Tips for Writing a Better Essay

Writing essays is something every single student will go through in their time while studying, and probably throughout the rest of their lives in one way or another. As an English major, essays replace nearly all of my exams. I guess you could say they are almost like second nature to me. Often, my friends will come to me for help when it comes to brainstorming and researching ideas or thoughts, which is why I am here to give some tips when writing the perfect essay. 

One of my trade secrets to writing an essay is typing it out in a single space line format. Most essays need to be double-spaced when submitted so professors will have room to write ideas or feedback. I recommend changing over to that spacing at the end of your paper. Let us say you have to write a four-page paper and you are three and a half pages in. Oftentimes one will just try to reiterate everything we wrote and come up with a bunch of overly descriptive sentences with no real depth to show your understanding on the topic you are writing on. Write a two page single-space paper instead, and I promise you will see a difference in how fast the paper will fly by. 

Another trick up my sleeve is to pose a series of questions before I begin to write. For example, let us say your paper is over class and race in the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Start by writing out (yes, writing over typing) some questions that will help your ideas flow. I might ask, “What time period and setting was this written in?“, “How was race viewed in this time period?”, or “What historical events were happening when Twain wrote this?” It is always good to look both in the text and outside of the text to pose questions. 

Lastly, research through scholarly peer-reviewed articles is inevitable. Do not just Google “race and class in Huckleberry Finn” and expect to find a free article. Instead, hop over to your local or university library’s databases. Make sure you make your search super specific with an article in the last 50 years, peer-reviewed, and a journal entry. Some of the best essays I have written have actually came from sources I have found in the library itself, not online. Take the time to really sit down between the shelves and dive into some literature to really spark your creativity.

Essays can be the splinter in your heel throughout your life. Do not let them rule over you though. Take it one step at a time and work through it slowly with the mindset that this is all with purpose.