Tips for Effective Essay Writing
Jun 21, 2009 Writing 2404 Views
A thesis essay is an argument on paper. You express an opinion (your thesis) and then try to prove that it is valid.
Your thesis must be an arguable opinion; that is, someone must theoretically be able to disagree with you. Your opinion is not a fact, but you will use facts to support it.
There are different structures possible in essay writing. In high school, the inverted pyramid or funnel structure is the most widely taught and, therefore, is the form that is demonstrated in this manual. It provides a clear model to enable you to express your ideas effectively and easily, it is important that you master this first.
As you progress through the senior grades, your teacher will introduce other, more complex forms, such as the comparative essay and other organizational possibilities.
Do not summarize the plot
In supporting your opinion with references to the primary source, you will want to let the reader know the part of the book to which you refer. It is a waste of time to retell the whole story or episode and you can be penalized for doing so. Only refer to the part that relates to your argument, in a way that will remind the reader of the incident and its importance.
Write in your own words
The teacher is interested in your ideas, expressed in your own way. It is tempting to use the language of critics and editors, but stay away from doing so! To avoid this pitfall, take notes form secondary sources in point form, using your own words.
Write in a formal and objective style
Avoid slang, a casual tone, and short forms or contractions.
Make no reference to yourself
You do not need to say "I think…", or "I will demonstrate…". Just state your ideas confidently, and then prove they are correct. Unless you are writing a personal/familiar essay, write all essays in the third person.
Use the present tense in a literary essay
This makes it easier to write about past and future events in the book. Consider that a work of literature exists always in the present.
Use the active voice of a verb if you have a choice
It helps to create strong, interesting pictures in the reader's mind. Use the passive voice sparingly and only if necessary if you wish to sound distant from the event, or if you must for the sense of the sentence.
Use variety in sentence structure and length
A lot of short, simple sentences together sound choppy; a lot of long, complex sentences may be confusing or boring. Try to combine different kinds of sentences for maximum effect. Don't start your sentences with the subject. A periodic sentence or parallel construction can make your point more dramatic.
Select your example and quotations carefully
Note the following about using quotations:
- You may have more supporting evidence than you can use. Choose the most persuasive and interesting examples, and make sure they support your opinions. Use quotations only to emphasize an important point or as proof of your conclusions.
- Introduce and comment on each quotation that you use. Make sure the reader knows why you have used it and what it demonstrates. Don't assume that this is self-evident.
- If you are referring to a whole scene or a passage too long to quote, you can refer to it in your own words and use it as an example.
- If you use a short quotation you should incorporate it right into your sentence or paragraph, using double quotation marks.
- If you use a quotation that is longer than three lines separate it from the rest of the text with a space at both the beginning and end and indent the quotation on both sides. Double space the quoted words. Do not enclose them in quotation marks.
It is not plagiarism to present other people's ideas in your essay; it is plagiarism to present other people's ideas as your own. Plagiarism is illegal and punishable by severe penalties. In the business world it can be a source of legal action.
Plagiarism includes the following:
• A direct quote from someone else without acknowledgment;
• The presentation of someone else's ideas, in your own words, without acknowledgment;
• The use of someone else's argument as a basis for your essay.
The solution is to acknowledge all the sources you have used, and to give credit for quotations, ideas and arguments in the bibliography, in the body of your essay, in a reference, endnote, or 'Works Cited' page, or in footnotes at the bottom of each page.
Link sentences and paragraphs smoothly
Do not start a sentence with "and" or "but". They are used to connect ideas within a sentence. Avoid overusing them. Be careful about the use of expressions such as "obviously", "of course" or "clearly". They can make your writing sound pompous and too often they are used to replace explanations or proofs that are necessary.
Use transition words that help to bind sentences together in a paragraph or to link paragraphs. Be sure to use an appropriate word for your purpose at that point.The following are examples of the many transition words available to help your writing flow smoothly from point to point:
• To indicate sequence: first, second, next, another.
• To add ideas: moreover, likewise, also, similarly, in addition.
• To introduce opposing ideas: nevertheless, on the other hand, however, whereas.
• To show time relation: then, now, meanwhile, later.
• To introduce examples: for instance, such as, for example.
• To indicate a consequence: hence, thus, for this reason, therefore.
• To indicate a conclusion: to conclude, thus, hence, in conclusion.