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12 Ways to Quickly Improve Your Academic Essay Writing Skills

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Anyone can learn to produce an academic essay if they begin with a few basic essay-writing rules. 

An academic essay must be based upon a solid but debatable thesis, supported by relevant and credible evidence, and closed with a succinct and thorough conclusion.

By adhering to the best way to write an essay, you can create valuable, persuasive papers even when you're under a time crunch!

What Makes a Good Essay?

As previously noted, the foundation of any good academic essay is its thesis statement. 

Do not confuse your thesis with your opening sentence. There are many good ways to start an essay , but few essays immediately present their main ideas.

After you draft your thesis, you can begin to develop your essay around it. This development will include the main supporting points of your essay, which will scaffold its main body. 

Essays also typically include a relevant and compelling introduction and conclusion.

Learn How to Write a Great Thesis Statement .

Good Ways to Start an Essay

Understanding How to Write a Good Essay

When writing an academic essay, you must take a number of qualities and characteristics into careful consideration. Focus, development, unity, coherence, and correctness all play critical roles when it comes to distinguishing an exceptional essay from one that is less than perfect.

The following essay-writing tips can help writers organize, format, and support their essays in ways that fit their intended purpose and optimize their overall persuasiveness. Here are 12 essay tips for developing and writing your next academic paper.

1. Know What You Are Going to Write About Before You Start Writing

While untrained writers might just sit down and start typing, educated and experienced writers know that there are many steps to writing an essay.

In short, you should know what you want to say before you type a single word. The easiest way to narrow down a thesis and create a proper argument is to make a basic outline before you begin composing your essay.

Your outline should consist of rough notes that sketch out your introduction (including your thesis), the body of your essay (which should include separate paragraphs that present your main supporting points with plenty of evidence and examples), and your conclusion (which ties everything together and connects the argument back to your thesis).

2. Acquire a Solid Understanding of Basic Grammar, Punctuation, and Style

Before getting into more refined essay-writing techniques, you must have a solid grasp of grammar, punctuation, and style. Without these writing fundamentals, it will be difficult to communicate your ideas effectively and ensure that they are taken seriously.

Grammar basics include subject and verb agreement, correct article and pronoun use, and well-formed sentence structures. Make sure you know the proper uses for the most common forms of punctuation. Be mindful of your comma usage and know when a period is needed.

Finally, voice is tremendously important in academic essay writing. Employ language that is as concise as possible. Avoid transition words that don't add anything to the sentence and unnecessary wordiness that detracts from your argument.

Furthermore, use the active voice instead of the passive whenever possible (e.g., "this study found" instead of "it was found by this study"). This will make your essay's tone clear and direct.

3. Use the Right Vocabulary and Know What the Words You Are Using Actually Mean

How you use language is important, especially in academic essay writing. When writing an academic essay, remember that you are persuading others that you are an expert who argues intelligently about your topic.

Using big words just to sound smart often results in the opposite effect—it is easy to detect when someone is overcompensating in their writing.

If you aren't sure of the exact meaning of a word, you risk using it incorrectly. There's no shame in checking, and it might save you from an embarrassing word misuse later!

Using obscure language can also detract from the clarity of your argument—you should consider this before pulling out a thesaurus to change a perfectly appropriate word to something completely different.

4. Understand the Argument and Critically Analyze the Evidence

While writing a good essay, your main argument should always be at the front of your mind. While it's tempting to go off on a tangent about an interesting side note, doing so makes your writing less concise.

Always question the evidence you include in your essay; ask yourself, "Does this directly support my thesis?" If the answer is "no," then that evidence should probably be excluded. 

When you are evaluating evidence, be critical and thorough. You want to use the strongest research to back up your thesis. It is not enough to simply present evidence in support of an argument. A good writer must also explain why the evidence is relevant and supportive.

Everything you include should clearly connect to your topic and argument.   

Research Databases

5. Know How to Write a Conclusion That Supports Your Research

One of the most overlooked steps to writing an essay is the conclusion. Your conclusion ties all your research together and proves your thesis. It should not be a restatement of your introduction or a copy-and-paste of your thesis.

A strong conclusion briefly outlines the key evidence discussed in the body of an essay and directly ties it to the thesis to show how the evidence proves or disproves the main argument of your research.

