contrast

However, …

… whereas…

Having said that, …

  • Making additional points

Besides…

Furthermore, …

Moreover, …

What is more, …

7. Be original

Being creative is essential when you decide to write an essay because you highlight your personality and thus create a personal connection with your reader. Try to avoid the typical phrases that most writers use and add a bit of your originality.

I loved 

Aisha Yusuf’s essay “Finding My Voice Again”. She comments:

“Writing has always been a part of who I am, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue sharing my voice and my stories with others.”

Find your own voice and style!

You may need to experiment with several different shades until you find yours. Even so, finding your own voice is a way of getting to know yourself in depth. The more faithful you are to your own style, the easier it will be for you to create original and engaging work that captures the attention of your readers.

What’s more, those who really have some affinity with whom you are will read you, which can generate feedback and conversation with incredible people.

8. Always edit and revise your work

Reviewing your work once you’re done is almost as important as the work itself. To proofread your work, use a tool like Grammarly or ProWritingAid (that’s my affiliate link). Keep in mind that even the best writers make mistakes, like adding a comma where it doesn’t belong or forgetting a closing quote.

Ideally, you should reread the text in its entirety once, reviewing its logic and fluency. You should carefully review each paragraph to see if your arguments are well made and if any further evidence or citations need to be added. You may also want to reread it aloud a third time before finishing the editing phase.

The recommendation that most writers give is not to edit your text right after you finish writing it. Allow at least two hours to pass before rereading it again. Nicolas Cole, for example, does it at dinnertime. Some let up to two days go by before sitting down to go over their work and, in the meantime, plan and write other articles and essays.

9. Practice and seek feedback

As you well know, practice leads to perfection. And even if you don’t aspire to be perfect, surely you write to somehow improve your way of expressing yourself. Practice daily if possible and try to seek feedback from other writers like you. As Aisha explains“Connecting with other writers can be a great way to find inspiration and support.”

There are many platforms like Medium, Quora and even social networks like Twitter where you can write daily and it doesn’t take many hours to express and practice your skills. In less than 5 minutes, you become a writer.

It is important to get feedback to see if you are moving in the right direction. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback. Typically, people don’t comment if they didn’t like your essay and those who comment do so because something has caught their attention. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? To send your opinion to such an extent that your readers want to answer you.

Aisha agrees with me: “Don’t be afraid to take a break or try something new. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it.”

Final thoughts

Writing an essay on whatever topic is not as difficult as it seems. The real difficulty is getting down to writing now. That is, getting over impostor syndrome, as Justin explains in “Write Now”, and not being afraid of anything.

To simplify it, I would recommend you to put yourself in the shoes of a 6-year-old child who has just learned to write his first words. Children are not afraid of anything, they just want to write the letters as well as possible so that they fit on the same page without going off and that we adults more or less understand what letters are. The rest doesn’t matter.

Think like a kid who has just started writing the next time you write an essay! You will see how easy it will be for you to release your ideas without holding back or fear!

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