Essay writing is part and parcel of completing a degree. Even those who usually excel at written work can find themselves feeling the fear when faced with the prospect of putting together a lengthy essay or dissertation. The following tips will help improve your writing skills and turn you into a great writer.
Avoiding repetition is essential to improving your writing skills. When you use the same words ad nauseam, your reader views it as a sign of laziness. If you feel you need to keep the idea, replace the word or phrase with something similar. Use a thesaurus only to remind you of words you already know but have temporarily forgotten.
Read other people’s essays.Just as the books you read subconsciously help mould your own writing style, so reading other people’s essays can help you develop and build on your own essay-writing style.
Read essays on a wide variety of subjects, not necessarily just those that you’re studying; different disciplines might apply different kinds of arguments or styles, so the wider you read, the more possible techniques there are for you to pick up and use in essays of your own.
Avoid heading down the plagiarism path by ensuring any sources you use are referenced correctly. Websites such as Cite It Right can help you.
In order to improve writing skills, we encourage students to write in the active voice. Compare the following examples:
Tom tossed the ball (active)
The ball was tossed by Tom (passive)
Read widely, and refer to a dictionary for words you don’t know as you go along; this way, you’ll learn the new word as well as seeing it in context so you know how to use it properly. Read different genres of fiction, and non-fiction covering a range of topics, and you’ll have the added bonus of widening your general knowledge as well as your vocabulary.
Having lots of mistakes suggests carelessness and diminishes the credibility of your arguments. To avoid this, always use proofreading software, such as Grammarly, to weed out the major errors.
A key tip to improving your writing skills is that everything should be in the present tense. It doesn’t matter that you read the book last week, or that the author wrote it a century ago. Write about the characters and events as though they exist in the here and now.
To condense what you’re trying to say into a short, snappy summary for you to work from, try making an ‘Elevator Pitch’ style summary of what you intend to write and why readers should be interested in it.
A good essay presents thoughts in a logical order. The format should be easy to follow. The introduction should flow naturally to the body paragraphs, and the conclusion should tie everything together. The best way to do this is to lay out the outline of your paper before you begin.
After you finish your essay, review the form to see if thoughts progress naturally. You might ask yourself:
Are the paragraphs in a logical order? Are the sentences of each paragraph organized well? Have I grouped similar pieces of information in the same paragraph? Have I included transitions to show how paragraphs connect?
Essays are a chance for you to show off how widely read you are, so make sure you quote other people’s opinions, and original sources, on what you’re writing about.
Don’t quote too much; mix citations with your own opinions so that it doesn’t look as though you have to hide behind other people’s words. It’s fine to disagree with a scholar you quote, provided you can give evidence and reasoning for doing so.
Effective punctuation is vital in conveying your arguments persuasively; the last thing a teacher or lecturer wants to read is an essay riddled with poor grammar. What’s more, the reader shouldn’t have to read a sentence more than once to understand it.
We hope you’ve found these tips and techniques useful and that they help you take your essay-writing to new heights. If you have any tips you’d like to share with us, do let us know by leaving a comment below!