How to Write an Essay

Write an Essay

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

Having troubles finding the right words?

Essay writing guidelines

The challenge in academic writing is to express complex ideas simply. Follow these guidelines to help improve your academic papers. Don't try to adopt a learned tone your message, not your writing style, should show your knowledge and expertise.

  • Use active verbs.
  • Keep your sentence length under control.
  • Use simple words instead of complex words.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Avoid abstract terms be as specific as you can.
  • Avoid abbreviations and acronyms.
  • Avoid padding.
  • Use topic sentences.
  • Link your ideas and paragraphs.
  • Use examples to explain difficult points.

Use active verbs

Using active verbs is essential if you want to write with a direct authoritative style. Instead of using the impersonal passive verbs and third person viewpoint, you should write with strong, active verbs.

Almost every authority on writing encourages you to use active verbs. Heres some typical advice to authors publishing research papers for The American Society for Testing Materials.

As most everyone has agreed for some time now, use the third person in a paper not only adds nothing to scientific objectivity, it renders the paper gutless and lifeless . . . Scientists of the 19th century such as Darwin and Huxley wrote sensibly and clearly in the first person and turned out some very respectable prose. Let us begin anew . . . use active verbs.

Look at these examples:

An improvement in quality has been made leading to the decision being taken to raise the standard test so a higher mark means the same success rate being accepted. (29 words)

As quality improved, the standard test rose, leading to a higher standard mark to gain the same acceptable success rate. (20 words)

Notice the passive example sounds academic but takes an extra nine words to say the same information. It is no more objective than the alternative with active verbs. Although we naturally speak with active verbs, even when discussing academic subjects, the traditional academic writing style litters writing with unnecessary passive verbs. Any sentence can be either active or passive. It is your choice as the author.

Heres another example:

Most writers know that copying anothers work word for word without giving the author credit is considered plagiarism. But it is often assumed that this practice is considered cheating only when long paragraphs are involved paragraphs or whole pages. An honest paraphrase, however, is one in which the ideas of the source are stated in the writers own words. (59 words)

Most writers know that copying anothers work word for word without giving the author credit is plagiarism. But they assume this is cheating only when they copy long paragraphs or whole pages. An honest paraphrase, however, is one written in the writers own words. (44 words)

Whatever the subject of the essay, you can write with active verbs to make your writing style more direct, clear and forceful. If theres one piece of advice on writing style you should follow, its to use active verbs throughout your essays.


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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 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 is a great piece of software that accurately finds, scores and rates passive verbs in your writing. Youll get a Passive Index for your essay when you check it with StyleWriter. The lower the index the better. The program also highlights any passive verbs in your writing. By clicking a help screen, you can learn how editors switch passive verbs back to active verbs and save about one-third of the padding in most essays. Click here to see a StyleWriter screenshot.