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10 Great Essay Writing Tips
Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses. Impress your professors with your knowledge and skill by using these great essay writing tips.
Prepare to Answer the Question
Most college essays ask you to answer a question or synthesize information you learned in class. Review notes you have from lectures, read the recommended texts and make sure you understand the topic. You should refer to these sources in your essay.
Plan Your Essay
Many students see planning as a waste of time, but it actually saves you time. Take a few minutes to think about the topic and what you want to say about it. You can write an outline, draw a chart or use a graphic organizer to arrange your ideas. This gives you a chance to spot problems in your ideas before you spend time writing out the paragraphs.
Choose a Writing Method That Feels Comfortable
You might have to type your essay before turning it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. Some people find it easy to write out their ideas by hand. Others prefer typing in a word processor where they can erase and rewrite as needed. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.
View It as a Conversation
Writing is a form of communication, so think of your essay as a conversation between you and the reader. Think about your response to the source material and the topic. Decide what you want to tell the reader about the topic. Then, stay focused on your response as you write.
Provide the Context in the Introduction
If you look at an example of an essay introduction, you’ll see that the best essays give the reader a context. Think of how you introduce two people to each other. You share the details you think they will find most interesting. Do this in your essay by stating what it’s about and then telling readers what the issue is.
Explain What Needs to be Explained
Sometimes you have to explain concepts or define words to help the reader understand your viewpoint. You also have to explain the reasoning behind your ideas. For example, it’s not enough to write that your greatest achievement is running an ultra marathon. You might need to define ultra marathon and explain why finishing the race is such an accomplishment.
Answer All the Questions
After you finish writing the first draft of your essay, make sure you’ve answered all the questions you were supposed to answer. For example, essays in compare and contrast format should show the similarities and differences between ideas, objects or events. If you’re writing about a significant achievement, describe what you did and how it affected you.
Stay Focused as You Write
Writing requires concentration. Find a place where you have few distractions and give yourself time to write without interruptions. Don’t wait until the night before the essay is due to start working on it.
Read the Essay Aloud to Proofread
When you finish writing your essay, read it aloud. You can do this by yourself or ask someone to listen to you read it. You’ll notice places where the ideas don’t make sense, and your listener can give you feedback about your ideas.
Avoid Filling the Page with Words
A great essay does more than follow an essay layout. It has something to say. Sometimes students panic and write everything they know about a topic or summarize everything in the source material. Your job as a writer is to show why this information is important.
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Definition and Examples of Online Writing
- An Introduction to Punctuation
- Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
- M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
- B.A., English, State University of New York
Online writing refers to any text created with (and usually intended for viewing on) a computer, smartphone, or similar digital device. Also called digital writing .
Online writing formats include texting, instant messaging, emailing, blogging, tweeting, and posting comments on social media sites such as Facebook.
See Examples and Observations
- 12 Tips for Improving Online Writing
- Composing Online: Social Is Sexy but Email Still Rules in the Workplace
- Conversationalization and Informalization
- Emoji and Emoticon
- Informal Style
- Internet Slang
- Online Reading
- Paragraph Length
- Practice in Cutting the Clutter
- 10 Tips on How to Write a Professional Email
- Top 10 Editing Tips for Business Writers
Examples and Observations
"The main difference between offline and online writing techniques is that while people buy newspapers and magazines intending to read them, on the Internet people generally browse. You must grab their attention and hold it if they are to read on. This means that, on the whole, online writing is more concise and pithy and should offer the reader greater interactivity." (Brendan Hennessy, Writing Feature Articles , 4th ed. Focal Press, 2006)
" Digital writing is not simply a matter of learning about and integrating new digital tools into an unchanged repertoire of writing processes , practices, skills, and habits of mind. Digital writing is about the dramatic changes in the ecology of writing and communication and, indeed, what it means to write—to create and compose and share." (National Writing Project, Because Digital Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in Online and Multimedia Environments . Jossey-Bass, 2010)
Structuring Online Writing
"Because online readers tend to scan, a Web page or e-mail message should be visibly structured; it should have what [Jakob] Nielsen calls a 'scannable layout.' He found that frequent use of headings and bullets can increase readability by 47 percent. And since his study found that only about 10 percent of online readers scroll below the text initially visible on the screen, online writing should be 'fronted,' with the most important information placed at the beginning. Unless you have a good reason otherwise--as in a 'bad news' message , for example--structure your Web pages and e-mail messages like newspaper articles, with the most important information in the headline (or subject line) and the first paragraph." (Kenneth W. Davis, The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course in Business Writing and Communication , 2nd ed. McGraw-Hill, 2010)
"Blogs are usually written by one person in their own individual language. This, therefore, presents you with the ideal opportunity to present the human face and personality of your business. "You can be:
- conversational - enthusiastic - engaging - intimate (but not overly so) - informal.
