How to write an essay?

A complete guide about essay writing

What is an essay/ Essay Definition?

The word essay finds its origins in the French word ‘essayer,’ which relates to trying, striving, or making an effort or attempt.in English language, an essay relates to a piece of composition.

In the simplest manner, an essay may be defined as a focused piece of writing – relating to any subject or topic. For a piece of writing to be classified as an essay, it is important that it is based on a particular theme, and generally composed through prose. Essays are pieces of non-fiction. The writer of an essay is commonly called an essayist.

The essay usually expresses the writer’s point of view, or disseminated information – and hence is often a personalized piece of writing. This means that a writer uses the essay as a device to share his knowledge on a certain topic. However, like a novel, an essay can be written on any topic, or subject. Therefore, an essay may be analytic, persuasive, or interpretive as well as speculative in nature. However, essays are generally written in the third person discourse.

An essay is distinguished from other pieces of writings based on its structure, and pattern. Every essay has three major parts – an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Essayists follow this structure and pattern in their compositions to invite reasons towards persuasion and knowledge sharing.

Essay formats

It is extremely important to format the essay before submission. For academic essays, formatting often accounts for ten percent or more of the grade. For other essays, formatting is equally important as it facilitates in the presentation of the work, as well as provides the essay with systematic organization. The formatting style you choose for your essay will require specific detail towards various features and points, such as:

  • Title pages
  • Paper spacing
  • Page numbering
  • Margins
  • Font size
  • Indentation
  • In text referencing and
  • Bibliography

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Essay formats Example

The most common forms of essay formatting are the APA and the MLA method.

APA Essay Format

This format was designed and developed by the American Psychological Association. The APA format suggests that essays are typed double space, with 1” margins on all sides of a standard sized A4 paper. The font used for APA essay format should be Times New Roman, 12 pint size. The APA format also requires the essayist to include a page header on every page which will be the title of the essay in capital letters. This should be no more than 50characters – including the spacing and the punctuation. The running head may also be a shortened version of the essayist’s essay title.

The APA format has four major sections for an essay paper:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Main body [comprising on introduction; main body and conclusion for the essay]
  • References

MLA Essay format

The Modern Language Association (MLA) format is also based on a standard A4 size paper. The format suggests using any font which has distinguishable regular and italics styles, with a 12 point size. The essay should have a 1” margin on all sides of the paper. The MLA format also suggests indenting all new paragraphs one half inch from the left margin. The header and the page numbering in the MLA format are done consecutively, and generally placed on the upper right corner of the page.

To gain further clarity, you are encouraged to look at essay samples and essay examples that relate to APA and MLA formatting styles.

Types of Essays

There are four major types of an essay:

  • Narrative essay
  • Descriptive essay
  • Expository essay
  • Persuasive essay

Narrative essay

The narrative essay type usually relates to telling a story. The essayist usually tells a real-life story. However, a narrative essay may also be creative, and fictional – as long as it relates to being a narrative. For a narrative essay to be successful, it is important that essayists try to clear and vivid about their story and narrative. Writing narrative essays in first person discourse helps the essayist paint a more personalized picture for the reader, and helps the reader become a part of the story as well. Well drafted narrative essays usually also present a conclusion with a personal statement about the experience narrated.

Descriptive essay

A descriptive essay is a piece of arts that uses words as a medium for painting a picture. The essayist may describe anything – from an object to a person to a memory to even an experience. The description in a descriptive essay is used to communicate a deeper meaning to the reader, and is also used to draw an emotional response out of the reader. The descriptive essay is also written with a purpose, where the essayist tries to communicate knowledge about a particular theme or a subject.

Expository essay

An expository essay is written with the purpose of disseminating knowledge and information. This essay is based on string research and facts, and is generally written in the third person discourse. The essayist used an expository essay to define, introduce, or analyses a topic- based on concrete facts and figures. These essays may be based on comparison, process evaluation or cause and effect modes.

Persuasive essay

Similar to the expository essay, the persuasive essay is written with the aim of trying to convince the reader in favor of the writer’s point of view. The essayist is expected to build his case using facts, reasoning as well as expert opinion. The essayist may also use emotional triggers to draw favors. The essayist will be required to present all sides of the argument, but at the same time, must also be able to clearly communicate why his chosen perspective is correct.

