Essay writing doesn’t have to be intimidating. With a few tips, you can improve your writing skills for any type of academic essay.
How to Write Better Essays
The best way to sum up how to write better essays is, “Make sure you’re answering the question.”
This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many students struggle with this.
From not understanding the prompt to poor research skills to off-topic body paragraphs, it’s easy for an essay to derail.
We’ve got seven tips for writing better essays that will help you avoid common mistakes and craft the best essays possible.
7 Tips on How to Make Your Essay Better
Here are our top tips for improving your essay writing skills.
Understand the Prompt or Research Question
The first step in your writing process is to fully understand the essay topic. If your professor gave you a prompt for your academic essay, spend some time analyzing it.
First, take note of whether you’re writing an expository or persuasive essay. The tone, structure, and word choice will differ between essay types.
Pay close attention to the wording of the prompt.
If your teacher wants you to “analyze” the effects of new technology in World War I, but you turn in a descriptive overview of the technology, you are not answering the question.
If they have given you a topic but no prompt, you’ll need to create a guiding question for your research.
Be specific in what you are trying to research, or you’ll end up overwhelmed with a topic that is too big in scope.
“Symbolism in modern literature” is too broad for a term paper, but “How does F. Scott Fitzgerald use symbolism in The Great Gatsby?” is an achievable topic.
Take Excellent Notes
Once you understand exactly what your essay is about, you can begin the research phase. Create a strong note-taking system.
Write down any idea or quote you might want to use. Cite every note properly to save time on your citations and to avoid accidental plagiarism.
Once you have gathered your research, organize your notes into categories. This will help you plan the structure of your essay.
You’ll likely find that some of your research doesn’t fit into your essay once you start writing. That’s okay—it’s better to have too much information to support your argument than too little.
Write a Strong Thesis Statement
Possibly the most important step in essay writing is to craft a strong thesis statement. A thesis statement is a brief—usually single-sentence—explanation of what your essay is about.
The thesis statement guides the entire essay: every point you make should support your thesis.
A strong thesis is specific and long enough to address the major points of your essay.
In a persuasive or argumentative essay, your thesis should clearly establish the argument you are making.
Make an Outline
Once you have all your research, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. How do you turn the information into a cohesive essay?
Rather than writing an essay with no roadmap, an outline will keep you on track. An outline helps you organize your thoughts, plan your arguments, and sort your research.
A good outline saves you time, too! You can compile the relevant evidence in your notes before writing, so you don’t have to find that specific quote in the middle of essay writing.
An outline will also stop you from reading your finished essay and realizing you went completely off track.
With an outline, you can avoid finding paragraphs that don’t support your thesis right before you submit the essay.
Craft a Great Introduction
An academic essay needs a strong introductory paragraph.
The introduction is the first impression of your essay. It prepares the reader for what’s coming and gets them excited to read your paper.
A good introduction has three things:
- A hook (e.g. insightful statement, quote, interesting fact)
- Brief background information about the topic
- A thesis statement
Using this formula will help you write a strong introduction for your essay.
Have Original Ideas and Interpretations
The best academic writing advice a professor ever gave me was, “You’ve shown me what other people have said about the topic. I want to know what you think about the topic.”
Even a fact-heavy or data-heavy essay needs original ideas and interpretations. For every piece of information you cite, whether you quote or paraphrase it, offer original commentary.
Focus on insights, new interpretations, or even questions that you have. These are all ways to provide original ideas in your essay.
Proofread for Readability
A good essay is a proofread essay.
Readability, or how easy something is to read, has many factors. Spelling and grammar are important, but so is sentence structure, word choice, and other stylistic features.
Academic essays should be readable without being too simple. In general, aim for a readability score that is close to your grade level in school.
There are several ways to check readability scores, including using ProWritingAid’s Readability Report.
The quickest way to increase readability is to fix grammar and spelling mistakes. You can also raise the readability score by using more complex and compound-complex sentences.
How to Become a Better Essay Writer
ProWritingAid can offer suggestions on how to improve your essay and take it to the next level.
Our free essay checker will check for spelling and grammar errors, plus several other types of writing mistakes.
The essay checker will offer you suggestions on sentence length and passive voice.
It will help you trim the excess words that bog down your writing by analyzing your sticky sentences and overused words.
The essay checker is here to help you turn in an error-free essay.
Want to improve your essay writing skills?
Are your teachers always pulling you up on the same errors? Maybe you’re losing clarity by writing overly long sentences or using the passive voice too much. ProWritingAid helps you catch these issues in your essay before you submit it.