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How to write essays

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If you decide to take exam courses in English, such as the FCE or CAE exam, or if you decide to attend an English speaking university, then you will have to write essays.

It’s a really good idea to research how to write in this format and to help you I have found an article containing ‘top tips’ for good essay writing.

I have only focussed on 5 of the tips.

If you would like to see all 10 then just visit the website below.

Read through the article, then to check your understanding see if you can answer the True or False questions at the end.

Let us know how you get on.
Lesson by Caroline

5. Start early and budget your time.

You've heard this a million times, but it can be too easy to let time slip away when you must juggle class assignments, work and party time. But starting early can mean simply thinking through and budgeting your time. If there is reading and research involved, then the sooner the better. Starting early will also help you deal with unforeseen problems like difficulty obtaining the required research materials or coming down with the flu just before the paper is due. Starting early helps not only to get through the work, but also to let the ideas steep into your brain.

4. Learn by example.

If you are confused about writing essays or how to approach the subject matter look for examples. Read other essays to help you understand how to organize and present the information. Look at how the author introduces the topic, develops the idea and provides a clear conclusion. Is there a logical approach to the paper? Does it flow like a conversation or a good lecture? How does the writer make the topic interesting? Is the language and style consistent or does seem to jump around? Later when you are reviewing your work, ask the same questions. Compare the effectiveness of your approach. You may want to look at papers with similar subject matter to be sure you are writing to standards of that particular field.

3. Write multiple drafts.

Think about whether you need to rearrange the structure. If you are an experienced writer you may be able to skip a step here. If you reorganize by cut and paste, be sure to integrate the merged sentences to flow. And look at the overall flow of ideas and words. After you have a draft or two, revisit your introduction and conclusion. Does your introduction set-up the subject and the content? Does your conclusion clearly summarize what you have presented without bringing up new ideas? Does your essay make all of the points you set out to make? Does one idea flow to another? Does the language sound natural? If you are not sure your ideas are flowing, try reading out loud. As you write more papers, your writing will begin to flow better. Continue rewriting and refining your words in as much time as you have.

2. Clarity of thoughts and economy of words.

Writing concisely and clearly forces you to think more clearly. Since language is a tool to express thought, sloppy use of language may imply sloppy thinking. To make every word count, write active sentences with active verbs. But at the same time communicate with a consistent tone. Look-up words that you are unsure about so that you don’t undermine your paper with one glaringly wrong word. Take a printout of your paper and begin to cross-out words that are not needed. You may be surprised at how many words can be eliminated this way. When you do this, review the language to make sure the language continues to flow. This approach should increase the clarity of your writing but may reduce your page count.

1. Think differently.

Spend time with the topic and the research. Do you have an angle on the subject that differs from the professor and sources you have read? Will the professor give you leeway to come-up with your own take on the assignment or are you to write strictly the facts". Part of this is knowing the professor and knowing if original thinking is encouraged or discouraged. But more importantly you must know yourself. Find the things that interest you and find your voice. If you have a unique take on the material you might want to run your ideas past the professor. Original thinking is not as easy as it might seem. As a student you may think you have a new idea that is actually not at all original. Sometimes comparing two ideas leads to a new way of thinking that outside the box. Being original is risky, and is not always rewarded in the short run. But original thinking may also lead to rewards not only in school but also in your life ahead.

True or False:

  • 1. Lots of people find they write better essays if they pressurise themselves by starting late. This is absolutely fine.

  • 2. You should read essays with similar theses to check your style of writing.

  • 3. The conclusion of your essay should contain new material.

  • 4. Academic writing should not sound natural.

  • 5. Writing active sentences is advisable and passive sentences should not be used.

  • 6. Try and understand what the professor is looking for in the assignment. This could differ depending on how is teaching the course.

  • 7. Original thinking should never be part of an essay. Represent the facts and nothing else.