How to write an essay

Writing an essay is no rocket science. Anyone and everyone can do it. Writing a good essay, however, requires effort. A good essay requires you, the essayist, to first decide what type of an essay you need to write. If you are writing for a class assignment or term paper, the type of essay must be clear form the topic(s) available. If you are writing for leisure, however, you must first decide the type of essay you want to write.

This is followed by brainstorming the topics. Again, if you are working on a pre-set assignment, you will have less choices to brainstorm for. If you have multiple topics available, brainstorm points for each that you may be able to elaborate upon in your essay. If you do not have any limitations on topic, brainstorm and choose a topic where you would have more information to handle, and where you would be able to paint a clearer picture for the readers.

After brainstorming for, and choosing a topic, start researching. The essayist is required to research a topic to give better insights to the reader during the drafting of the essay. The research should be in-depth, and vigorous – especially for expository and persuasive essays.

After completing the research, an essayist should develop a thesis statement and draft an outline for the essay. This means that the essayist should create a rough draft about pointers to be included in different sections of the essay; namely – the introduction, body and conclusion. This is important so that the essayist remains clear footed during the essay writing process.

After drafting an outline, just write the essay. This is followed by proofreading to check the flow of ideas, as well as grammar and spelling.

It is suggested that you go through available essay samples and essay examples to gain better understanding of essay drafting and formatting.

How to research essay topic?

One of the most important steps of writing a good essay is researching right. Researching for an essay topic will ensure that your essay has sufficient information and material to make your arguments and case strong. to begin your research, it is first important to do some background information reading. This will require you to read general information on the topic that you have chosen from relevant and reliable sources – focus more on domain name extensions of .edu; .gov; .org as these tend to reflect institutions and be more authentic. Be highly selective of .com domain extensions.

After doing background information, it is advisable to narrow a broader topic so that it is more manageable to draft. Ensure that relevant information and material on the topic is available. To make research easier, it is also suggested to identify key words and phrases to facilitate the filtering of relevant information. In addition, to make your research strong, you are also advised o make use of academic resources – such as books and journal articles. To make your paper more authentic, always cite resources in-text in addition to an end of the paper bibliography.

How to write an essay outline?

The essay outline is the rough draft that you create for yourself to ensure that you do not lose track when actually writing the essay. It is the essay plan or the blue print for your essay. The essay outline acts as a guide to facilitate in the writing process, and streamline your ideas and chain of thoughts. A good essay outline also makes the research process easier, and aids the essayist in conducting focused research.

All essays follow the basic pattern of drafting an introduction, main body, and a conclusion. Based on this, an essay’s outline should include the following points:

  • Thesis of the essay – which should be drawn from the essay topic
  • The primary arguments and/or points for your essay to be included in the main body. These arguments and/or points should be supported with evidence. These arguments and points should be divided in different sections of the main body through different paragraphs.
  • The conclusion of the essay will summarize the main arguments and pointers, and will also allow the essayist to present his own reflection into the essay topic –based on the insights gained from the essay arguments and points.

How to write an essay introduction?

The essay introduction is the opening and the roadmap to the entire essay. The introduction sets the mood of the essay, as well as decides the path on which the essay will move forward. It is therefore important to write the essay introduction carefully – not only to clearly hint towards the essay’s ideas and flow, but also to capture the attention of the reader, and engage him into reading your essay till the end.

When writing the essay introduction, it is important to keep the essay outline in front of you to ensure that you do not lose track. The opening of your introduction should be written in a formal manner, unless required otherwise. Academic papers are professional in nature, and introductory paragraphs are no exception! To make the introduction interesting, and to grab the reader’s attention, you are advised to start with something unique and interesting. This can be a question, a fact, or even a personal experience. This should then lead towards your thesis statement for the essay.

Sample essay introduction for topic: Ethics and Strategic Planning is presented below for your facilitation

Strategic planning refers to the organization’s long-term plan which aims to achieve the goals and objectives it sets. The strategic plan is often conveyed internally and externally to employees and other stakeholders through the mission and the vision statement of the company. In the recent years, it has become crucial for organizations to include an ethical and a socially responsible dimension in their strategic plan, to be successful in the long term and to maintain credibility with the customers

How to write Essay Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement focuses all your ideas and arguments in one or two sentences, and is usually presented in the introduction of your essay. The thesis statement not only presents the topic of the essay, but also presents the essayist’s standing and position on the paper. Though usually presented in the introductory paragraph, the thesis statement may be reiterated elsewhere in the document as well. The essayist makes his position clear in the thesis statement by using a strong claim or argument in relation to the topic.