All of this is possible without stopping beyond the limits of what would be considered as the acceptable voice of the company. "However, other styles may be required owing to the nature of your business or your readership. "On the latter, as with other forms of online writing, it's important to know your reader and their expectations before you begin writing a blog." (David Mill, Content Is King: Writing and Editing Online . Butterworth-Heinemann, 2005)
" Single sourcing describes the set of skills related to the conversion, updating, remediating, and reuse of content across multiple platforms, products, and media. . . . Creating reusable content is an important skill in Internet writing for a variety of reasons. It saves the writing team time, effort, and resources by writing content once and reusing it multiple times. It also creates flexible content that can be adapted and published in a variety of formats and media, such as web pages, videos, podcasts, advertisements, and printed literature." (Craig Baehr and Bob Schaller, Writing for the Internet: A Guide to Real Communication in Virtual Space . Greenwood Press, 2010)
- Email Message
- English for Information Technology
- The Difference Between an Article and an Essay
- What's a Listicle?
- Definition and Examples of Paragraph Breaks in Prose
- How to Write a Business Report for English Learners
- Professional Communication Definition and Issues
- Online French Translation: Can You Trust Them?
- 10 Ways to Use Smartphones in Your Classroom
- How to Write Web Pages for Mobile Devices
- What is a Printer-Friendly Web Page?
- Paragraph Length in Compositions and Reports
- Tips for a Great Web Page
- Learn English
- Definition and Examples of a Transition in Composition
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A for and against essay about online communication.
Look at the essay and do the exercises to improve your writing skills.
Do the preparation exercise first. Then read the text and do the other exercises.
Check your understanding: grouping
Check your understanding: reordering, check your writing: gap fill, check your writing: multiple choice, worksheets and downloads.
Do you prefer online or face-to-face communication? Why? Which type of communication do you think is more important in today’s world, and why?
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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts
Welcome to the Purdue OWL
This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.
Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.
The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
This resource begins with a general description of essay writing and moves to a discussion of common essay genres students may encounter across the curriculum. The four genres of essays (description, narration, exposition, and argumentation) are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres, also known as the modes of discourse, have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these genres and students’ need to understand and produce these types of essays. We hope these resources will help.
The essay is a commonly assigned form of writing that every student will encounter while in academia. Therefore, it is wise for the student to become capable and comfortable with this type of writing early on in her training.
Essays can be a rewarding and challenging type of writing and are often assigned either to be done in class, which requires previous planning and practice (and a bit of creativity) on the part of the student, or as homework, which likewise demands a certain amount of preparation. Many poorly crafted essays have been produced on account of a lack of preparation and confidence. However, students can avoid the discomfort often associated with essay writing by understanding some common genres.
Before delving into its various genres, let’s begin with a basic definition of the essay.
What is an essay?
Though the word essay has come to be understood as a type of writing in Modern English, its origins provide us with some useful insights. The word comes into the English language through the French influence on Middle English; tracing it back further, we find that the French form of the word comes from the Latin verb exigere , which means "to examine, test, or (literally) to drive out." Through the excavation of this ancient word, we are able to unearth the essence of the academic essay: to encourage students to test or examine their ideas concerning a particular topic.
Essays are shorter pieces of writing that often require the student to hone a number of skills such as close reading, analysis, comparison and contrast, persuasion, conciseness, clarity, and exposition. As is evidenced by this list of attributes, there is much to be gained by the student who strives to succeed at essay writing.
The purpose of an essay is to encourage students to develop ideas and concepts in their writing with the direction of little more than their own thoughts (it may be helpful to view the essay as the converse of a research paper). Therefore, essays are (by nature) concise and require clarity in purpose and direction. This means that there is no room for the student’s thoughts to wander or stray from his or her purpose; the writing must be deliberate and interesting.
