Students of all years will understand the word essay and break down and weep.

It’s such a shame that this is the case, since they can be so flowing and beautifully-written.  They represent a challenge when writing that requires a definite skill, one that you’ll keep with you for the rest of your life.  With these in mind, consider their writing as something to pored over for a while, nicely considered and wisely constructed.

Eassy writing

Of course, if you get the technique right for writing essays, it will be infinitely better.  It just will.  Here are some of the tips I’ve always used to write essays and ones I think you should always use, if you don’t already…

ALWAYS plan them

Spending some time going through what the essay is going to talk about and what will go where is probably the most important start you can make.  What it does is give you a framework for the piece of work.

A plan should briefly detail each section and what will be included.  It also gives you scope to present your ideas and find the appropriate place to provide some analysis of them.I’ve always seen the importance of getting a good plan done.  Personally, it helps me at the end of the essay as much as the beginning.  I look though and consider if I’ve got everything in there that I should have… and if all my ideas all fit together.

Stick to your plan…

This is rather important.  I will admit that every once in a while you’re tempted into changing bits and pieces.  However, from experience I can tell you that the original plan was thought out rationally and not in response to a change.  That’s not to say that your lovely new idea won’t work in your essay, but stick to the plan and find something within it to put that new idea.  Perhaps it belongs in one of your other sections?  Maybe it could be added to another section?

Keep your basic layout the same.  If you do insist on changing it, then you will have to remember to go back through what you’ve written and see if it still works in your new plan.  Be careful.

Get your citations and referencing done correctly

One of the most important things you can do, regardless of how good the actual content is, is getting the referencing right.

You will find that a surprising amount of marks are allocated to getting the references right – it’s something that you will need to dedicate a considerable amount of time to.

What I personally do is to include footnotes at the bottom of each page (Microsoft Word will do that for you if you use its functions) which includes specific pages in books etc.  At the end of the essay, you must have a bibliography which gives details of the books and websites you used.

Every university will require students to do this and many schools will insist on a particular style of referencing, though the most popular one tends to be Harvard Referencing. Get to grips with it quickly so that you know what to expect.  You will find that many university libraries have a guide on referencing and some even run workshops.

Personally, there is nothing wrong with using a Reference Generator.  I use a couple online which use information you put in to create the reference/citation for you.  They aren’t subject to copyright so they are perfectly acceptable to use.

The main point to take out of referencing is that you have to do and you have to get it right – some universities will mark you down heavily.  At worst, failure to reference ideas correctly could form an accusation of plagiarism.

Get to the point

Let’s face it – I admit that, from time to time, I do ramble a bit.  Usually it’s a complaint about something or other, but the point here still stands.  Unless you’re a philosopher, all that you will be required to show is an understanding of the topic and be able to link ideas.

Keep on topic and try not to go off on too many tangents all the time.  If you’re subject to a word limit, you’ll find this extremely important.  Getting marked down because you waffled on about something really is not a good idea, so keep it all together.

As long as you stay on topic, you’ll be OK.  However, wandering off and finding something not relevant will most certainly count against you.

Look professional 

One of the first things you want to do is make a good impression on whoever is marking it, even before they’ve read the open sentence.  How?  Simple, you need to make it look the part from a format standpoint.  The best way to do this is to use a suitable font (no, comic sans is not acceptable!) and keep it consistent throughout.

Some people like to use double line spacing, though tutors and teachers can see through that.  If you’ve been asked to do a certain number of pages for your work, it does seem like a solid idea. However, they won’t like it when you’ve got half the lines on one page.

Keep the margins reasonable to allow them to annotate your work but not so much that you’re limiting what you write.

All in all, if you get the presentation right (and maybe have a nice front cover page too) then it will ensure your teacher is in the right frame of mind to get marking it.  Get it wrong and you might find they’re a bit more critical.

It’s definitely not easy to start off with and many times you could find yourself bashing your head against a wall.  Stick at it thought and you’ll find things fall into place nicely.





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Laura is a Francophile with a passion for literature and linguistics. She also loves skiing, cooking and painting.