Essay writing guide- getting started

Writing an essay is an involved process and often times students feel like they are getting in over their heads. But before writing the first word, you need to know what is expected out of you and what it takes to write a good essay. To get started you need a good foundation to make sure you are getting off to a good start. A good essay...

-Focuses on depth, not breadth

A good essay needs to focus on quality not just quantity. Most instructors would rather read an essay that is 600 words and hits the nail on the head instead of a 1,000 word essay that beats around the bush and leaves things unanswered. This applies to every single essay you will ever write during your academic career. A reader is looking for a lot of good in depth information on the topic rather than a lot of general information on a variety of topic.

-Follows the conventions

A good essay needs to pay close attention to the writing conventions for your class, the school, and the subject you are covering. Good essays must follow the appropriate grammar and syntax rules, be easy to read, use precise wording and vivid language, and be free of spelling errors and glaring grammar mistakes. Essays must be easy to read to be effective and a lot of errors and mistakes will kill an essay faster than anything.

-Conforms to the set guidelines

Each instructor or committee can have their own rules and requirements for the paper. Make sure you know what they are and that you follow them to the letter. If the max word count is 650 words don't hand in a 900 word paper. If they want 1 inch margins make sure that is how the page is set up. And if there is a certain citation style they are asking for make absolutely sure you do it right because there is a huge difference between MLA, APA, and Chicago citation styles.

-Answers the question being asked

Most essays are focused on answering a question that has been presented by the instructor. A good essay will focus on answering that question and avoid rabbit trails, long winded responses and quotes ad figures that do not directly relate to the topic and question that the essay is suppose to be about.

-Needs several drafts before being submitted

Revisions are a must and there is no way around it if you want to turn in a winning essay. Almost no one can write a perfect paper on the first try. Usually it takes 2-3 revisions at least to get a paper right and ready for submitting. Many common, simple, little mistakes are made in the first draft and going over and doing a second draft can help you catch those and focus more on the depth and content of the essay rather than the simple mechanics of it.

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