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How to Write an Effective Essay

After enduring one terrible essay after another, I was unable to resist uploading some tips for writing an effective essay.

1. Answer the question. Sounds simple enough, but it’s just unbelievable how many people fail miserably to do so. While we’re on this point, I might also mention the ‘quality not quantity’ principle. Remember, three pages of strong discussion on the topic are preferable to a poorly organized ramble that spans over six pages, fails to answer the question or only intermittently addresses it.

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2. Be eloquent yet succinct. In English, it’s not merely what you say, it’s how you say it. At this point it’s worth interposing another word of advice- ensure you don’t
a) Make sweeping statements
and b) Support your statements with evidence, that is, quotes, techniques etc.

Now in English, using language effectively is paramount, and in order to elevate an essay to distinction, it needs to be well articulated. Say, for example, we were describing how Arthur Miller’s The Crucible addresses social conflict. It may be considered acceptable to say something along the lines of:

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Miller’s The Crucible shows the destructive nature of the social conflict.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but it would be more effective to express that same idea by saying:

As a partial allegory to the McCarthy era, Miller’s The Crucible unveils how paranoia and hysteria, fuelled by a perceived social evil, can tear a community apart. In particular, Miller highlights the destructive nature of social conflict and exposes how it can set the foundations for various other conflicts.

The latter is obviously more effective, as not only is it more eloquent, but the assertions are supported with techniques.

However, one must not overestimate the power of eloquence, as inevitably some people will automatically presume that eloquence is tantamount to circumlocution.

The point here is, don’t waffle. Be eloquent, but succinct.

3. Have a strong introduction and conclusion. This is important, as first and last impressions can count for a lot. The introduction will give the examiner an initial impression of your writing, while the conclusion is the last thing that will be read before a mark is administered, and should hence be memorable.

For the introduction, it is always good to open with a quote that summarises the ideas that you discuss in your essay.It should be designed to capture the attention of the respondent.

The conclusion should be concise, but not monotonous. Never should phrases such as “in conclusion” or “Finally” be utilized.

4. Structure the essay properly. Each para should discuss one idea. Quotes and techniques should be integrated throughout. Go through the ideas systematically, but not labourously.

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5. An essay is like a journey A stupid analogy, one may argue, but it works for some. Your introduction is like the start of the journey. You identify where you are going, what route you will take to reach your destination. The body is like the middle of the journey, getting to the destination, reaching a conclusion. Finally, the conclusion is like reflecting on the journey. That is, establishing how you reached your conclusion, justifying your argument.