How to Write an Essay

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Originally published Jun 17, 2017, updated Mar 24, 2021
How to Write an Essay

Every now and then we are assigned essays by our professors. It is a must-have skill as essay writing reflects thoughts. It shows mastery and the flow of understanding of a particular person on the given subject. Whether it is a degree in psychology or a high school assignment, you will always be asked to write a piece.

It is one of the best ways to prove polemics in society. One cannot ever express everything in words by saying. The task of writing them down makes expression better. Yet writing an essay is not so easy. There are several intricacies that you can never overlook. Thus, essay writing skills must be learned to earn precision in the fields of life.

Choosing the Essay Topic

If you are not assigned a topic and are asked to pick one, you are having a perfect day. Having the freedom to write on your chosen subject is a blessing. You can decide the difficulty level and also keep your interest at the front. Sit down and start jotting down ideas that you think you are interested in writing on. Try to be as creative as possible if you cannot write them down yourself and search them online. But first! decide on the subject area. Are you interested in psychology, geography, or general science? Here are three simple techniques that are going to help you to decide on a compelling topic:

  • Discuss with your batch fellows;
  • Try to brainstorm ideas;
  • Read research papers and articles;
  • Consult your professors;
  • Go through some essay samples on the internet.

Stages of an Essay

There are countless types of essays that you will get in your student life. The level of difficulty, length, and amount of research required will depend on your academic level. There is also another critical determinant of your essay quality; it is the course type. The aim of all of the essays is similar. It is to inform the reader and keep them engaged with the content. You don't want them to go off-trail while reading it. Whenever you receive a notification regarding a new assignment, do not rush and start by writing. You have first to understand the stages that are involved in it. Broadly 3 main stages have sub-stages. For now, let's go through these briefly!

  • Preparation: This involves thorough background research, brainstorming, and forming an essay outline from scratch.
  • Writing: You will start by writing an engaging introduction, followed by evidence-heavy body paragraphs, and then finish it up by writing a grand conclusion.
  • Revision: This is a crucial step that you must never miss. Don't be a lazy jack and just hit that submit button. Proofread the entire content twice. Edit everything that you find incorrect whether there are grammar related or sentence structure mistakes. Most of the time, you are going to spot content-related errors too. It is better that you have recognized them. Just imagine the scenario where your teacher spots them. You will end up getting a terrible grade.

Now that you have a rough idea about the stages. Let's go through them one by one so that you can get deep insights into what goes in each step.

Preparation Phase

Hold your pens! Before you ruin your essay by writing down your thoughts haphazardly, you must understand the preparation process. These useful steps will play a massive role in that grade of yours. Take out a pen and a paper and write these down so that you never forget the recipe for note-worthy content.

Understand the Topic

First and foremost, you should get yourself familiar with the topic. Suppose you get an environment-related essay. You write a completing piece of content. However, the aim was not to present an argument but write an informative essay. Not only you will have to redo everything, but you will also have to fix that overflowing schedule of yours.


Before you carry out research, it is vital for you to jot down some initial ideas. Take out a piece of paper and start writing points. If you are someone who likes to be creative, then draw a circle in the middle of the paper. Write down the topic in it. Then, start writing points around that topic in bubbles. Do not stop or interrupt yourself by tagging an issue as being "irrelevant". There is no such thing as an irrelevance in the brainstorming phase.

Carry out Research

Whether it is a scientific essay or a regular one, you will have to do some homework. You can never present a sound analysis as a student if you don't have the background information about the topic. So hop on your chair and open as many websites as you can. If you are someone who has a strong attachment to libraries, then go to one. Gather information from multiple sources and develop an understanding of the subject. In this way, you will know what you are talking about. Never beat around the bush by giving useless arguments. This situation can occur if you don't know the history of the evolution of the topic.

Creating an Outline

This will be a rough blueprint or a foundation upon which your essay will be based upon. Make some main headings and follow by adding subheadings. This will help you in planning paragraphs, covering the entire content, and managing that word length.

Plan a Thesis Statement

It is known as the central point or argument of your topic. This is something that you are going to refer back to. It generally revolves around the what, why, and how of the essay. You can tell the audience the topic, why there is a problem, and how it can be addressed. You only write this after you have a complete outline prepared. This is because without having a snapshot of your essay, you will not be able to write a statement that encapsulates the entire piece into it. Remember that the thesis statement is generally placed at the end of the introduction. It is dependant on the nature of your writing.


