Essay writing

It's also important to separate each stage, leaving time between each of them. Not only does this allow you to return to your ideas fresh, so that you're able to see which of them needs to be edited, but you will also find that your ideas and arguments have developed in the meantime.

Is it always necessary to revise my essay?

Quite simply, yes. Knowing that you will revise your essay once you have finished writing it, allows you to write freely without too much concern for style. You need to tell yourself that it doesn't matter if you don't get the wording exactly right on the first attempt. The emphasis should be on allowing your thoughts to flow freely, while you follow your plan and develop your ideas. The key to success here is to remind yourself that the best writing reads as though it is talk in print.

After this, when you move into the revision stage, you can clean up your work. Ideally, you should leave your first draft a few days. If you revise it straightaway, you may miss things that need to be changed. You may be so delighted to have got it out of the way, that your powers of self-criticism may have become blunted.

Is it always necessary to plan my essay?

You can always tell the difference between an essay that has been planned and one that hasn't. To avoid losing or confusing the reader, plan before you write. Then outline this map of the essay clearly in your introduction and follow it consistently with clear topic sentences and transitions lighting up your way.

How can I improve my style?

The simplest thing is just to read more: the more literature we read the better our style. Like a process of photosynthesis it filters down through our consciousness enriching our thought processes and sharpening our use of words without us being aware that anything significant is happening. Get into the habit of reading well-written novels, so that you're always in the middle of reading one. Just fifteen to twenty minutes a night before you go to sleep will in time have a marked impact on your writing.

Beyond that there are certain guiding principles that will help you write light and interesting prose:

Brevity - economy and simplicity in your use of words and in your construction of sentences.

Logic - planning your essay so that you create a clear logical structure that can be followed easily.

Interest - changing the pace and rhythm of your writing and using interesting examples and evidence to illustrate your arguments.

How much does the appearance of my essay count?

Appearances do matter. Most people find it difficult to shake off their first impressions as they read an essay. What's more, many people are convinced that experience shows that a sloppily presented essay is more than likely to be sloppily argued. Whether these views have any credence or not, you can avoid the danger of dropping a grade by making sure your essay is clearly and neatly presented with as few mistakes in it as possible. Your work must look like the work of a fastidious person.

For more advice, see referencing and avoiding plagiarism and writing skills.

This content has been written by Bryan Greetham, author of How to Write Better Essays.

Top tips for essay writing

  1. Make sure that you are absolutely clear about the word length and completion date.
  2. If you are unsure about the question, get guidance before you begin to prepare.
  3. Get hold of the necessary background reading well in advance.
  4. Markers are looking for you to express your own ideas, so get them in order.
  5. Make sure that you have full references for all the books that you use.
  6. Plan the whole essay in detail before you begin to write.

For more advice, see writing skills.

Writing Technical papers? Consider these:


  1. Think about your readers and how they want you to approach the subject.
  2. Write formally: use do not rather than don't, will not rather than won't.
  3. Use words accurately, checking technical terms with your tutor or a professional journal.
  4. Punctuate accurately, keeping sentences to a reasonable length.
  5. Write reports in the past tense - they're about work you have done.
  6. Write impersonally: it was recommended rather than I recommend.

Do Not

  1. Address the reader directly as you, or refer to yourself as I or me.
  2. Use abbreviations such as lab for laboratory or diag for diagram.
  3. Add personal comments such as how you felt about the work.
  4. Waffle: write concisely and keep to the point.
  5. Write sentences of more than about 40 words in length.

For more advice, see writing skills.

This content has been written by Joan van Emden and Lucinda Becker, authors of Writing for Engineers.