Good thesis statements are clear, to the point, and non-ambiguous. For example, in the previous Sample essay introduction for topic: Ethics and Strategic Planning, the thesis statement has been underlines for your clarification:

Strategic planning refers to the organization’s long-term plan which aims to achieve the goals and objectives it sets. The strategic plan is often conveyed internally and externally to employees and other stakeholders through the mission and the vision statement of the company. In the recent years, it has become crucial for organizations to include an ethical and a socially responsible dimension in their strategic plan, to be successful in the long term and to maintain credibility with the customers.

Writing the main body of the essay

The main body of an essay relates directly to the thesis statement, and comprises of multiple paragraphs. Each paragraph deals with different and individual ideas and arguments – however, all these paragraphs are interrelated and interlinked.

Each paragraph of the body is made of a group of sentences that relate to a particular idea or a particular argument, relating to the thesis statement directly. It is critical to write and organize good paragraphs for the main body of the essay to develop the essay coherently, as well as present and communicate different ideas clearly and effectively.

The main body of the essay comprises of multiple paragraphs, which contain the major information and research of the essay. These body paragraphs build and present the arguments and case of the essay, are often connected to each other through the use of transitions. These transitions must be carefully used and places for a more cohesive essay formation. For all body paragraphs of the main body, it is important to keep the following points in mind:

  • The body paragraph should have clear and distinct topic sentences
  • The evidence supporting the topic sentence, and building the argument must be clear and focused
  • The essayist may use examples to strengthen his arguments
  • All body paragraphs must show cohesion and unity in their presentation and order
  • Each body paragraph must also have a concluding sentence which closes the paragraph, and also helps in the transition towards the following paragraph.

How to write an essay conclusion?

This is also a crucial part of the essay. The essayist must wrap up his arguments and case, and close the essay in an effective manner. The most important thing to keep in mind when writing the conclusion is to make sure that the thesis statement is restated. This will ensure that you have tied up your essay from the beginning till the end systematically – connecting the dots from where they began to where they have ended. This will ensure that the entire essay is written in an organized manner.

The restatement of the thesis statement in the conclusion also means that they essayist will need to present all his arguments briefly. This means that all the main ideas and arguments from the main body will be presented briefly in the conclusion as supporting evidence for the restated thesis statement this will serve the function of the reminding the reader of the strengths of the essayist’s arguments and case position. In the end, the essayist may also present his conclusion thoughts, or/and insights – based on the case and the reasoning built throughout the case. The essayist’s insights and reflection may consider things such as:

  • Importance and significance of arguments and/or findings
  • Implications of the findings
  • Any limitations of the research and/or research findings
  • Suggestions for future research

Referencing the essay

In essays, especially academic essays, the thoughts and ideas of the essayist builds up from works and researches of other academicians and writers. In this case, it is important to give credit to these people. This is done through referencing. The essayist uses there peoples’ ideas and work to build his own case and arguments, and cites references. Using references is important because it provides reliability and authenticity to the essay, as well as allows the reader to follow up on other research papers for more detail. Additionally, it also helps the reader identify thoughts and research that has been conducted by the essayist directly.

The style of referencing varies from format to format – but generally the essayist will be required to present the following details:

  • Name of the researcher whose work is being cited
  • Year of publication
  • Title of publications
  • Name of source of publication [example: journal article, books, website etc.]
  • URL where applicable

It is important to keep in mind that referencing for essays include both – in-text citation as well as bibliographies.

Writing a good essay- do's and don’ts

For essays to be well-drafted, well-organized, and systematic DO

  • Proofread your essay for grammatical errors
  • Check twice for spelling mistakes
  • Use third person discourse unless otherwise directed
  • Use a formal and a professional tone and language
  • Do not shorten verbs: for example, write do not instead of don’t
  • Be clear and coherent – make your essay simple and easy to understand
  • Stay focused
  • Use transitions in between paragraphs through transitory words and/or phrases
  • Use topic sentences for paragraphs
  • Include thesis statement, and reiterate it where necessary
  • Use examples where needed
  • Cite references accurately
  • Give yourself time
  • Keep within the word limit of the essay
  • RELAX – because it will be a great piece of essay if you have followed the guideline and the rules of writing a good essay!

