School Survival Guide To: Essays

Claire Gilliland, Editor-in-Chief

Essays: if students don’t procrastinate, they can be excellent portrayals of their writing skills. If they do procrastinate, then the essays can turn into a last-minute attempt at a good grade that ends up looking more like the Frankenstein’s monster of literary works than an actual essay.
There are certain keys to writing an essay. First, it’s pertinent that you understand your prompt. If the prompt is confusing, then try rereading it once or twice, and maybe even rewriting it so that you can completely understand it. You don’t want to waste your time writing an essay that doesn’t follow the prompt. If your essay is an in-class essay, however, don’t spend too much time analyzing the prompt. You want to start you outline soon.
Outlines may initially seem like a waste of time, but they serve as a basis for you to write your essay. If you write a good outline, you don’t have to come up with a lot of new information for your essay. For regular essays, your outline can include a basis of what you want to write so you can better include and organize your ideas and only need to add transitions when typing it out. For in-class essays, outlines should be less detailed so that you have enough time to actually finish.
When writing essays, be careful to make sure that you use proper grammar, as well. It may not seem super important when you think about the essay as a whole, but bad grammar can lose you a lot of points. Make sure to include varying sentence structures (some long sentences, other shorts) and a wide variety of punctuation (include semicolons and long dashes). Don’t just use generic adjectives or verbs; add some variety! If it’s not an in-class essay, feel free to use to spice up your essay. And make sure you proofread more than once to catch any mistakes.
Some of these tips may seem like common sense, but they’ll really help boost your grade with easy points.
As for content, it really varies on whatever type of essay. Make sure that, when it comes to page requirements, you at least try to exceed the minimum. If you’re having trouble doing so, go into more detail. Add more adjectives. Lengthen paragraphs by cushioning them with longer verbs. If you exceed the expected limit you’re more likely to impress your teacher, and you’re also more likely to have included more important information. Don’t pad your essay with quotations, though; that serves as more of a red flag than anything else towards teachers when grading. If you include too many quotes in your essay, then teachers will think that it’s because you didn’t have much to say. Try to limit yourself to one or two quotations per page, in most cases, unless a prompt specifies otherwise.
Don’t forget to write your bibliography/works cited. Also, make sure that you cite your sources immediately after you introduce any new information or quotations within the text. Unless something is common knowledge, cite it! Of course, make sure you don’t plagiarise, because you’ll probably get caught.
If you’re unsure about whether or not your essay is good, have a friend peer edit it. Better yet, have more than one friend edit it. You can ask older friends, or those who you trust to make good edits. You can even ask a teacher if they’ll look through it for you.
Possibly most importantly of all, make sure that all parts of your essay make sense, once it’s almost done. You don’t want to turn in an essay that confuses you when you read it, because it might confuse teachers when they read it. Make sure that what you write is clear but detailed, sophisticated but not with too many quotations, well-researched but not plagiarised. And don’t be afraid to ask for help; often, with essays, the views of outside sources really can help refine writing.