This handout should help students become familiar and comfortable with the process of essay composition through the introduction of some common essay genres.
This handout includes a brief introduction to the following genres of essay writing:
- Expository essays
- Descriptive essays
- Narrative essays
- Argumentative (Persuasive) essays
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Why are students using online essay writing services.
Online Essay Writing Services: Why Are Students Using Them?
Essay writing, traditionally, has been considered an important aspect of a comprehensive liberal arts education. The ability to write an essay coherently and elegantly is thought to be a hallmark of scholarship. If a student cannot write well by the time they graduate, then they are not a good student by many standards. Perhaps as a result of the importance given to writing in curricula, contemporary students are bombarded with essay writing assignments . This prevails from junior high up until the Ph.D. level. Short essays, term papers, and other writing-related tasks can constitute up to 20 to 80 percent of the grade a student receives in an average undergraduate class. As it is, students are under tremendous pressure to churn out several A-grade papers each semester. As the pressure has mounted on students, they have, as always, found innovative ways to get around the problem. Teachers and professors are learning now that more students than they realized are using so-called “essay writing services” to get their work done. These online essay writing services are controversial, and whether they amount to cheating depends on whom you ask.
What Αre Essay Writing Services?
In recent years, online freelancing jobs have skyrocketed. A good majority of these freelancers are writers who offer services on specialty websites like Bid4Papers.com, UnemployedProfessors.com, and PrestoExperts.com. It has come to a point where these sites are reviewed and rated based on different factors to provide users information on which essay writing sites to trust.
Though these services are intended for professionals, like businesses, the affordable service charges have led to many students using them as well. Students hire a freelancer to write an essay for them. The student may provide the classroom material for the freelancer. Other times, the student may submit a draft of the essay that the freelancer perfects for grammar, style, and coherence.
Outsourcing essay writing is cheap and fast. A student can get a reliable essay written as quickly as within 24 hours, which certainly makes last minute cramming easy.
How Students Use Online Essay Writing Services
The reasons that students use these services can vary. It’s possible that the student simply has too much work and hopes to outsource some of the work. Students who are not good writers increasingly turn to these services. Some international students whose native language is not English may also seek these services. The relative ease when it comes to hiring a freelance writer may motivate students only to hire one every time they just don't feel like writing.
Freelance writing services are also popular among undergraduates in the STEM field. Imagine for a second that you are an engineering undergrad who has to write a 5,000-word term paper on Hemingway for English 101. How seriously would you take this task? If you don’t turn in the essay, you will fail the class and ruin your GPA. On the other hand, you simply don’t care enough about Hemingway to write 5,000 words about him. It’s not a lesson that directly relates to your major. So what’s the harm in hiring an essay writer for the task?
There are specific groups of students that are more likely to hire outsiders to do their writing work for them. They include students who don't take their writing assignments seriously, don't think the writing tasks are relevant to them, or aren’t confident about their writing skills.
Are They All That Bad?
Most teachers and professors would say that getting others to do one’s writing is cheating. Some students may not always see it that way. Most essay writers simply make first drafts look nicer for a better grade.
Obviously, online essay writing services can cause some problems in the classroom. First, the students are not doing their writing and never get the chance to improve. They are also presenting someone else's work as their own, which in blunt academic terms means cheating. It's also important to note that the abilities of the freelancers also vary. Some students may rely on freelance writers who can barely write better than them.
But do these reasons call for a blanket ban on freelance writing services? Most likely not. Students can always get around the prohibition for one. On the other hand, disallowing essay writing services may simply be a way of overlooking the real problem — students who cannot or don’t want to write.
Tackling The “Problem”
It’s worth considering whether the problem is the essay writing services or how modern curricula are formed. What makes syllabuses so overwhelming that students end up paying anonymous people on the internet to get their homework done?
Serious academics are measured largely by the writing they do. No one takes a research paper seriously if it's poorly written. Good writing, obviously, is important for certain fields like language and history. However, it's worthwhile reconsidering whether chemists and software engineers need the ability to write like Nabokov to advance in their fields.
Professors and teachers should also consider the standards and the amount of writing work they demand from students in class. The fact that the ability to write is important should be communicated well to the students. This is especially important for the STEM students who don't think it's at all important. If a student is struggling to write, they should be perhaps given extra time to get their work done or provided additional assistance.
