What are the keys to writing good essays?

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Answered by: Anthony, An Expert in the How to Write Well Category
The essay is a creative tool anyone can use to express their thoughts on literally anything there is in this universe to be thought about. That's a lot of stuff, so we must need a lot of essays. Fortunately, writing good essays is a skill in which anyone can improve with just a little knowledge and practice.

What is an essay exactly?

An essay is a piece, usually between 350-3000 words, that contains an argument and several supporting statements to back it up. You declare what you think to be true about...well, anything.

Whatever your topic of choice, make sure you have something to say. An essay is simply an argument written in words, one that typically takes up to several paragraphs to explain and fully support.

And yes, it can be about anything your mind can dream up -- from why bobby pins are the greatest human invention, to an argument as to why Mitt Romney should not be elected as President. Or, should, by all means.

Some writers title their essays with a question: "The Greatest Human Invention?" Your title question then gives the paper focus, as it is often a good idea to make reference to YOUR answer to that question.

Or maybe you want to make a statement with your title: "Do not elect Romney for President."

Why not? It's bold. Its declarative. It gets the point across. And talk about focus...using a declarative statement for your title makes choosing what goes in, and what goes out, of your piece quite an easy choice to make.

Question or statement, your next priority as an essayist is to construct an argument, which has to be fair and balanced in order to be persuasive. That means knowing your opponent's way of thinking as well. Keep in mind that constructing an argument is not TOO far off from imagining two people argue back and forth.

No matter who those two (or three) people are, however, you have to make sure they are two very intelligent people who, for as long as, say, 1500 words, can make one intelligent point after another.

Because that's essentially how it goes with essay writing: imagine what the opponent would say (be sure to be fair and honest!), then explain why you think they are wrong, and why what you think is true instead.

And oh. Don't use ten words when only five will do the trick. This is called being succinct.

Sure, don't be afraid to let off with a colorful metaphor or a little bit of linguistic flair every once in a while, but don't overdo it. Too much of such "purple prose" distracts from your argument.


If you want to have to rewrite as few times as possible in the future, consider an outline. Everyone does it differently, but it pays dividends in organization and focus, because you need to be clear in your own mind just what exactly you want to say when you set out to write, too.

As far as structure goes, it pays to remember that each pece of the essay has its own function.

The introduction informs your reader of what you aim to do with your essay, or states your case as briefly and clearly as possible.

The body of your essay is the set of paragraphs you use to break it down. Your argument, that is, because that's what it's all about, remember?

You use the body to give your reasons. Because you can't just SAY something and expect someone to walk away and believe you. If that were the case, you could say anything and get away with it. You have to give what's called evidence, if you want the jury that is your reader to be on your case by the end, so you must go point by point.

In the conclusion paragraph, keep it short and simple. Two or three sentences will do, actually. It's where you sum it all up, bring it all together. Feel free to be a bit more stylish here, but don't forget your clarity.


Writing good essays is a skill, and it's one you practice. First, write a lot of essays. Remember to have fun with them and write about your passions. But always be sure to follow the structure of essays, and use each section (introduction, body, conclusion) in their proper way, as effectively as you can.

But it is just as important to read good essays as well. Steal the techniques you see your favorite authors use.

That's right. Steal. Why not? No one has to read a little experiment, It's only practice. And continuing this practice will actually lead to your own style down the road, and THAT'S often when a writer is ready to publish.

In the end, the essay is what you as a writer use to express your thoughts. Your opinions. Your perspectives. Artists use paint, and sculptures clay, and you words. Be clear as possible in supporting those thoughts and ideas, and the more likely it is that people will agree with you.

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