How to Write Better Essays: 6 Practical Tips

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Writing an essay implies an interesting intellectual exercise to craft thoughtful arguments on a certain topic, sometimes within a particular word count. For each student, an essay means the chance of making it a little better than the last one. But how can you cross that line between good and better or even the best?

There are some techniques that can help you achieve your goal and improve your essay writing skills.

  1. Read what others have written

Similar to reading books, reading other people’s essays will help you build and develop your own essay writing styles. Try to read the essays of your academics and peers, on a wide range of subjects. Different disciplines might require diverse styles or arguments, so the wider you read, the more techniques you will get in contact with, that you could, later on, use in your essays.

When you read other essays, also try to be critical. Ask yourself what you like about them, what you don’t like, if the argument is a balanced one and if the writer has applied techniques that you have not seen before.

  1. Build a dictionary

A rich vocabulary will help you express clearly what you mean. You can even build you own dictionary in which to add words that you found somewhere and you would like to use them. Always work to expand your vocabulary as there are always new words that can help you express a point of view more effectively. This method will also help you reduce waffles and increase precision.

  1. Get organized

Before you begin planning your essay, you should think about what resources you will use (the internet, books, etc.) and also make a timeline. Write down everything that you want to read and try to gather all the material that you need. Prepare a timeline for how long you will spend researching and reading, writing and planning, and leave at least a day before the deadline to have time to make significant changes.

  1. Gather information

Some teachers give reading lists for essays; others don’t. But even if you are given such a list, you should go and find other sources yourself, to add depth, breadth and a fresh perspective to your essay. Remember to use only valuable and reliable sources such as academic articles.

  1. Make an outline

Planning is the most important step in creating an essay. Has your teacher ever said about an essay that it has unclear lines of argument or a poor structure? Well, that is why you should not mess this part up. Write down interesting ideas about the topic you want to write about and figure out which is the conclusion of your essay. From this point, you start working backward and create a skeleton with the main points you want to emphasize.

Start filling the skeleton with ideas and information that you have, arguments and nuances. Ask someone to read you plan to see if it’s relevant and if it makes sense. Remove anything that is irrelevant. Now you just have to polish your ideas and organize your thoughts.

  1. Punctuation, tone of voice and syntax

Check if your essay is easy for the reader to understand. Replace sophisticated sentence structures, as well as long and rambling sentences. Be careful about the punctuation, as poor grammar can kill your essay no matter how good it is. Is your tone of voice engaging and interesting? A confident tone of voice will show the reader that you are confident and know what you are talking about.

By applying these techniques, you will be manage to take your essays to the next level and avoid flaws that you used to make in the past.

The Monday Five: Free-Entry Writing Contests (June 24)

June 24, 2013

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2013 Fiction Contest from HorseChannel
Word Count: Up to 1,500 words
Theme: Horse-inspired
Prize: Publication in Horse Illustrated; $100 Amazon gift card
Deadline: June 30

“Finish Roger’s Story” Contest from Chaz’s Blog at
Word Count: Unspecified
Theme: Write an ending to “The Thinking Molecules of Titan,” an unfinished story by Roger Ebert
Prize: Announcement on site is all that’s specified at this point
Deadline: July 18

Flash Fiction Fest 2013 from December House
Word Count: 3 pieces of up to 1,000 words each
Theme: The 7 Deadly Sins
Prize: Work included in Flash Fiction Fest in November; publication in event’s e-book (with paid royalties); chance to work with December House’s editor on a novel
Deadline: August 19

Summer 2013 Fiction Contest from Russian Life
Word Count: Up to 500
Theme: Photo prompt at website linked above
Prize: Publication in Russian Life; box of Russian Life swag valued at $50-$100
Deadline: September 1

The Dark Crystal Author Contest from Grosset & Dunlap and The Jim Henson Company
Word Count: 7,500-10,000 words representing the story you’d tell in a full-length Dark Crystal novel (50,000+ words)
Theme: Prequel set in Dark Crystal world at the time of the Gelfling Gathering, between Second Great Conjunction and the creation of the Wall of Destiny
Prize: Book publishing contract for publication of 50,000 word Dark Crystal young adult novel with Penguin Group, valued at $10,000
Deadline: Opens October 1, Closes December 31

Contest Resources:

Writing Contest News from Write Success

Contest Archives from Walrus Publishing, Inc.

Writing Contests & Book Contests from NewPages Classifieds

Submission Deadlines from Submittable

Recently Added Short Story Competitions from Short Story Competition HQ

Note: We do our best to copy details correctly from the original websites, but please verify for yourself before planning to enter any competition.