Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.
Writing essays can be difficult, especially when you’re trying to stick to the point and convey your ideas in the best way possible. With that in mind, here are 10 essay writing hacks that will help you achieve your goals, whether they’re getting an A+ or making it through your essay alive!
1) Identify what you're writing
Before you start writing, it's helpful to know what kind of essay you're writing. Are you writing an argumentative essay? A persuasive essay? Or a narrative (storytelling) essay? Knowing how you're going to write will make your research easier and give your essay a cohesive voice and tone.
Once you've identified what kind of essay you're writing, start looking for inspiration. Rhetoric & Public Address by Aristotle contains extensive information on argumentative and persuasive essays. Plus, you can find tons of narrative essays in anthologies like ‘The Norton Book of Personal Narratives’. Asking friends about their favorite pieces is also a great way to get inspired! It's always nice to know who wrote your favorite book or song so that you can thank them for it later.
2) Simplify your topic sentence
When it comes to writing essays, there are two things you need to keep in mind—organization and structure. Your essay should have one main point that runs throughout your paper, with supporting evidence that’s clearly outlined for your reader. Start by writing a one-sentence summary of your main point, then expand on it paragraph by paragraph until you reach your conclusion. Of course, once you have your topic sentence down, you’ll need to create subtopics for each paragraph, so readers can follow along easily.
3) Know why you're writing
The first and most important thing to keep in mind is why you’re writing. Is it for school? Work? An admission application? You need to know your audience and what they’re looking for before you start drafting. For example, if you’re writing an essay for a scholarship application, think about what that organization values and how its mission can align with your topic choice and thesis statement. This will not only help provide direction but also make your essay more relevant.
You also need to understand what a scholarship or other admission essays require. Some may require a specific tone, while others might have a word count. Be sure to check these requirements ahead of time, so you can build your content around them.
It may seem basic, but knowing why you’re writing is crucial. Your essay should have a purpose—and unless that purpose aligns with your intended audience, you won’t be able to effectively convey it. When in doubt, start by asking yourself what you want your reader to take away from your essay. Make sure that before you begin writing, you’ve identified a clear message and know how to best present it.
4) Start with a plan
Planning is usually a tedious process, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to write a good essay. You can’t just sit down and start writing without knowing where you’re going. It won’t work.
Once you’ve figured out your essay question, make sure you break it down into manageable chunks. Now that you know what points to include in your essay, lay them out in an outline format. This will make your writing much easier because once you’re done with one point, you can move on to another. So, planning is the cornerstone of essay writing.
5) Understand the importance of writing introductions
There’s a good chance that most of your readers will only read your introduction. And if you start by telling them they don’t need to read any further—they’ll thank you for it. But if you show them why their life is incomplete without reading your essay—they won’t be able to resist. How do you engage an audience? Start with an engaging introduction.
And how do you do that? Well, for starters, you need to understand why your audience is reading your essay. What’s in it for them? And more importantly, what does your introduction need to communicate in order to motivate them to keep reading? Keep reading and find out!
Understand that introductions are much more than just lead-ins. The introduction is not just a way of getting an audience engaged with your content. The primary purpose of an introduction is to set up expectations. It’s important to write a better introduction before jumping forward to start writing the next part of the essay.
6) Use common examples from literature
While writing from an essay, try to give examples from literature. You can make your own example by using your favorite novel or story and giving some of its sentences to illustrate your point. This will help you in making a great impact on your readers since they are familiar with most of them. Also, they will be able to understand what is being said without any trouble. If possible use references from famous writers as it adds value and credibility to your statement. A well-written sentence can really impress your reader but avoid too much referencing as it may bore them and ruin the whole purpose of writing an essay.
7) Don't get stuck on perfect grammar & spelling
While it's important to proofread and proofread again, you can still write a good essay even if your grammar isn't perfect. Don't let incorrect or poor grammar hold you back from producing a great piece of writing.
Writing is all about communicating your ideas, even if that communication is sometimes flawed. While it's important to be well-spoken and clear, perfect grammar won't turn you into an instant academic star.
Always use an editing program like Grammarly to check for errors in writing, but don't overdo it—getting hung up on grammatical nitpicking can waste valuable time. Besides, no one wants to read something with nonstop grammar mistakes. The most effective writers are usually those who communicate their thoughts clearly without being too obsessed with making everything sound exactly right. Remember: even Shakespeare made mistakes! Now go get out there and write!
8) Research thoroughly before starting to write your essay
It’s easy to get excited about writing an essay and hit publish before you’ve researched your topic thoroughly. By taking a little time to research, however, you can save yourself hours of frustration in having to go back and rewrite parts or all of your essay. Think of it as getting into shape for your writing—it takes some effort upfront, but it pays off down the road.
When you’re researching your essay, it’s important to note that you’ll also need to take notes. Jotting down quotes and statistics will help you remember them later when writing your essay. This is an especially good practice if you can think of specific examples that relate to your topic or argument that support what you’re saying.
9) Edit your essay before handing it in
It is one of the most important essay writing hacks and you should never skip it at any cost. If you’re going to write a better essay, before handing it in you should go through and edit it. This can be as simple as re-reading your work, picking out any typos or grammatical errors, and correcting them. However, there are other edits you can make to really improve your writing. You can ask yourself questions like: Can I use shorter words? Or Could I say that another way? And then actually go back and change those things! It might take a little longer to edit your essays, but I guarantee that after doing it for a while it will become second nature.
Another edit you can make is to try to re-phrase your sentences or even find other ways of phrasing them so that they read better. For example, instead of writing 'I don't have any money', you could write 'I have no money'. It's a subtle difference, but by re-phrasing your sentence in another way it might actually sound more natural. You should also go through and use a more active voice in your writing.
The difference between active and passive voice is that in active voice, there's an actor who performs an action, while in passive voice there isn't. Instead of writing 'The cat was caught by the dog', you should try to turn it into an active voice like ‘The dog caught the cat’.
10) Ask your teacher what they want from essays
It is the final hack on the list of 10 Essay Writing Hacks. Before you even think about getting started, ask your teacher for detailed instructions on what they’re looking for from an essay. This will help to answer that nagging question of what do I write about? And give you a clear objective to work towards. Keep a copy of their response on hand as a guide throughout your essay writing process.
Finally, ask your teacher about deadlines and how much time you have to hand in your essay. Ideally, they should give you a week for each section of your essay and an extra day or two to check it over and edit it. Once you know what you’re working with, it’s time to get started!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Muhammad Rafiq