Tips for Writing a Bomb (Final) Paper from Your Fave English Major

Picture this. I say my Hampton intro, right? “Hi, My name is Cassie Herring. I’m an English major from Woodbridge, Virginia.” Before I can even get it out, the question everyone can’t wait to ask is “So you can write a good paper, huh?” (the other question is “so you wanna be a teacher?”) Not to toot my own horn, but I can write a pretty fantastic paper. I’m going to share some of the best tips I know so you can write A+ papers, boost that GPA, and live your best life.



1. Plan, plan, and (I can’t stress this enough) PLAN!    

In all honesty, I hate planning my papers. Concept maps and outlines make me feel like I’m avoiding the real work - writing the thing. But planning is writing the paper. Its making a guideline to use when you get to the meat of the argument. That way, you already have the big picture. All you have to do is throw together the details. You’re more likely to hit all your points and avoid repetition. And it cuts your writing time in half because you don’t have to copy and paste misplaced paragraphs, rephrase your ideas, or try to find someplace to throw in that really good point you had. Planning guarantees that your paper will get the job done and flow nicely at the same time.

Well, how do you plan your essay? Make an outline that includes your thesis statement, main points and subpoints, all of your evidence and sources, and conclusion. That way you know where you’re starting, where you’re going, and everything in between. If you don’t want to go that deep, just brainstorm and list out your key ideas.    


2. Figure out/know your process.

In middle and high school, we learned all kinds of ways to write a paper. Argument, evidence, commentary. Start with your conclusion first. I vaguely remember something about a hamburger. But you have to know what works for you. Maybe you can’t flesh out your introduction until the end. Maybe you gather all your sources and quotes first. Maybe you slap on the title right before you submit it. Know what the paper writing process looks like for you and stick to that. When you try to adhere to everyone’s guidelines, that’s when you start messing up. For example, I find all of my quotes and evidence first. Once they’re in the paper, I’ll literally write this: (CITATION). Then, I actually fill that in and add my works cited/references page as the final touch.




3. Don’t write it.

Bet you thought I wouldn’t say this one. But yes ma’am, you heard me - one of the best ways to write your paper is not to write it. Sometimes you get so sucked into a paper that you say: what am I even talking about? The ideas get lost, the pages all mesh together, and before you know it, you’re burned out. You want to just hit submit even though you know it’s trash. So take your time writing papers. Time it so that you can take hours or even days off. When you return to it, you’ll be able to catch grammar mistakes and rough patches. If you stare at it for hours on end, some mistakes will inevitably slip by you.  




4. Thesaurus. Dictionary.

Google is your best friend. Replace your everyday vocabulary with more precise language. This isn’t to say you need to use words you don’t really know or dramatic ones like “gargantuan.” Maintain your own voice. Just switch out overused words for better ones. Try replacing “said” with “asserted,” “big” with “substantial.” And if you don’t know if you should use a word, just define it. It’s so easy and it makes a huge difference in clarity and argument.


5. Know the assignment and REVIEW it.  

It's a no-brainer that you should read your assignment requirements before you start. Definitely do that. But keep that tab open and refer to it frequently so that you’re on the right track. Otherwise,  you might think you grasped the instructions but will be doing it completely wrong. Or you might miss a simple requirement and get doced a couple points. Get ALLLL those points, sis, and review the guidelines!