Countless great essays have been written only to be derailed by vague, weakly worded conclusions. Don't let your next essay become one of those.     

6. Build a Solid Thesis to Support Your Arguments

A thesis is the main pillar of an essay. By selecting a specific thesis, you'll be able to develop arguments to support your central opinion. Consider writing about a unique experience or your own particular view of a topic .

Your thesis should be clear and logical, but it should also be debatable. Otherwise, it might be difficult to support it with compelling arguments.

7. Develop an Interesting Opening Paragraph to Hook In Readers from the Get-Go

No matter how you begin your essay, you must strive to capture the reader's interest immediately. If your opening paragraph doesn't catch the eye and engage the brain, any attempt at persuasion may end before the essay even starts. 

The beginning of your essay is crucial for setting the stage for your thesis.

8. Always Remember to Edit and Proofread Your Essay

Any decent writer will tell you that writing is really rewriting. A good academic essay will inevitably go through multiple drafts as it slowly takes shape. When you arrive at a final draft, you must make sure that it is as close to perfect as possible.

This means subjecting your essay to close and comprehensive editing and proofreading processes. In other words, you must read your paper as many times as necessary to eliminate all grammar/punctuation mistakes and typos.

It is helpful to have a third party review your work. Consider consulting a peer or professional editing service. Keep in mind that professional editors are able to help you identify underdeveloped arguments and unnecessarily wordy language, and provide other feedback.

Get Critical Feedback on Your Writing

Hire an expert academic editor , or get a free sample, 9. when developing your essay's main body, build strong and relevant arguments.

Every sentence in the main body of your paper should explain and support your thesis. When deciding how much evidence to include in an academic essay, a good guideline is to include at least three main supporting arguments.

Those main supporting arguments, in turn, require support in the form of relevant facts, figures, examples, analogies, and observations. 

You will need to engage in appropriate research to accomplish this. To organize your research efforts, you may want to develop a list of good research questions . 

10. Choose the Format of Your Essay before Writing It

The final shape that your essay takes depends a great deal on what kind of format you use. Popular college essay format types include the Modern Language Association of America ( MLA ), American Psychological Association ( APA ), and Chicago Manual of Style ( Chicago style).

These formats govern everything from capitalization rules to source citation. Often, professors dictate a specific format for your essay. If they do not, you should choose the format that best suits your field.

11. Create Clear Transitions between Your Ideas

Although unnecessary transition words are the enemy of clarity and concision, they can be invaluable tools when it comes to separating and connecting the different sections of your essay. 

Not only do they help you express your ideas but they also bring a cohesive structure to your sentences and a pleasant flow to your writing. Just be sure that you are using the right transition words for the right purpose and to the proper effect.

12. Always Include an Organized Reference Page at the End of Your Essay

As a key component of MLA, APA, and Chicago Style formatting, the reference or Works Cited page is an essential part of any academic essay.

Regardless of the format used, the reference page must be well organized and easy to read so that your audience can see exactly where your outside information came from. 

To produce a properly formatted reference page, you may have to familiarize yourself with specialized phrases and abbreviations, such as " et al ." 

FAQs

How to Write a Good Hook for an Essay

The key to a good hook is to introduce an unexplored or absorbing line of inquiry in your introduction that addresses the main point of your thesis. 

By carefully choosing your language and slowly revealing details, you can build reader anticipation for what follows. 

Much like an actual worm-baited fishing hook, a successful hook will lure and capture readers, allowing the writer to "reel them in."

How to Get Better at Writing Essays

You can get better at writing essays the same way that you improve at anything else: practice, practice, practice! However, there are a few ways that you can improve your writing quickly so you can turn in a quality academic essay on time.

In addition to following the 12 essay tips and guidelines above, you can familiarize yourself with a few common practices and structures for essay development. 

Great writing techniques for essays include brainstorming and tree diagrams, especially when coming up with a topic for your thesis statement. Becoming familiar with different structures for organizing your essay (order of importance, chronological, etc.) is also extremely helpful.

How to Write a Good Introduction for an Essay

To learn how to write a good essay, you must also learn how to write a good introduction. 

Most effective essay introductions begin with relatively broad and general subject matter and then gradually narrow in focus and scope until they arrive at something extremely specific: the thesis. This is why writers tend to place their thesis statements at the very end of their introductory paragraph(s).