Typically, the journey of essay writing begins with an introductory paragraph that covers the basic details and offers a glimpse into what a reader may expect as they proceed. The best way to start this context-setting part is to create a hook. As it implies, the hook is to grab the readers' attention right away and nudge them into sailing through the rest of the content. After that, you may provide background information to set the context. In the end, cap it all with a well-thought-out thesis statement. Wondering what on earth it is? A thesis statement can be described as the central argument around which your discussion is going to revolve. So, the recipe for a practical introduction is:

  • A crafty hook that activates the readers' curiosity;
  • Background information to set the tone for your text;
  • A thesis claim or main point to let the reader have an insight into your take on the matter in question.

Body of Your Essay

The body must be the elaboration of the thoughts, theorems, and ideas expressed in the introduction. While writing a descriptive essay one must keep in mind that the topic must be looked over a personal approach. Too much-generalized writings spoil the broth. The body must have strong arguments for the theorem or idea proposed. It must be seen that all the points are well enumerated.

The grammar in the body must be absolutely proper. There is no use in writing elaborate sentences. Write short sentences and stick to the use of simple sentences. If the writer uses complex sentences then he or she must have super confidence over the same. Transitory words like "furthermore," "moreover," but also "by contrast" and "on the other hand" aggravate the quality of the essay.

A Glance at Paragraph Structure

Your essay must be divided into equal-length paragraphs. You have to make use of each paragraph as a separate argument. Do not state a lot of diverse points in a single para. Remember your clear thesis and outline that you made earlier? Well, make use of that. The first sentence will be the topic sentence that will grab the attention of the audience. Next comes the supporting point. It will elaborate on the topic sentence. After this, you will give the evidence for what you have stated above. Try to be factual. Do not give sweeping statements. You can check out web sources as well as books.

Remember, irrelevant points will fail the argument that you are trying to make. You can give a second supporting point that is followed by evidence. Do not carry away, as two sets are more than enough. Adding more statements will result in a cluttered paragraph and will also confuse the reader. When you are done with the evidence, you will then have to conclude the section in the last sentence. Yes, just like an essay, you have to give a conclusion.

However, you must keep in mind that your conclusion must give a hint about the next paragraph. This will make your essay more cohesive and the reader will observe a flow. This is a writer's dream! To have content that helps the reader glide down a silk rope. Try to divide your total word count by the number of body paragraphs that you have. In this way, you will not exceed the limit nor will you face the problem of having to add more meaningless words for the sake of word count. Whether it is an argumentative essay or an expository essay, you have to follow a sequence in the paragraphs.

End with a Powerful Conclusion

After you are done with the essay, you have to wrap it up by writing a conclusion. This is the final part of your college essays so keep it crisp and short. Just eyeball the word count, you can allocate 10-15 percent of the text for this part. Let's discuss the do's and don'ts of this segment. Please note that a conclusion is the last thing that your professor will read and remember accurately. So, if you mess this up, you have lost most of your grade. Here are some points that you must avoid at all costs.


  • The conclusion must be in line with the content that you have written earlier;
  • You can draw connections between different points to give a snapshot of the essay;
  • State what the reader can extract from the argument that you have given. You can talk about the insights that you have provided regarding the topic. If you have introduced new angles in which the topic can be seen, explain that as well;
  • Remember that thesis statement that you wrote. It's time to revisit that;
  • It would be best if you made a strong impression on the reader. This will require you to write impactful sentences.


  • Do not add new points, arguments, or evidence in this part. You have to stick to whatever you have written in the body. College students tend to get carried away. You might commit this horrible mistake either because you want to impress your teacher, or you would not have made an outline and are now experiencing eureka moments;
  • Never undermine the arguments that you have made. It will weaken whatever you have written earlier;
  • Refrain from using phrases that indicate that this is a "conclusion". So if you have the habit of using "in conclusion", STOP!;
  • If you have taken help from research papers, do not rephrase the conclusion that is taken from that content. Try to treat this essay as your own topic.


Once you are finished writing your essay, the next step is proofreading. You have to cover up your mistakes step-by-step. This will require you to read your content with attention. It is advisable that you should perform this step after some time. You can either take a break for an hour or you can do it the next day. In this way, you will be able to spot the mistakes better.

