How to be a Successful Essay Writer

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In order to be a successful essay writer there are some necessities that must be incorporated. Here is a list:

1) Understand the writing assignment

This is the basis on which your essay will be built. If you do not understand what the requirements are, and the type of essay you are to produce, there is no way you will have a successful essay prepared.

2) Determine the purpose of your essay

Knowing the purpose of your essay will help to set the tone for the basis on which you will develop your essay. If you are writing to inform readers for example, you will only need to focus on giving information and including cited sources pointing to evidence that support your claim, as opposed to writing to persuade in which case you will need to write about the pros and cons, with more emphasis on the pros. Some questions to ask yourself that will enable you to better determine your purpose are: Why am I writing: To inform readers? Persuade them? Entertain them? Call them to action? A combination of these?

3) Determine your audience

Like determining the purpose of your essay, determining your audience is also crucial. Before you begin writing, you will want to know how informed your audience is on your topic, so as to write in a way that will interest them. Knowing who your audience is before writing will ensure that they benefit from your work and your purpose fulfilled.

4) Ask questions appropriate to the discipline

In order to be on point with your essay, you must recognize the questions writers in a discipline ask. For example, in writing an essay based on the same subject – religion, here are the approaches each will take:


5) Formulate a thesis or main idea

Formulating a thesis for your essay is the integral part on which your entire essay will be built; as such, it is essential that you choose wisely. You will want to choose one that is not very broad, yet broad enough to be able to allow you to write extensively on it. It is usually stated in the introduction in the first paragraph.

6) Conduct research if necessary to support your claim

It is best to know what evidence to gather in each discipline and conduct your research to help substantiate or prove your point. You will need to support your claim with solid evidence such as facts, statistics, examples and illustrations, expert opinion, et cetera. Most debatable topics require that you consult some written sources to gather evidence. When you do so, be sure to give credit by citing all the sources you include in your work. You can use databases provided by your college, or one of the many others available online such as Owl of Purdue.

7) Counter opposing arguments or objections

You do not need to convince readers or listeners who are already in agreement with you. However, you will need to convince indifferent or skeptical readers who will definitely be resisting your argument as it conflicts with their point of view. Therefore, in addition to presenting your own case, you should acknowledge opposing arguments and any contradictory evidence and explain why your position is stronger.

Some questions to consider in anticipation of possible objection are:

a) Could a reasonable person draw a different conclusion from my facts or examples?

b) Could anyone hearing my argument question any of my assumptions?

c) Could anyone offer an alternative explanation of this issue?

Some questions to consider in response to a potential objection are:

a) Can I suggest a different interpretation of the evidence?

b) Can I explain why readers should consider a new perspective or question a piece of evidence?

c) Should I qualify my position in light of contradictory evidence?

d) Can I concede the point to the opposition but challenge the point’s importance or usefulness?

Also, in writing, you should use phrase to signal to readers that you are about to present an objection. The signal phrase is often placed in the lead sentence of a paragraph. Some objection signal phrase are:

a) Some readers might point out that….

b) Critics of this viewpoint argue that….

c) Isn’t it possible that….

8) Identify the required documentation style

All academic disciplines use their own editorial style for citing sources and for listing the works that are cited in a paper or form. For example, in Psychology, the American Psychological Association (APA) format is usually used.

9) Document your sources

In any discipline, you must give credit to those whose ideas or words you have borrowed. Avoid plagiarism by citing sources honestly and accurately.

10) Design your document

Usually the professor of the discipline decides the layout of the document; however, the number of words to be used in each paragraph is usually not decided. So, bear in mind that many readers are more comfortable reading paragraphs that range between one hundred and two hundred words. Shorter paragraphs allows for too much starting and stopping, while longer ones strains the reader’s attention span as well as make the words harder to keep track of. There are exceptions to the range of words in paragraphs in some instances such as a newspaper which would have shorter word paragraph because of its narrow column, and in scholarly writing where seriousness and depth are suggested.

In an essay, the first and last paragraphs will ordinarily be the introduction and conclusion - respectively. These paragraphs are usually shorter than the ones in the body as their purpose requires them to be. Some ideas require more development than others, so it is best to be flexible. If an idea stretches to a length unreasonable for a paragraph, you should divide the paragraph, even if you have presented comparable points in the essay in single paragraphs. Paragraph breaks are not used strictly for logical reasons; they are used by writers for all of the following reasons as well.

a) to signal a shift to a new idea

b) to mark off the introduction and the conclusion

c) to highlight a contrast

d) to indicate an important shift in time or place

e) to provide readers with a needed pause

f) to signal a change of speakers in dialogue

g) to break up text that looks too dense

There are times when short paragraphs need to be combined to keep a thought flowing. Some instances are:

a) to connect closely related ideas

b) to bind text that looks too loose – together

c) to clarify the essay’s organization

Good document design promotes readability, but that readability depends on your purpose, audience, and perhaps other elements of your writing situation, such as your subject and/or length restrictions.

Good writing in any discipline communicates a writer’s purpose to an audience and explores an engaging question about a subject. Effective college writers respond appropriately to an assignment or problem with a thesis, support their claims with evidence, document their research sources, and format documents in the style appropriate for their discipline.

Related Topics: Essay criteria example

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How to test a tentative thesis

Checklist for assessing the writing situation



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