How to Write an Essay


by Katherine Reilly

Throughout your academic career, you will be called upon to write a formal assignment called an essay. An essay can have many forms or purposes; however, the basic structure is the same. Supporting a view, describing an event, finding a solution to a problem are only some of the formats we must tackle, but if we follow these simple rules, the essay will ‘write itself’ as we expand our ideas.

One must keep in mind that depending on the circumstances, (homework assignment, exams or simply fun), there are some limitations to the time we have at our disposal for preparation. In the case of exams, according to US evaluation standards, a 30-minute essay must have approximately 300 words, meaning that the time we devote for researching the topic is limited to non-existent. Thus, it is necessary to adhere to these simple guidelines in order to achieve the most desired of results.

It goes without saying that we need a beginning, a middle and an end. The paragraphs used vary from 4-5 depending on the ideas we have, as well as the nature of the topic we will be developing. Below, is a standard format you could use:

  1. Introduction (State Opinion if required)
  2. First Paragraph of Main Body (+ examples to support our claims)
  3. Second Paragraph of Main Body (+ examples to support our claims)
  4. Third Paragraph of Main Body (+ examples to support our claims)
  5. Conclusion (Reiterate Opinion and finish with some Advice or a Wish)

In future articles, I will be elaborating and expanding on specific writing formats, however, this is the main way to go, as it covers the majority of tasks assigned.

Now, if you’re wondering what we should add to our essay, some tips are as follows:

Use Rhetoric Questions. The beauty of a written piece of work is ‘interacting’ with the reader. By asking him direct questions and making him think for himself, is a way of catching his attention. One rhetoric question in the beginning (to make him think about what you will discuss about) and one in the end (to make him ponder on all the facts you just pointed out), is key use of this structure. Do not overdo it though, as a multitude of questions will have an adverse, even confusing, effect on the reader.

Use the correct person when addressing. Avoid using the first person (I, me), as personalization in many cases is wrong. Yes, we must express our personal opinion, however, a balanced view examining all aspects of an issue is more suitable and one might say, ‘mature’. Being subjective is everyone’s right. Being objective though means you respect others’ opinions. Only after examining all viewpoints would it be considered acceptable to reach a conclusion and express our own beliefs on a matter.

Use colorful vocabulary but don’t overdo it. Depending on the writing format, specific vocabulary is not only needed but essential to the whole appeal and feel of a written work. Using bland words as well as repetition will only contribute to degrading the essay you’ve prepared. Use synonyms, idioms, complex expressions, however, don’t overdo it, as in some cases your writing endeavors will become incomprehensible.

Finally, keep in mind that each paragraph of the main body requires a topic sentence, dictating the general idea of said paragraph. The flow of each paragraph must be based on the idea stated at the beginning of it, thus being expanded in itself. Using examples to further promote the idea and feel of the paragraph is not mandatory, but in most cases adds a personal feel to it, capturing the reader’s attention even more.

These are just some of the basic tips when writing an essay. With a lot of practice, patience and of course love for expressing yourself, you will definitely improve. As the saying goes, ‘Practice makes perfect!’

Happy Writing!

Katherine Reilly


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