UUGGGHHH ESSAYS. Am I right? Whether it is for college applications, a class, or scholarships, there will always be a time where you have to sit down in front of a computer and type out an essay. It can be a dull and daunting task. Trust me, I’ve been there. But, I’ve also learned how to make this process as easy as possible. So, here’s my process:
When you have a long essay to write, it can be hard to even know where to begin. I usually start off by labeling an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. One great tip I learned is to always write your body before your introduction or conclusion. How will you know what you’re introducing or concluding if you haven’t written it yet? For my body, I will then separate it into each point of my essay. A good guideline is to have three points, but that can be more or less depending on the length of your essay. For each point, I think of a few sub-points that support my main point.
After that, it’s pretty easy to write a few sentences for each sub-point. String those sentences together so that they flow and voila, you have your main points written. Your introduction and conclusion will look pretty similar. I usually make them mini-summaries of my whole essay with the thesis statement somewhere in there. By making them mini-summaries, my reader reads my ideas three times throughout the paper. It makes it easy to follow along and understand.
2. Transitions and Internal Summaries
Transitions and internal summaries are super important! Your essay will flow so much better with transitional words mixed in. You can easily google transition words and find lists with every transition word you could think of.
Internal summaries are something that a lot of people often leave out. I learned about these in a public speaking class I took, and while they are especially helpful for speeches, I think they are also useful for essays. After you make a point, summarize everything you said in one sentence before moving onto your next point. That way, you can be sure your reader knows exactly what they just read. It makes your essay easier to understand and follow.
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3. Expect Typos and Hunt for Them
You will have typos, and you’ll probably find most of them. Sometimes, you will have typos that you don’t catch until you have already turned in your paper. Been there, done that. I know it’s frustrating that you can’t find these little mistakes on your own, but in all honesty, it’s not your fault. Your brain reads it like it should be read, not how it is typed out. Your brain knows what it was trying to say, so it’s hard for it to catch its mistakes.
In my honors psychology class, where we are all supposed to be smart, my professor showed a slide with a short story on it. He had one of us read it aloud, and we were all looking at him wondering what this was about. He asked someone else to read it, and then a third person. We all missed the mistake – the story was about “the the kid” who wanted “my my toy”. Our brains knew what it was supposed to say, so it just skipped over the second word. Whenever you write something, this effect is even more prevalent.
Changing the font of your essay can help since your essay now looks different. I also find it is always helpful to read through an essay and try to find five typos. When I am looking for them, it helps me find them. Keep reading through your paper while trying to find five typos until you can’t find anymore. At that point, you should be typo free!
4. Listen to Your Essay
Another way to help you find typos and other mistakes is to put your essay into google translate and listen to it being read. I would only suggest this for a short essay though. I can’t even imagine having to listen to my 12-page psychology essay. It was interesting and all, but not interesting enough to listen to it read in a monotone voice. You can also try reading it aloud to yourself. That way, you can also hear how it flows. You’ll be able to find typos to fix as well as places to add a sentence or a comma.
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5. Ask Someone Else to Read it
To this day, I will ask my mom to read almost anything I write. Whether it is an essay for a class or a post for my blog, I always send it to her. And she always finds mistakes. It’s like how when something is lost, a mom can always find it. Having someone else read your essay can help a lot. They will find typos, but they can also offer advice on structure, grammar, punctuation, flow, and much more.
I am in love Grammarly! I’ve been using it since high school, and it has been so helpful. It will help you fix the basic things like misspellings and typos, but it goes way beyond that. You might spell a word right, but you used it in the wrong context. Most typo checkers wouldn’t pick up on this, but Grammarly does! When you do make a mistake, it will let you know how to fix it and why. The detailed explanation is awesome because it helps me learn how to be a better writer.
My absolute favorite part of Grammarly is that it is a plagiarism checker. I’m a goody two shoes and although I would never plagiarize on purpose, I’m terrified of accidentally getting in trouble for it. When I put my essay in Grammarly, it will tell me how much of my essay might count as plagiarism so that I can change it. It’s that one extra step that makes me feel less stressed when turning in my essay. I always put my essays into Grammarly to make sure it is as perfect as possible!
7. Free Resources on Campus
I feel like colleges offer so many free resources that students don’t take advantage of. Texas A&M has a writing center that is free for students, and I’m sure your university has something similar. The advisors at the writing center will help you along at any stage, whether you have no idea what to write about, you need help citing, or you need help with grammar and structure. I always make an appointment with the writing center at least once for each essay. They have great advice, and I always feel better knowing that I cited everything correctly!
8. Professors and TAs
Don’t forget about your professor and TAs (teaching assistants) either! If you are struggling with your essay, head into office hours to talk with your professor. You will be talking to your professor about what they teach, which happens to be their favorite subject. Get help on your essay and score some extra brownie points when it is grading time. TAs can also offer a lot of insight to what the professor looks for in an essay as well as general help. Sometimes they help with the grading process, so talking with your TA can be super helpful.
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I am a big fan of study groups, especially for essays. Get together with your study group and swap essays. You can give feedback on general essay mistakes, as well as mistakes specific to your topic. When I was writing my psychology essay, I sent it to my mom to proofread, and I was able to correct a few mistakes. I also sent it to a few of my classmates. They suggested corrections I should make with my formatting (APA is not my thing) as well as jargon I had used that was specific to the class. Don’t be afraid to ask your classmates if they want to swap papers and give feedback. Just make sure to always have the rubric next to you while reading someone else’s essay!
10. Follow the Rubric and Syllabus
Some professors have a very specific rubric and will take off for the tiniest, most absurd things. Other professors, when asked how the essay should be formatted, say “whatever is easiest for me to read”. Yep, I had a professor like that. Although I loved him and the class, I hated his guidelines for essays. I never knew if I was doing it right. Turns out, he just wanted to see that we were thinking.
Anyways, I haven’t had a super strict professor yet, but I have friends who have. My best tip would be to follow the rubric like your life depends on it (because it kind of does). Read it before starting your essay, have it next to you while writing your essay, and read over it again after you finish your essay. Don’t forget to look back at the syllabus either. Sometimes professors put half the rubric in the syllabus and the other half on the sheet titled “Rubric”. When in doubt, send an email to your professor, talk to your professor after class, or drop in for office hours.
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I hope these tips help you in all of your essay writing! What tips do you have for writing an essay? Let me know in the comments below!