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How to write an essay

Jun 17, 2020 | 0 comments

Writing an essay is hard. However, learning how to write an essay is imperative not only for high school, college, and tests, but also for developing your critical thinking and analytical skills.

If you are in a rush, this guide will give you the tools you need to write an essay right now.

The essay style covered in this guide is perfect for quick, in-class writing or for writing tests like the TOEFL exam.

If you would like more in-depth help, check out our other essay writing guides, or join us online or in person for the best writing instruction you can find.

1. What’s your Thesis? What are you trying to say?

The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want to tell your readers. What is your main point? Do you want to explain something, or do you want to convince readers of an opinion. Either way, you need to know the purpose of the essay. This is called a Thesis Statement.

Your Thesis needs to be clear, direct, and firm. Readers should be able to pick it out immediately.

thesis - how to write an essay

2. Make an outline

Now that you have your Thesis, you need to figure out how to explain and support it. How are you going to construct your essay? The blueprint for this construction is your outline.

For your Thesis, think of a couple of explanations, or reasons you think it is true.

thesis reasons - how to write an essay

For each of these reasons, you need to then provide an example, or some evidence supporting them.

Essay Thesis Reasons Evidence

The most important part of the outline is making sure the ideas make sense. Are your reasons supporting your Thesis good ones? Does your evidence prove those reasons to be true? If these pieces don’t make logical sense now, your essay will not make sense at the end, so pay special attention to your reasoning here.

Once you have done this, you are ready to start building out your body paragraphs.

3. Write body paragraphs

You should start the essay writing process by first writing body paragraphs. Doing these first will make writing the introduction much easier.

In writing your outline, we talked about the reasons supporting your Thesis. These reasons are called “Topic Sentences”. Each of these will be the start of a new body paragraph. If you have two, like in our example, you only have two body paragraphs.

Topic Sentence

Then, the examples or evidence are called “Concrete Details”. Place them immediately after your Topic Sentences.

Topic Sentences with Concrete Details

Next, finish up these paragraphs with commentary and explanation about the rest of the paragraph. Explain why your Concrete Detail supports your Topic Sentence. Or, add your own ideas or opinions. If there is further information the reader might need, include that.

Explanations

4. Write your intro

Once your body paragraphs are done, writing your introduction is a breeze.

Start with a sentence that will hook the reader’s attention. Try to include clear images.

Introductory Paragraph Hook

Now explain what your essay is about. Also provide any additional information the reader might need.

Introductory Paragraph with Additional Information

With the topic of your essay and the background information explained, add your Thesis. You will likely need to expand it so your Thesis Statement fits with the rest of the essay and flows with the other sentences in the introduction.

Introductory Paragraph with Thesis

5. Write a conclusion

With the rest of your essay ready to go, it is time to finish up.

Start with a quick summary of your points. Avoid using the exact same wording and phrases.

Conclusion

Next, revisit your Thesis, and go beyond it if you can.

Conclusion with Thesis Revisited

Now wrap up your essay with a final point or idea.

Conclusion, Final Point

6. Put it together

Once you have finished your body paragraphs, introduction, and conclusion, it is time to put it all in order.

No one can come home from a long day at work and not smile when their dog rushes to the front door, tail wagging. There are many pets people can choose from, and the two most common are dogs and cats. However, it is clear dogs are better pets than cats because dogs are friendlier and more intelligent.

Dogs are better than cats because they are more friendly. For example, when owners come home at the end of the day, dogs will run to the door to greet them, but cats do not. While this might seem like a simple act, it shows how much dogs actually care about and think about their owners. Cats, on the other hand, don’t pay as much attention to people and stay busy worrying about themselves.

Dogs are better than cats because they are smarter. For example, dogs can learn many commands and tricks while cats cannot. Many dogs learn to come at the sound of their name, can sit, heel, and fetch, and can even learn to be in dog shows or help in service work. There is a reason there is no such thing as a cat show; they could never learn to understand so many commands.

Cats are less friendly and not as smart as dogs, so cats make worse pets. Dogs are not just superior to cats, but they are the best pets possible. There is a reason dogs are called “man’s best friend”.

7. Proofread

As you can see, the essay is complete, but it still needs finishing.

First, check that all sentences flow together. Every idea needs to connect from the one before it, and sentences need to move from one to the next seamlessly.

Conclusion

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In Conclusion...

Next, you need to go back and check for grammar and mechanical errors. Here are a few common mistakes to look for:

  • Have you used correct punctuation and capitalization?
  • Are all words spelled correctly? 
  • Have you used the correct words you have intended?
  • Are you using the correct tense throughout the essay?
  • Do all subjects agree with verbs?

Finally, go back and check your logic and reasoning. Hopefully, you made sure your ideas were all connected and supported each other when you made your outline, but it is always a good idea to check again. Also, make sure your commentary and explanation, as well as your intro and conclusion all make sense with each other.

8. Let it rest, then finalize

Note – if you are writing an in-class essay or an essay for a test, like TOEFL, this section will not apply.

When you have finally finished everything, you should put the essay away for a while, preferably overnight. When you come back the next day and give it a final check, you will have fresh eyes and will be able to pick up mistakes you might have missed when you finished writing.

Another good strategy is to let someone else read it. They can tell you if your logic is clear or if you have made any mistakes you overlooked.

As a last step, make sure to add your name and a title if those are necessary for your assignment.

No one can come home from a long day at work and not smile when their dog rushes to the front door, tail wagging. Obviously, there are many pets people can choose from, but the two most common are dogs and cats. However, it is clear dogs are better pets than cats because dogs are friendlier and more intelligent.

The first reason why dogs are better than cats is because they are more friendly. For example, when owners come home at the end of the day, dogs will run to the door to greet them, but cats do not. While this might seem like a simple act, it shows how much dogs actually care about and think about their owners. Cats, on the other hand, don’t pay as much attention to people and stay busy worrying about themselves.

The next reason why dogs are better than cats is because dogs are smarter. For example, dogs can learn many commands and tricks while cats cannot. Many dogs learn to come at the sound of their name, can sit, heel, and fetch, and can even learn to be in dog shows or help in service work. There is a reason there is no such thing as a cat show; they could never learn to understand so many commands.

In conclusion, cats are less friendly and not as smart as dogs, so cats make worse pets. Obviously, dogs are not just superior to cats, but they are the best pets possible. It is clear to see why dogs have always been called “man’s best friend”.

Bonus: How to add to your essays

Clearly, this essay is extremely simple and probably too short for any real assignment. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to expand on this.

  1. Add more Topic Sentences, which means more body paragraphs
  2. Add Concrete Details to body paragraphs, along with commentary and explanation for each Concrete Detail
  3. Add more explanation and background in your introduction
  4. Add more summary and thesis expansion in your conclusion
  5. Turn it into a research essay and include evidence from cited sources
  6. Split each paragraph and expand on them, then split the essay into sections.

We discuss how to do all of these in other articles.

If you would like more in-depth help, contact Englist about joining classes or signing up for online 1-on-1 tutoring.

Thanks for reading!