How to write a better essay

By: Ava Bleifuss

Essays are an important part of every high school student’s life. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to begin, so here are some steps, taken from 

1: Understand the criteria

It is very important that when you are trying to write an essay you understand the criteria. Most teachers will provide a rubric, as well as instructions to help you understand what they’re looking for in these essays. If you have any questions about the essay, don’t be afraid to ask the teacher to clear something up.

2: Brainstorm about your topic

What excites you? What do you care about? Even when there is a topic given by the teacher, it’s important to find something about the topic that you care about in order to write a good essay about it. Get a piece of paper, or a new document, and write down everything you want to say in the essay. It does not have to be perfect, and should be messy. Getting down all of your thoughts, and seeing everything as the big picture can really help someone get started on writing an essay. 

3: Decide on a thesis  

Look at the notes you took, and see what the main theme is that connects everything together. Teachers will talk about some good thesis ideas in class discussions about the book which can be helpful, and sometimes they will also ask you a question that they want to be answered in the thesis statement. When you find that, make sure it is in one complete sentence and not too long. Your thesis statement should be short and to the point. 

4: Find evidence 

In the many different kinds of essays a student has to write, all of them require some kind of evidence. For English class if you have to write about a book, find quotes and other evidence from the book that support your main points. In history class it’s important to find specific people, quotes, or important events that will help with the whole of your essay. Finding primary sources will help provide direct insights into the past instead of someone else’s interpretation.

6: Create an essay structure

According to there are several common ways to structure an essay. One structure is the argumentative essay, where you order your points from most important to least important, or build up from least important to most important. Another is the chronological essay, where you list your points in order of time. Yet another is the compare/contrast essay, where you talk about the similarities and differences between your points. Your structure will depend on the type of essay you want to write.

7: Connect your ideas

Without some segues connecting your different paragraphs, an essay can seem very choppy. Making sure that it has a nice flow to it, and isn’t hard to follow, is a very important step to writing an essay. 

8: Choose memorable language

Choosing the right vocabulary is a crucial part in writing a good essay. Using many adjectives to help describe something will allow the reader to have a better picture of what you’re explaining. It’s more interesting to say a “big blue fluffy blanket” rather than just “a blanket”. Something that can be helpful when you’re stuck on what word to use is the thesaurus. A thesaurus can help with finding interesting words, but makes sure that you don’t use the same vocabulary over and over. 

10: Edit and proofread your essay 

Once you are done writing your essay, be sure to proofread it. Go through your whole essay making sure that there are no run-on sentences, grammatical errors, spelling errors, capitalization problems, or sentence fragments. After you think your essay is finished, put it aside and look at it the next day. You might find some points that you want to change or other errors you didn’t notice before. Having someone else read your essay and give you feedback can also be very helpful. It allows you to have some outside perspective on how your essay was written. 

Using this list will help you write an essay from beginning to end. There are lots of other helpful tools like the internet, textbooks, or this page of the Highland website that includes many writing and research resources. 

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