The first rule of essay writing is to not postpone getting to work until the last moment. The most basic level of working efficiently in any sphere is managing your time and not putting off your homework. We all procrastinate now and then, opting for video games and binge-watching our favorite tv series instead of doing thoughtful work on a large assignment that absolutely cannot be done in a single night. And this is the main habit every student should try to get rid of when dealing with academic tasks. If you have succeeded in overcoming this great challenge, we can go up the pyramid of efficient essay writing, from the base to the top.
1st Level: Instructions
Double-check the requirements for your assignment and ask your teacher for explanations if something isn’t clear. Make sure that you apply the formatting style required by your college and include the sources that your teacher expects to see in your bibliography. Pay attention to the type of assignment that you’ve been given: Is it an argumentative statement, a personal statement, or a reflection paper? Find out the specifics of your writing assignment if you’re still unfamiliar with them, and stick to your word count.
2nd Level: Ideas
Prove your idea with strong arguments, and only use trustworthy sources of information to demonstrate your points. The popularity of Buzzfeed, Bored Panda, Medium, and Wikipedia doesn’t make them reliable. Opt for arguments composed by reputable experts in your field and try to find the initial source of every idea you explore to add it to your bibliography.
Don’t be afraid to change your point of view while working on the topic, as this is exactly what essays are about: opening your mind and broadening your horizons. If your topic is controversial, provide both arguments for and counterarguments to its main idea, as by doing so, you demonstrate that you’ve researched and considered the question from every angle.
3rd Level: Structure
Before you start writing, make an outline for your essay. Think of the arguments you’re going to use to prove your point and arrange them logically. Don’t forget to present your topic in the beginning and sum up your essay in the end. The one structure that will never let you down is the sequence of introduction, body, and conclusion. Include a thesis statement if it is required by your teacher. Divide your text into logical paragraphs, one paragraph per idea. The optimal length for one paragraph is from four to eight lines: such divisions will make your piece of writing easier to read.
4th Level: Sentences
Along with dividing your essay into paragraphs, don’t forget to break your long sentences into shorter ones. Another necessary technique is using hedging vocabulary. This includes linking words like “hence,” “consequently,” “therefore,” “as can be seen from the above,” and the like. They emphasize the causality and logic in your writing and add structure to your essay.
Read your paper several times after it is written to make sure that there are no fragments or run-on sentences, and that all your ideas are finished and understandable. If you use lists or any kinds of sequences, make sure they are consistent. Your brain will spot an error more easily after a short break, so put your writing aside for a while before you start editing it.
5th Level: What words should you avoid when writing an essay
There should be no overly informal language or jargon of any kind in academic writing, specifically in scientific papers. However, when it comes to creative essays or personal statements, emotionally charged words are acceptable. If you need to describe something in your essay, use precise adjectives instead of adding “very,” “really,” or “too” in front of the weak words.
There are some rules in academic writing which can affect the word count in your paper. For example, remember that contractions are a big no-no, which means you will have to say “do not” instead of “don’t,” and “it is” instead of “it’s.” There is one more issue that will affect the number of words in your paper. Phrasal verbs are considered less formal and are for this reason considered undesirable in scientific papers. Change “find out” to “discover,” “look at” to “examine,” and “think about” to “consider” to concisely limit your word count and make your essay look smarter.
6th Level: Common grammar and punctuation mistakes
The modern algorithms of spelling and punctuation checkers help both students and adults seem more literate. However, they won’t help you if you’re writing with a pen and on paper. For this reason, it’s better to refresh your knowledge of English grammar before an important exam. Opt for simple words if you’re not sure how to spell their more intricate synonyms. If you’re prone to some particular mistakes, make a list of them. This will help you to remember and avoid them.
One of the most frustrating types of mistakes we all make from time to time is misspelling homophones. Writing “hear” instead of “here,” “brake” instead of “break,” and “right” where “write” should be can ruin both the point of the sentence containing them and your overall grade. Read more works by good authors to eliminate these mistakes. Among the most common homophone duos and trios are: affect/effect, to/too/two, then/than, accept/except, weather/whether, etc.
When it comes to punctuation, the most common mistake students for whom English is not a native language make is applying the rules of punctuation in their native language to their English essays. Though the punctuation marks are the same, the rules of English punctuation differ from those of German, French, Spanish, and Russian, and you will have to learn them all. If you’re not sure how to use colons, semi-colons, or dashes in English, opt for commas or break long sentences into short ones. One more personal request: please, always close your quotation marks and don’t inspire a feeling of incompleteness in your readers’ minds.
Top of the pyramid: Academic integrity and timely delivery
Modern colleges apply high-quality plagiarism-detection software. Don’t risk your grades and reputation by using someone else’s pieces of text without giving credit. Don’t forget to put quotation marks and indicate your sources in the bibliography section. Avoid free essay mills and opt for professional and reliable assistance if you can’t do your homework by yourself.
Remember that most of your academic tasks have deadlines, and if you turn in your essay too late, you won’t get a perfect grade even if your writing is flawless. Prefer completeness to perfectionism: this simple rule will change both your grades and your life.