Clearly, learning how to write is important for a liberal arts education. Students should not be in a predicament where they need things like online essay writing services. Educators should first address the problems that drive students to essay writing services. When that happens, these services may no longer be sought after by students.
- Why Do Students Seek Online Help to Complete Their Homework?
- Facts And Stats That Reveal The Power Of The eLearning Sector
- Contract Cheating: Reasons Behind It And Ways To Stop It
- 7 Online Tools That Will Help You Self-Edit And Write English Essays
- Top 5 Growing Trends In Academic Writing For 2018
- FRONT MATTER
- TABLE OF CONTENTS
Lengthy Essay Samples
The lengthy sample essays in the pdf link below showcase writers who, to varying degrees, took chances or simply reached higher. Not only did these writers compose lengthy essays (still within prescribed word-count limits), but in many cases they did something bold with content, form, or personality.
In these samples, length can readily be justified by the fact that these are writers who don’t necessarily fall into “typical” student categories but nevertheless are applying to graduate programs or for scholarships. To be competitive, these writers decided to stand out by telling their stories in a way that they hoped would set them apart from, and above, the crowd. A common thread linking these diverse writers is their obvious confidence that:
- their essays matter to the selection committee, and
- their essays will be both noticeable and noticed.
Overview of Lengthy Essay Samples
Mechanical engineering student sample.
In the first sample essay from mechanical engineering, what stands out immediately are the length and the photographs. In this case, the student was applying for an engineering scholarship, so he was given room to flesh out technical material as well as address issues such as personal motivations one would expect to read in a personal statement. Much of the essay is given to a discussion of his thesis work, which involves the examination of “the propagation of a flame in a small glass tube.” The figures depict the experimental work and represent the success of preliminary thesis results, visually indicating the likely point at which the flame reached detonation.
Liberal Arts Student Sample
The three-page personal statement by the liberal arts student is interesting in that it is often intentionally abstract and a bit philosophical. This student attended a small liberal arts school that promotes a “Think, Evolve, Act” theme to its students, and this student reflects on this theme and embraces it in his own life from the beginning of the essay. In his curriculum, he has taken a course on Gandhi and Nonviolence, studied abroad in Belgium, and self-designed a program of “Peace and Conflict Studies with an emphasis in Technological Revolution.” He has also taken a ten-day service learning trip to Costa Rica, studied at the Institute of Gandhian Studies in India, served part-time as an assistant to a member of the European Parliament, and written a paper entitled “A Knowledge-Based Society and the Digital Divide.” Meanwhile, he plans to graduate with distinction in both of his majors. In jazz terms, this student certainly does seem to have the chops.
Film Student Sample
One way to get a sense of the daring of this personal statement, written by a student who aims to study film at Columbia University, is simply to consider the allusions he makes throughout his statement. With neither apology nor obvious humility, this writer makes references to Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean Vigo, Terrence Malick, and David Gordon Green. Further, this writer takes the unusual step of using section headings in his personal statement, including, on his first page “Poetry,” “Plastics,” and “Children.” But no matter how creative this writer is, of course, we must ultimately judge him on his evidenced ability as a filmmaker. In that regard, he showcases his ease with talking about films and directors, posits an analogy about student filmmaking (“directing your own material is like parenting”), and discusses the success of his nineteen-minute senior project, “Burying Dvorak”—a film he promoted by taking a year off after graduation, successfully landing it in more than 20 film festivals. As he closes his essay, he makes a specific pitch for Columbia University, where he hopes to continue “to discover my own voice, my own poetry.”
Biological Science Student Sample
For the lengthy sample essay from the student in biological science, the extensive length and scientific depth are necessary because the student is applying for the highly competitive STAR Fellowship. The STAR (Science to Achieve Results) program offers graduate fellowships through the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), funding several years of study. Given the competitiveness of the process and the EPA’s mission of environmental protection, it is vital that this student presents a viable, environmentally important project in a persuasive, professional manner. To achieve this, the writer successfully approaches the essay as she would a thesis proposal, using science-related section heads, providing original figures and data, focusing heavily on future research goals, and essentially performing a literature review, citing 19 sources ranging from basic textbooks to refereed journals. The result is a powerful essay with scientific depth.