From time to time, a student e-mails me and asks how to write the perfect essay. Just as I said some time ago for the perfect sentence, there is no such thing.
Still, the meaning is clear. Students want to write the best essay they can. It might be better to aim for outstanding. That’s what you want, an essay that rises above other students’ work. Let’s try to make your essay rise to the top of the class.
Here are a few pointers to writing an outstanding essay. In general, they are in order; however, you will need to review some of the steps and readdress them sometimes.
1. Know your topic
Knowledge is key. If you are not clear on the topic, you will have a difficult time following through.
What do you already know about the topic? What do you need to know? Using the brainstorming method, you can quickly answer these questions.
Not all essays require research, but many do. Take time to answer the questions arrived at in your brainstorming session. Look for primary resources whenever possible. Be sure to identify your resources. You will need to cite some of them.
4. Generate three arguments or supporting points
These can be in point-form, or you could create “working” topic sentences for each one. (This is assuming a typical five-paragraph essay. A longer essay will require more supporting points and topic sentences.)
5. Generate a “working” thesis
Unless you are provided with a thesis statement that you cannot control, you will need to create your own thesis. Having a solid thesis will help keep you on track during the writing stages. Use the topic sentences you created in the previous step to help you create the thesis statement.
6. Write your body paragraphs
While you could start with the introductory paragraph, students often find it easier to complete the introductory paragraph after they have clarified their three supports. When all of your points and expansions are written, it is relatively easy to draw up the introduction.
7. Write the introductory paragraphs
Start broadly and narrow your thoughts down to the amazing thesis statement you created. Ensure that your thesis statement encapsulates the body paragraphs. Remember, that you do sometimes need to readdress various parts as you progress.
8. Write the concluding paragraph
Start with a restated thesis statement and then broaden into your final comments, possibly ending in a challenge.
9. Proofread and edit
Do not skip this step! You should have at least one rough draft, often more. Always look for spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure mistakes but also make sure that your thoughts are logically developed and convey your meaning as intended. Aim for clarity. This is far more important than elevated language or complexity.
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