Student Guide: Writing an Essay in English
If you are at the stage of your learning where you are expected to compose an essay, it is fair to say that you’ve achieved a good grasp of the English language. Writing an essay gives you the opportunity to display your knowledge, but it is important that you get the structure right. In case you aren't sure about how to put your essay together, here is a helpful breakdown on how to write an essay in English.
There are three sections to focus on in your essay: the introduction, body, and conclusion. The classic essay structure is 5 paragraphs (1 for the introduction, 3 for the body, and 1 for the conclusion), although more advanced essays become much longer and more complex.
The introduction should begin with an interesting hook that entices readers and makes them want to read on. An interesting or controversial quotation or else a surprising statistic might make for a nice essay beginning. The introduction should do just what its name suggests: introduce your essay and address the essay prompt question directly. Use wording that is similar to the question. Explain what you are trying to prove and define any terms or concepts that might be important. Depending on the length of the essay, the introduction should only be a few sentences to prepare the reader for what they can expect. Don’t go into too much depth – that is what the rest of the essay is for!
It can sometimes be helpful to write the introduction last, as your argument will change and develop as you write it, and once you’ve written the whole thing it will be easier for you to introduce it!
This section should be split into paragraphs, each with a different part of your argument written clearly and concisely. Each paragraph is a new step in your argument to help your reader understand what you are trying to prove. As a result, it’s important that this part of the essay be very well planned and continue in a logical, understandable order. Support your points with details, quotes, examples, or other evidence, and explain why these points confirm your argument. Now is the time to go into detail!
Be sure to keep the information relevant, and try not to veer off the subject. Use transition words such as “furthermore,” “moreover,” “by contrast,” and “on the other hand” throughout your paragraphs to signal the beginning of a new argument and make the essay easy to follow. A well thought-out argument will often also address possible counterarguments, exposing the reader to other ways of thinking but explaining why yours is better.
The conclusion is your final chance to state your case, and it’s for this reason that it’s possibly the most important part of the essay. It only needs to be a few sentences long, but it should restate your essay topic and echo the arguments presented in your introduction without restating them. This ties the essay together nicely and reinforces the points made throughout the text. Conclusions are sometimes the hardest part to write, as you can’t simply copy what you have said elsewhere. Sum up to your audience the major points you’ve made and leave them with something to think about after they are done reading.
Writing Style and Tips
- Use formal language – an essay is not the place for slang, casual phrases, or contractions.
- Write in the third person, using words such as “he,” “she,” “they,” or “it,” and never refer to yourself (“I,” “me”) or the reader (“you”) directly. (A useful trick is to replace “I” with “one”: “one gets the impression that…”)
- Write in active speech, as opposed to passive, as this is a much more powerful way to express your points. So, instead of writing, “the author was given a lifetime achievement award”, you could instead write, “the author earned a lifetime achievement award.”
- Ensure each paragraph flows seamlessly onto the next. Although it should be split into the clear sections mentioned above, the last sentence of each paragraph should still somehow relate to the first sentence of the next.
Writing skills may take time to develop, but think of your essay as an argument with someone who doesn’t believe what you have to say. What should you say next to prove that you are right? How do you sum up your ideas at the end? Keep these tips in mind, and soon you’ll be a master essay writer!