It is also important to remember to DON’T:

  • Stress out – panicking will not help you but only create hurdles in your way
  • Plagiarize – this may lead to your essay being rejected completely, and at the same time, you may lose your authenticity
  • Create a complicated essay with too much information
  • Use clichés r overused phrases and idioms
  • Use informal or slang language
  • Type as if typing on mobile forms – for example, u instead of you
  • Use common jargon
  • Start a sentence with because
  • Lose focus
  • Forget to add references where required
  • Use personal pronouns unless required or suggested by essay instructions
  • Make generalized comments or judgements
  • Use bullet points unless required by the essay instructions
  • DON’T forget to take breaks – you will need breaks to freshen up, and stay focused

Difference between an essay and a report

The simplest difference between a research based, academic essay and a report is that the earlier is written for purposes of sharing information, while the latter is written on a certain topic through analysis of a set of actions. In this manner, a report generally is a response to a given brief, while an essay is based and drafted through core research.

A report is formally structured, and is written for a specific audience. This audience is pre-set, and the writer knows the target audience for the report, and plans it accordingly. A report is based thoroughly on facts and information only, and is written with a specific purpose and agenda. In addition, the report follows a formal structure and format, where information presented is supported through headings and subheadings for different sections of the report. The writer is also allowed to make use of bullet points, as well as tables, charts and graphs to communicate his information where needed throughout the report. In addition, a report often concludes not only with a summary of the research findings, but also the writer’s own recommendations.

In contrast to this, an essay although uses formal language, is semi-structured in format compared to the report. Similarly, though the essay uses research and information, the organization of the essay is based on arguments, and ideas. The essay is also written in third person dialect – however, there is no preset target audience for the readership of the essay. Unlike the report, it is not encouraged to use bullet points, charts, tables and/or graphs throughout the essay. These may, however, be presented in the appendix If allowed by the instruction. In this case, they may be referenced within the essay properly. The conclusion of the essay, unlike the report, is often a summary of the findings and the arguments, and the reiteration of the thesis statement, this may allow a brief reflection of the essayist – based on allowance by essay instructions.

How to write an essay fast

To write an essay fast, time must be carefully planned. It is important to stay focused, and not waste any time. This means no face book, no social media, and no phone calls. The time that has been set apart for working on the essay, should only be spent on that.

After regulating the time, it is equally important to focus on, and clearly understand the topic, and relating instructions. Develop an idea, and/or pick a side for the essay topic, and stand steadfast on it. This is needed for the essayist to be able to conduct focused and narrowed research, and again save on time. After conducting the basic research, it is important that you spend at least one fourth of your time on developing the outline. The outline is needed to help the essayist remain focused and calm during the writing of the essay, as well as to allow organization to the essay. The essayist should also use the outline to identify key ideas of each paragraph, so that developing topic sentences is easy. Two fourths of the time after this should be given to the writing of the essay.

Lastly, the remaining one fourth time should be spent on the conclusion, and the proofreading, and revision of the essay.

Writing an academic essay

Writing an academic essay means that the essayist is trying to convince readers in favor of an idea or an argument. These essays are largely written to present research and information pertaining to a topic. To establish authority in an academic essay, it is important to have an engaging introduction, and a clear thesis statement. This should be followed by the main body. However, every argument or idea presented in the main body should be properly referenced, and the use of intent citations should be made. Moreover, these ideas must be coherently and systematically connected to each other to form an overall organization of the essay. Lastly, paragraphs of the main body should all have a clear topic sentence, and should not communicate overlapping information.

In academic essays, it is also important to orient readers towards your discussion. This means explaining all new concepts and ideas as if the readers do not know anything about it. After finishing the drafting of the main body, the essayist should focus on the conclusion, and summarize all the main arguments. Lastly, it is important to format, and reference academic essays accurately, and carefully.

How to write better essays

Writing better essays is no rocket science, but requires a few details that you need to focus on:

  • Read more: reading more will help in developing a stronger grip on grammar and punctuation. This is important in developing the language skills, which will then translate into your written essay. Reading sources, however, should be formal such as journal articles, and academic books. These should not comprise of magazines and blogs.
  • Plan time: time management is also critical. It is important to plan your time, and follow the schedule. Often essays turn out below average because of lack of time, or poor time management
  • Focus on the essay outline: this is the backbone of the essay. Focus on the outline to streamline the thoughts and ideas so that they help in the organization of the essay better.
  • Stay calm and relaxed. Not panicking is also a key towards writing better. With more tension, the essay is likely to be more disorganized. It is important at all times to keep calm, and maintain focus on the essay.