How to Write a Solid Essay (From Someone Who’s Been There, Done That)

Hey friends! At least once a week without fail, I get a text from one of my friends asking if they can “send me a paper”. This of course, has become code for “SOS please edit my essay right away”. Now, reminder that I’m majoring in both English and History: I write a lot of papers. A lot, a LOT of papers. Here are some general tips I’ve learned in my three years of my undergrad!

1. Come up with your thesis, and don’t touch the introduction or conclusion until last.
Writing your paper in order is typically a cause for disaster. 9 times out of 10, you’ll get stuck on the intro and be unable to move on. Work on your main body paragraphs first and come back to the introduction and conclusion at the very end when you know exactly what you’re saying in the rest of your essay!

2. Ask your prof if you need clarification about the topic or need help researching.
Going to office hours or emailing your prof with a quick ‘Q’ is the best way to likely boost your essay grade. Depending on your prof, some will look over various stages of work before you complete your paper so you know where to improve! Also, there have been so many times I’ve gone into a prof’s office with a question about research material and walked out with a source or two they handed me that I didn’t have to search for on my own! Plus, you know that the source is credible, ’cause y’know, it was given to you by the person marking it.

3. Don’t skimp on editing!
In first year, I NEVER edited my papers and as a result, my friends still make fun of me for when I handed in an essay with really poor…word choice…and got called out after I submitted it (oops!). My favourite English prof always tells her classes to print off a copy of your essay to edit it on paper – it’s so much easier than on a computer screen. Additionally, you should read it out to a friend – or my personal favourite, type it into Google Translate and have it read it back to you out loud – you’ll hear all the way your words sound and if they actually make sense or not.

If you take away anything from this post, it should be this: don’t leave your papers until the last minute! It’s easier said than done (coming from someone who wrote all of their papers the night before until third year rolled around), and you’re so much less stressed when you’re not trying to calculate how much sleep you’re going to get before your 8:30 am class if you go to sleep at 4 am. For real.

‘Til next time,

– Maddy