Writing Essays

As a long-time college teacher, I have a lot of examples of terrible pieces of writing. Students who transition from their school experiences and writing habits into the world of academia have an apparent tendency to create essays that seem to be copy-pasted and written by one author. They use too many similar tropes, generalizations, and introductory phrases.

Such a tendency causes me to spend most of the first-semester un-teaching many school graduates as this knowledge seems to be drilled into their heads mostly to write papers for standardized tests and to get into college without a problem.

Well, unless you want to keep bugging your college instructor there are some things you ought to remember when writing your next essay. This toolbox of knowledge will help you get better marks and respect of your classmates.

Things to Avoid when Writing Essays

“Since the beginning of time…”

When you write something like that, the essay was probably preceded by a discussion of really general things about society with the words “humanity”, “Earth” and “dinosaurs” used dozens of times. First of all, you need to stop worrying about those broad openings. Start your paper with a point. The readers want to know what you are talking about from the outset. Many students write nonsensical general sentences and finish off with a point of the essay in the thesis. You can let the introductory paragraph do the job i.e. introduce the subject and logically move ahead.

Love of assumptions and generalizations

Students love generalizations and assumptions as I came to know during my teaching career. Words and phrases like “everyone” and “on planet Earth” are not necessarily the proof that every single human being thinks like you do. The words like “society” and “electorate” might go into the bin as well, namely, because it’s hard to nail them down to someone specific. Unless you have a proof of your words from a reputable source or better several ones, don’t include it in your paper as a fact. The good example may be, instead of stating “Everyone loves chocolate,” it is wise to say that “It’s possible that everyone might love chocolate.” Do you see the difference? You left some doubt in your sentence and did not create a chocolate frenzy.

Unnecessary repetition

With every essay student usually have to write more and more text. Many are struggling to reach a high word count, and the average solution is to recycle material from previous essays. In a relatively short paper (under 10 pages) repeating yourself is unnecessary, conclusion included. At the end place a new thought in the mind of readers that builds on the topic of your essay. Ideally, you would like your readers to gain some knowledge from reading your paper and keep thinking about and asking themselves questions when they finish going through it.

“I think…”

You should learn it in middle school, but when you start a sentence with “I think” or “I believe,” – you can do much better and rewrite it to make it clearer, and straight to the point. For instance, I could write “I believe there should be more ice-cream in our cones.”  When I drop the “I believe,” part, the sentence restructures and become more assertive “There should be more ice-cream in our cones.”

Commonly, all teachers are likely to have various guidelines depending on the subject, so if they ask you to write a more casual essay – follow their rules. But, if you are reaching a more professional writing level, avoiding the traps mentioned above will help you write better.

Some other suggestions are to avoid a structure with a set number of sentences in paragraphs and writing a thesis statement that repeats the essay in short. Happy writing!

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