If you continue after writing, chances are that you are going to miss a lot because of exhaustion. When it comes to revision, it is not just fixing grammar-related errors. You can also fix issues that you spot in your "viewpoint". In simpler words, fix your content! Other than this, you can print out a checklist to help you keep check of the quality. Here is one:


  • The introduction is written in a way that will ignite the reader's interest;
  • There is enough background information that will help the reader understand the context;
  • The thesis statement is holistic and properly encapsulates what is included in the essay;
  • The paragraphs are well-formed;
  • Each paragraph has a topic sentence, a supporting point, a piece of evidence, and a conclusion;
  • There is a flow between the paragraphs;
  • There is no new point introduced in conclusion;
  • The concluding paragraph is not lengthy;
  • The content is not copied from anywhere, thus the plagiarism report will show 100% uniqueness;
  • Every source is appropriately cited and a reference page is added at the end that lists all of the details of the in-text citations;
  • The entire essay is formatted according to the style mentioned in the instructions;
  • There is an eye-catching title at the start of the essay.

Formatting Guidelines

There are many intricacies involved in writing an essay. The use of language comes first. The essay must be very languid and expressive. The language use must be persuasive yet straightforward. Jugglery of sentences and playing with the words make an essay unresponsive and unattractive. There are many styles of writing an essay. APA essay or the American Psychological Association framework is one of the most widely used styles.

The APA format implies the writing or print with double spaced sentences in a 12 points standard font like Times New Roman that is easy to read. There is a paper specification of the APA. They include 8.5' X 11' with a one-inch margin on all four sides. There are several other styles like the Harvard and the MLA format. The essayist needs to learn these styles to cope with any environment and fend any format's needs. Below is how to differentiate among the widely-practiced three essay writing styles:

  • APA: 12 Font Size, Times New Roman, Text Left Align, Running Header Left-align, In-text citations containing author(s)' last name followed by the year (date), and the reference page titled as "References".
  • Harvard: 12 Font Size, Times New Roman (or as specified), Text Left Align, in-text citations containing author(s)' last name followed by the year (with no comma in between), and the reference page titled as "Reference List".
  • MLA: Times New Roman or Calibri, Text Left Aligned, Paragraphs Indgented except one preceded by a heading, in-text citations containing author(s)' name.

Types of Essays

Once assigned an essay, your first question should be what type of essay is it? There are a lot of types that have to be tackled artfully. Suppose your teacher wants you to write an essay on global warming and its causes. Now, you can not treat this topic as an argumentative essay. Hold your reins and restrict yourself from giving a thesis and antithesis. In order to provide you with a brief idea of the types of articles that exist, here is a list:

Five paragraph essay: The format of a five-paragraph essay includes an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The essay must contain the most relevant information. The introduction must be cryptic and well placed. The opening line is the provocation to the reader to read on.

Persuasive or an argumentative essay: The writer must train himself or herself in the art of how to write the best persuasive essay. Here you will have to show that you have a strong grasp of the concepts. You will have to go back and forth as you will be giving a thesis and then an antithesis. It is sort of a debate.

Case Study Format must be learned well to achieve the ability to procure the best quality of the essay.

Compare and contrast essay: Here you will be asked to shed light on two different topics by stating similarities and differences.

Narrative essay: You will describe and experience or an event. This is a common college essay. Some professors often ask students to narrate their experiences as it is written in the first person.

Process essay: You will be given a process that you will be going through step by step. Don't worry! This is mostly assigned to science students. They explain the experiments that they have carried out. If you are a science student, then remember! You must never forget to write the findings or the results at the end of the essay.

Descriptive essay: This is the type that you are most familiar with. You will explain the topic to your reader. The entire content will revolve around the "what" of the topic.

How to Write a College Application Essay

On average, you have to write 500 words for your college essay. This means that these few hundred words will decide your acceptance in that college. Before you head for the gruesome task of attempting to begin this application, try to go through and understand these points first:

  1. Read all of the instructions: You can easily find college instructions on the university's website. Follow the guidelines to produce content that will entice the admission officer to read further.
  2. Write a compelling introduction: Start with a hook or an anecdote. Make use of the word count. Use your example to make it enjoyable.
  3. Inner voice matters: Talk about your educational journey. Spice it up with hardships. Do not hold yourself back from detailing the motivation behind sending this college application.
  4. Steer away from Cliches: The admission officer will get thousands of essays. Do not bore them by writing the same old content. Restrain yourself from using sentences like "I always wanted to join this college", or "this is my dream college". Try to be unique—originality matters and works in this context.
  5. Quote examples: Whatever you state in the essay, try to back it up using concrete evidence. This will strengthen your application essay. It improves your credibility and will give the admission officer an idea that you know what you are doing. Sweeping statements will get you nowhere.
  6. Proofread your essay: After you are done writing the content, read it twice. In this way, you would be able to identify grammatical and sentence related mistakes. Make sure that there are no typos. You can also ask your teacher or your parent to go through your essay. Ask them whether your content is engaging or not. You can make timely changes by doing this step.
Angelina Grin
Creative Writer and Blog Editor

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