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Successful Essay Writing: A Step-By-Step Guide To Essay Papers

There are some things you can't learn quickly. Spelling, grammar, word choice and sentence construction take years of practice before you feel comfortable expressing your ideas. However, there are a few simple things you can do to improve your writing today. In this tutorial we'll give you the tips to write a successful essay, even if English is not your native language.

The main focus of this tutorial will be organization. If the word "organization" makes you uncomfortable, you're not alone. Everybody hates the idea of structuring our sentences into some cookie-cutter format. When I was a kid I refused to cooperate with my teachers as they tried to teach us any kind of method for writing. I was creative, had a flare with words, and got straight A's anyway. Why should I have to do the 5-part process which included brainstorming, pre-writing, a first rough draft, a second rough draft and finally a finished paper?

Now that I'm older and wiser (and spend a great deal of my time writing and editing academic essays) I've learned that organization is a necessary tool to make writing easy, quick and great. Unless you're trying to write the next post-modern novel, any kind of writing can benefit from proper organization.

Step One - Organizing Your Essay

Never, ever start writing an essay without knowing what you want to say. An outline is a simple way to organize your ideas into manageable content. It will not only let you write your essay much faster, but also much better.

Many people will want to skip past this step to learn "more important things". You probably know all about outlines and don't think they can help you - you want to learn to write better. Take my word for it, making outlines a writing habit will make a huge difference in your writing.

Why? Because it will also help follow these rules:

An essay should have only one subject

Each paragraph should have one topic which supports the subject

Each topic should give at least three specific examples as evidence

Each sentence should be organized and linked with transitions

Most people start by writing the essay, and then go back and try to organize it later. I tried this process when I wrote my first book, and 5 years later it's still not as organized or clear as I want it to be. The problem is, after you have a bunch of great sentences, it is really difficult to move them around or have the ideas link together logically. You'll spend a lot of time moving things around, which can actually make the paper more complicated and difficult to read.

Even if your writing is excellent, bad organization can kill a paper. And its such an easy thing to do! So, at the risk of repeating myself: always make a detailed outline before you start writing.

Step Two - The Content:

Now that you're ready to start with an outline, you've got to figure out what to put inside. In other words, what kind of content should be in your paper. Here is a basic plan for a typical five-paragraph essay:


The introduction is your chance to make a good first impression on your reader - you have to capture their interest. Also - you need to say exactly what you're essay will be about.

Background information. Get the reader's attention using one or more of the following:




Facts and Statistics

Thesis Statement. Your thesis statement should have two aims - to provide the topic and the approach of your essay. The topic is what you will talk about, the subject, and the approach is what is interesting about the topic, or the focus.

For example, the thesis statement "I will talk about the rain forest" is too broad. What about the rain forest? If you think the US consumption of beef is a major factor in rain forest depletion, then say so in your thesis statement. It should be clear: "The US consumption of beef is a major factor in rain forest depletion." If this is your dissertation help, you can catch the reader's attention immediately with some fancy data, like "89% of the world's oxygen supply comes from South American rain forests - forests which are being cut down at an alarming rate."

BODY: The body is where you can provide evidence to support your thesis. A typical essay will have about 3 paragraphs in the body. Each paragraph will begin with a Topic Sentence which states the main supporting point of the paragraph. The rest of the paragraph will be filled with supporting details, examples and facts.


The conclusion makes final comments by doing one or more of the following:

Restating Main Points

Asking a Question

Suggesting a Solution

Making a Recommendation

Making a Prediction Step Three - The Writing:

Once you have your outline, you can start filling in blocks of text with sentences. As long as your paper has one clear focus and you write topic sentences for each paragraph, your essay will be pretty clear.

Try to write in a smooth, conversational voice as if you were talking to someone on the phone. Use transitional words to introduce ideas (also, another reason, besides, finally, first of all, furthermore, in addition, moreover, most importantly, one reason, the third reason) and to give examples (especially, for example, for instance, specifically, such as).

Generally, you want to avoid complicated or flowery language for an academic paper. Focus on clear, smooth writing. Let the facts and data speak for themselves. However brave students and writers can use stylistic techniques to write a stronger paper. It is risky when you're just learning, but great writers - even academic writers, make their writing stand out with by adding style.


Style is the hardest thing to learn, and to teach. Read magazines like National Geographic to get a feel for stylistic writing. They use run-on sentences, began sentences with 'And', and drop little-used-gems like "Moniker". They can get away with it because they are aiming for an intelligent consumer base who enjoys beautiful and intelligent writing.

In general, you can improve your writing style with these tips:

Use a lot of adjectives and adverbs

Describe each thought as fully as possible

Link ideas together in longer sentences

Try to create mental images by using metaphors and similes

Choose your words carefully - pick words that carry emotion

Instead of saying, "the man rode a horse to school", you can say, "The strong man rode his horse roughly towards the school," or "The elegant man and his horse moved as one, racing across the plains like a gust of wind towards the school."

Step Four - Editing:

Read your paper again. Sentences that have more than one main idea need to be broken up. Sentences that do not support a paragraph's topic sentence, or do not directly support the Thesis Statement, should be removed. Flowery language, big words, and artistic writing should usually be cut out. You want your writing clean, simple and easy to read. (At least for an essay - you are writing to inform or persuade, not to entertain.)

Take another look at your title - make it sharp and engaging.

Now that you've finished your essay, check your Thesis Statement again and make sure it covers exactly what your essay is talking about. Sometimes your essay will evolve, and cover a more interesting, but slightly different topic. That's fine, but change your Thesis Statement to agree with it.

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