As a college student, one thing you can count on is essay writing. It will be expected of you in nearly every class. There is no escaping it, so why not learn to master it? You’ve got your topic and an essay to write. Here are some tips to keep in mind that can guide you to stronger writing skills.
Brainstorm and create an outline.
As elementary as it sounds, brainstorming is an important part of the process. Putting your initial thoughts down on paper may start off messy, but getting your thoughts down on paper will help you get organized. Take 10 minutes to write down anything that comes to mind regarding your topic. Use that to fuel your writing. Later, as you begin writing your essay, you will filter through your writing, and keep what works and what does not. In the time before your assignment is due, thoughts may arise when you least expect them to, so it’s a good idea to have a separate file for notes on your phone just in case you need to get a thought down somewhere. This allows you to refer back to them later. Here is a helpful link to guide you on creating an outline. How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples (scribbr.com)
Pay attention to spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
Mistakes are bound to happen, but too many of them will add up. As for grammar, it’s important to aim to understand the basic rules, but they can be difficult to master, and mistakes get overlooked. Use spell and grammar check to help you. Both are available on Word and Google Docs. Grammarly is another free and helpful writing tool for students. It catches grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors, and watches for clarity throughout your writing assignment. I like that it can be installed as an extension on Google Docs and Microsoft Word, which makes it easily accessible when working on your writing assignment.
Be clear and concise.
Sometimes, less is more. An article titled, “7 Tips for Clear and Concise Writing,” by Master Class, reminds writers that concise writing helps keep your reader’s attention and helps them focus on the topic. Extra words can boost your word count but won’t improve your writing. “Aim to communicate your point with the fewest words possible.” Check out this link on concise writing for more help! Concision // Purdue Writing.
Do not overuse the thesaurus.
The thesaurus is a helpful writing tool. It can advance your vocabulary to help you achieve a more formal and sophisticated writing style but do not rely on it too much. If you are going to use it, be sure to choose words you understand.
Keep it organized and relevant.
Your paper should serve a purpose. Once you have a topic, research question, or thesis statement, stick to relevant information. Stay focused on key points and make sure they support your thesis. Keep your thoughts connected and present them in a logical order.
Most academic writing should be objective. In general, using first-person pronouns, like “I” statements, sounds biased or subjective. Writing in the second person, using “you” statements, is discouraged because it addresses the reader. In academic writing, engaging with your reader should be avoided.
That is not the case for all essays. For example, narrative or reflective essays are generally written in the first person. So, when in doubt, ask your professor if writing in the first and second person is acceptable for the assignment.
Here are some sentences that are written in first and second person vs. sentences written in third person.
Incorrect In my opinion, there should be more female superheroes.
Incorrect I think there should be more female superheroes.
Correct There should be more female superheroes.
Incorrect As a full-time student, you should expect 30 – 45 hours of studying per week.
Correct As a full-time student, one should expect 30 to 45 hours of studying per week.
Correct Full-time students should expect 30 to 45 hours of studying per week.
Write a solid conclusion.
Conclusions can be one of the most dreaded parts of the essay because they are a challenge to write. So often we want to rush through them so we can get our essays over and done with, but that is the last thing we should do because they are essential to the essay. The Primacy Recency Effect teaches us that the first and the last pieces of information that are presented to a person is what the person pays most attention to and remembers the most. That is why you should take time on the conclusion to reiterate the main idea and points of your essay so your reader has them fresh in their memory.
To write an effective conclusion, be sure your reader is reminded of the main purpose of your paper. You can restate your thesis, but not verbatim. Focus on the main points from your essay and reiterate them. Avoid bringing up any new points or making a new argument. Leave your reader with a sense of closure. To do that, you can make some sort of connection between your introduction and closing line. Lastly, avoid overly used concluding phrases like, “To sum up…” or “In conclusion…”
Proofread out loud!
Proofreading out loud is a total game-changer. Our brains work to fill in the blanks when information is missing and when we proofread silently, “in our heads,” we are more likely to overlook mistakes in our writing. However, when you read out loud, you can actually hear the mistakes in your writing. Give it a shot next time you proofread your assignment.