Every student needs good essay writing skills. Essays are your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, passion, and skill to your tutors.
Turning out several thousand well-crafted words on a regular basis isn’t easy, especially if you feel you’re not a natural writer. But here’s the thing: people who appear to be ‘natural’ writers rarely are. The difference between them and you is simply that they’ve spent time learning about language and essay-writing.
Doesn’t sound appealing? Remember: whatever career you end up in, you’ll use the essay writing skills you develop now, even if you never write another university essay. Essay writing isn’t just about ticking boxes to get a grade. It’s about being able to research well, draw conclusions, and communicate them to your audience. Those are skills you’ll need in pretty much any professional career.
Don’t Skimp on Essay Writing Research
Students often have a tendency to think of the essay writing as the main event, and the research as just a little bit of prep. Don’t do this. Your research should take up much more time than writing, so put plenty of time for it in your diary.
You’ll find that writing is far easier if you read widely and gain a thorough understanding of your subject before you start. It’s also obvious to your tutors who knows their stuff and who’s trying to wing it.
Have a Clear Goal
When you write an essay, you’re answering a question. Before you write anything else, write your answer to the question being posed in a sentence or two. Use as few words as possible.
This might be difficult – but it’s important. If you can’t do it, you need to spend more time clarifying your thoughts (and answering the question) before you go any further.
Make a Plan
Don’t just start writing. Make a detailed outline plan of your essay, including the introduction, main body, and the conclusion. The main body is where you present your arguments, using the evidence you’ve found during your research. It should lead naturally to the conclusion. The conclusion should never be a surprise. If it is, you need to go back and re-plan.
Read for Pleasure
Good writers read. And they don’t just read the things they have to read. As well as academic books and articles related to your essay, read newspapers, novels, poetry, and texts from other subjects. Reading anything and everything you can will mean you absorb knowledge about style, improve your vocabulary, and understand more about language and the way it works.
Build Your Language Skills
This is particularly important if you’re not a native English speaker. Even if you are, there is always room to improve. Better vocabulary means you have more words in your arsenal to get your point across. Better grammar knowledge means being able to get your point across more clearly.
If you’re following point 4 and reading lots, you’ll find that your knowledge improves naturally, but there’s a lot you can do to help it along even further. As you read, look up any words you’re not sure of. Notice how other writers use grammar and again, look up anything you’re unsure of.
Invest in a good quality paper dictionary and thesaurus, or an online subscription rather than relying on free online resources. Free resources can be useful, but they simply won’t give you the depth of knowledge you need to really improve.
Think About Tone of Voice
The way you write is just as vital to communication as the words you use. Think about how you’d speak to your tutor if you were trying to explain something and try and use similar language as you write.
Academic writing usually needs to be relatively formal but should not be overly complicated or fussy. Use clear, plain English and avoid using more words than you need to (even if you’re trying to get your essay up to a certain word count!).
Use the active rather than the passive voice. So, use ‘the government passed the law’ not ‘the law was passed by the government’.
Write with Confidence
The point of an essay is to answer a question. So, answer it. Be very clear about what you’re saying. If you’re not, your writing will inevitably become fuzzy and hard to understand and it’ll be obvious you don’t really believe your own answer.
Most tutors want to see an essay that provides a clear answer, even if they disagree it. They’d rather that than an essay that is closer to their own opinion that fails to answer the question being asked.