How to Write Better Essays
4 Tips to Follow
Essays are extremely frustrating to write, and writing a perfect essay is a nuanced process. We here at FactSumo go through four tips for writing an essay, and we hope they help get you started on the path to a killer essay!
Know Your Argument
This piece of advice isn’t universal, but essays are often argumentative pieces. They try to convince a reader of a point using certain claims, research, and appeals. But none of this will hold up if you aren’t sure what you’re arguing. It may seem difficult, but try to summarize your essay in one sentence. Well call this a thesis, but it’s so much more than that. It serves as the guide to your essay for a reader. If you aren’t confident in what you want to say, you’re going to make readers lose interest.
Style, Grammar, Convention
Nothing will detract more from your credibility than making simple grammar mistakes. Taking a short time to familiarize yourself with English conventions and style goes a long way. Voice, on the other hand, is a little bit harder to describe and write. If you read your essay aloud, how would you describe the feeling of the essay? This is your written voice, and it’s really important when it comes to essay writing. Your voice will most likely change based on what you’re writing, and it’s vital you know when to employ which voice. That said, keep it unique as often as you can. You’ll stand out for throwing in humor, seriousness, or some other strong emotion (when it’s appropriate, of course).
If you’re making an argument or claim, it’s important to cite the experts, who probably know more about a given topic than you do. Nothing adds validity to your argument like a professional’s opinion. Just remember that the way you cite is as important as the citation itself. If you’re using an irrelevant or a cherry-picked quote to support your claim, or if your quotes are just improperly cited, you’ll end up losing your audience to pedanticism.
Further, the more varied your sources, the more likely you’ll be received as someone who is well-read, cultured, and trusted. Unless you’re a known professional in a field, no one is going to automatically listen to what you have to say. That’s what sources are for! Gather these sources in a cohesive and logical way, and you’ll add credibility to your arguments. Of course, this doesn’t apply to certain essay forms like non-fiction and personal (where you’re the pro), but even then adding outside context and relevance is a smart choice.
This may seem obvious, but the best ideas are taken from the book of people that know what they’re doing. That doesn’t mean you have to be reading professional essayists (though this helps too), but you could start with young contest winners or college essays that impressed people. Not only does this give you a sense of what’s popular in writing circles, it exposes you to new tricks of grammar, style, and word choice that you may have been previously unaware of. Reading is also just good for the soul.
Remember that the best way to be a better writer (and by extension, a better essay writer) is to be a better reader. You won’t notice improvement right away, and that’s normal. Professional writers take years to master their craft, so don’t be discouraged if you aren’t thrilled by your essays immediately.
There’s a lot more out there on writing essays, but we hope these quick tips helped you think about how to improve your writing. Check out our FactSumo blog here!