How to Write an Essay

Write an Essay

Tips on writing that all-important A-grade college essay

Click here to download StyleWriter
   
CONTENTS
 

Keep your essay sentence length under control

Sentence length is crucial to good essay writing. Almost everything written by good writers has an average sentence length between 15 and 20 words. This does not mean writing every sentence the same length. Good writers naturally vary the length and rhythm of their sentences. They balance longer sentences with shorter ones, but they keep their average sentence length below 20 words.

Follow this advice:

  • keep your average sentence length between 15 to 20 words,
  • cut down long sentences, and
  • vary the length of your sentences

An average of between 15 to 20 words for essays and research papers helps produce a clear and readable style. Its the same average as well-respected publications such as New Scientist or the Economist consistently produce. Below 15 words and theres a danger your writing will become too choppy and disjointed. As you go above the 20-word average, your document becomes more difficult to read. An average sentence length of 25 words is far too high.

Heres an example of a 102-word paragraph with an average sentence length 34 words.

Original
 
Redraft
             
 

At first, Einstein faced great opposition when he came up with his radical new theory because the previous laws of motion proposed by Galileo and expanded upon by Newton had remained valid for over two hundred years. By mathematically manipulating these previous laws of motion, physicists in the nineteenth century were able to explain such phenomena as the flow of the ocean, the orbits of planets around the sun, the fall of rocks, and the random behavior of molecules in gases. However, it would not be long before the cement in the foundation of Newtonian and Galilean physics would begin to crumble.

Sentence lengths: 37, 44, 21 = 102,
Average = 34

     

Einstein faced great opposition with his radical theory. By mathematically manipulating these laws of motion, nineteenth-century physicists explained the flow of the ocean, the orbits of planets around the sun, the fall of rocks, and the random behavior of molecules in gases. The previous laws of motion, proposed by Galileo and expanded by Newton had remained valid for over two hundred years. However, soon the cement in the foundation of Newtonian and Galilean physics would crumble.

Sentence length: 8, 34, 20, 14 = 76,
Average = 19

 
             

Make sure you do not allow long sentences over 40 words to creep into your writing style. Most academic writing contains too many long, even mammoth sentences. Faced with long sentences, readers often give up halfway through or forget the start of the sentence by the time they reach the end. The more words in a sentence, the harder it becomes to understand. By comparison, itís difficult to write an unclear sentence if it is short. Edit long sentences by cutting out wasted words or by breaking them into two or more shorter sentences.

Finally, you need to vary your sentences. An sentence length average of 18 words is fine, but if 90 percent of your sentences are 16, 17, 18 or 19 words long, your style will lack variety and interest. You should balance longer sentences, say up to 35 words with shorter sentences, some under five words, some phrased as direct questions, and still get an average sentence length of between 15 to 20 words.

 

  BACK   "   WRITE AN ESSAY HOME   "   NEXT PAGE  Write an Essay - next page 

 
Essay Know your Essay Subject
Essay Structure your Essay to Help your Reader
Essay Answer the Essay Question
Essay Show your Analytical Skills
Essay Write in a Clear Style
"
Use active verbs
"
Keep your essay sentence length under control
"
Use simple words
"
Avoid jargon
"
Avoid abstract terms
"
Keep abbreviations under control
"
Avoid Padding
"
Use topic sentences
"
Link your ideas and paragraphs
"
Use examples to explain difficult points
"
Use quotations in your writing
Essay Edit your Essay Draft
Essay StyleWriter editing software
"
StyleWriter Demonstration
"
Recommended Writing Software
Essay Internet Resources
My Tip: StyleWriter measures your average sentence length and a rating for an academic paper. It highlights long sentences in your text to show you how to edit them. Finally, it graphs your sentence lengths to show you if you have good variety. Click here to see a sample StyleWriter statistical summary.