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How to Write an Essay

Learn tips and tricks on how to write an essay.

An essay may answer a question, defend a position or explore a topic. Some are classified as "argument" essays because they defend a particular stance on a topic. Others are labeled "exploratory" because they seek to gather information and present it to the reader. An essay may explain cause-and-effect relationships, present a narrow field of study, critically evaluate an event or work, or rank solutions by expected effectiveness. In other words, an essay can communicate an array of ideas on just about any subject. An essay's effectiveness relies on its clarity, thoroughness and reliable sources (when applicable).

In general, an essay follows this format: introduction, body and conclusion. Below are the basic steps for writing an essay.

Planning an Essay

Before actually putting a pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), take some time to think through the essay. Formulate a thesis and map out some of the key points that should be made.

How to Write an Essay Introduction

Like any good written piece, an essay must have a strong, clear introduction. Capture the reader's attention with a quote, vivid description or strong statement. Then tell the reader precisely what the topic is, why he or she should read about it, and what he or she can expect to come away with.

Many essays contain a thesis statement, which states the writer's position in an argument essay. For instance, in an essay about cookies, one could write, "Chocolate chip cookies are great," which is a vague, weak statement. With the statement, "Chocolate chip cookies appeal to adults and children around the world," the assertion is more precise and easier to prove.

Writers should include an outline of the essay's body. Write a one-sentence map that mentions each of the key points to expand on. In a traditional five-paragraph essay, the introduction takes up the first paragraph, while each of the next three paragraphs is dedicated to one of the main points.

How to Write the Body of an Essay

The body introduces evidence in the form of supporting documents, quotes, references and logic. Write at least one paragraph about each of the main points. Because the essay's argument is usually proven (or disproven) in the body, be sure to include as much corroboration as possible.

How to Write an Essay Conclusion

In the conclusion, recap the main points put forth in the body of the essay. Remind the reader about the support given to the thesis. Restate the thesis with different words. "From the Netherlands to Chile, people of all ages love chocolate chip cookies."

How to Revise an Essay

It's very important to proofread an essay, not just for spelling and grammar errors, but for logical missteps and forgotten points. No one writes perfect essays on the first try, but writers who take the time to reread and revise objectively are one step closer to perfection. It's often helpful to put the essay away for a little while, then look at it again with fresh eyes.

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