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Tips for Writing a Strong Essay

I’ve noticed that when I’m to edit an essays, or when required to conduct peer reviews in my courses, essay writing does not come easily to everyone. That’s why I have provided some tips for essay writing that I’ve gotten from professors, or learned from experience. I am in no way saying I get 100% on all my essays (although I wish I could say that), but hopefully these tips will be helpful to you!

START EARLY!!!!!!!

Get down to business as soon as possible! (GIF from here)

Get down to business as soon as possible! (GIF from here)

Many students say that writing an essay under pressure helps them get a higher grade. Writing an essay the night before it was due and getting a 80 is fine if there was absolutely no other option. However, this shouldn’t be something you practice. Start planning your essay well in advance, and give yourself time to conduct research and gather your sources. This will help keep your stress levels down, and allow you to take your time to write an impactful essay.

Use Microsoft Word’s essay outline template

Microsoft Word short essay outline template

Trust me, this template will save your essay writing life.

Even if you don’t have all of your points or sources, the essay outline template on Word is really helpful for organizing your paper, and making sure your arguments are distinct. It is also good for those of us who periodically forget the correct essay format. I like to write my outlines in full sentences instead of jot notes, so when it comes to writing a rough draft, I only need to copy and paste the information.

Remember that there are more than one ways to approach and structure it

Just because an essay starts with an introduction, doesn’t mean you have to write it first. In fact, I find working on my body paragraphs much easier than my intro and conclusion. Start with whichever section gets you going, and worry about filling in the missing parts after. Also, don’t be worried if you don’t have exactly three arguments. English classes usually teach this as a standard, but if you have two really strong arguments that are fully supported and prove your thesis, go for it!

Write a clear, compelling thesis

Be proud of your thesis statement (GIF from here).

Be proud of your thesis statement! (GIF from here).

A good thesis statement is crucial to writing a strong paper. Make sure it is located at the end of your intro, and states what will be discussed in the paper. Some professors will require you to start the statement with “this essay argues”, some will want you to explain your arguments, and some will want a more general statement that doesn’t give too much away. The nature of the thesis also varies depending on the type of essay. Regardless, every professor wants your thesis to be strong, clear, and specific. Find more info on thesis writing here.

Eliminate PASSIVE language

This is the closest example of passive vs. active voice I could find lol.

This is the closest example of passive vs. active voice I could find lol.

Many of us speak with long-winded passive sentences that don’t go over well in academia. As a result, active language is preferred in writing. Active voice occurs when the subject of the sentence is performing the action. For example, while a passive sentence might say “I was hugged by her”, and active sentence would simply say “She hugged me”. This method eliminates a lot awkwardness, is more concise, and also helps you stay within the word count.

Visit the Writing Centre

The Student Learning Support reception counter (Image from here).

The Student Learning Support reception counter (Image from here).

Ryerson’s Writing Centre is such a helpful resource that many students fail to take advantage of. Located in the Student Learning Centre, you can book an appointment with a graduate student who will look over your paper, allow you to explain your thought process, and give you tips for improving your current and future essays.

Perfect your spelling and grammar

Check yo' spelling (GIF from here).

Check yo’ spelling (GIF from here).

I had to add this. At this point, there should really be no confusion about when to use words like “their”, “there” and “they’re”. In addition, many people are adding apostrophes to plural words (e.g. computer’s instead of computers), and it is simply incorrect. Don’t lose marks because of mistakes like this! Give yourself time to read through your essay with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that your grammar is on pointttt (I really hope there aren’t any grammar errors in this blog post because that would be pretty awks).

CITE CITE CITE 

Even if you are paraphrasing a quote from one of your sources, make sure to include in-text citations. You probably already know about citing, but universities are very VERY strict on plagiarism offenses (I’m talking expulsion). Therefore, knowing how to cite your sources properly is super important. For more information, click here.