Because they are generally broad and often relate only tangentially to an essay's main point, there is virtually no limit on what the beginning of a good introduction can look like. However, writers still tend to rely on somewhat cliché opening sentences, such as quotations and rhetorical questions.

How to Write a Good Conclusion for an Essay

Briefly put, a good conclusion does two things. It wraps up any loose ends and drives home the main point of your essay. 

To learn how to write a good conclusion, you will want to ensure that no unanswered questions remain in the reader's mind. A good conclusion will restate the thesis and reinforce the essay's main supporting points.

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"The Complete Beginner's Guide to Academic Writing"

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The Basics of Essay Writing

What does a good essay need.

An academic essay aims to persuade readers of an idea based on evidence .

  • An academic essay should answer a question or task .
  • It should have a thesis statement (answer to the question) and an argument .
  • It should try to present or discuss something: develop a thesis via a set of closely related points by reasoning and evidence.
  • An academic essay should include relevant examples , supporting evidence and information from academic texts or credible sources.

Basic steps in writing an essay

Although there are some basic steps to writing an assignment, essay writing is not a linear process. You might work through the different stages a number of times in the course of writing an essay. For example, you may go back to the reading and notetaking stage if you find another useful text, or perhaps to reread to locate specific information.

Possible steps (In no strict order)

  see next: getting started, essay and assignment writing guide.

  • Getting started
  • Research the topic
  • Organise your ideas
  • Write your essay
  • Reference your essay
  • Edit your essay
  • Hand in your essay
  • Essay and assignment planning
  • Answering assignment questions
  • Editing checklist
  • Writing a critical review
  • Annotated bibliography
  • Reflective writing
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This page continues from our page: Planning an Essay , the essential first step to successful essay writing.

This page assumes that you have already planned your essay, you have taken time to understand the essay question, gathered information that you intend to use, and have produced a skeleton plan of you essay – taking into account your word limit.

This page is concerned with the actual writing of your essay, it provides some guidelines for good practice as well as some common mistakes you'll want to avoid.

Structuring Your Essay

An essay should be written in a flowing manner with each sentence following on logically from the previous one and with appropriate signposts to guide the reader.

An essay usually takes the following structured format:

  • The introduction
  • The main body: a development of the issues
  • A conclusion
  • A list of references of the sources of information you have used

The Introduction

The function of the introduction is simply to introduce the subject, to explain how you understand the question, and describe briefly how you intend to deal with it.

You could begin by defining essential terms, providing a brief historical or personal context if appropriate, and/or by explaining why you think the subject is significant or interesting.

Some people are far too ambitious in writing their introductions. Writing a lengthy introduction limits the number of words available for the main body of the assignment.

Keep the introduction short, preferably to one or two paragraphs and keep it, succinct, to the point.

Some students find it best to write a provisional introduction, when starting to write an essay, and then to rewrite this when they have finished the first draft of their essay. To write a provisional introduction, ask yourself what the reader needs to know in order to follow your subsequent discussion.

Other students write the introduction after they have written the main body of the essay – do whatever feels right for you and the piece of work you are writing.

The Main Body: A Development of the Issues

Essays are generally a blend of researched evidence (e.g. from additional reading) and comment.

Some students' essays amount to catalogues of factual material or summaries of other people's thoughts, attitudes, philosophies or viewpoints.

At the opposite extreme, other students express only personal opinions with little or no researched evidence or examples taken from other writers to support their views.  What is needed is a balance.

The balance between other researchers’ and writers’ analysis of the subject and your own comment will vary with the subject and the nature of the question.   Generally, it is important to back up the points you wish to make from your experience with the findings of other published researchers and writers.

You will have likely been given a reading list or some core text books to read. Use these as your research base but try to expand on what is said and read around the subject as fully as you can. Always keep a note of your sources as you go along.

You will be encouraged and expected to cite other authors or to quote or paraphrase from books that you have read. The most important requirement is that the material you cite or use should illustrate, or provide evidence of, the point you are making. How much evidence you use depends on the type of essay you are writing.

If you want a weight of evidence on some factual point, bring in two or three examples but no more.

Quotations should not be used as a substitute for your own words. A quote should always have an explanation in your own words to show its significance to your argument.

When you are citing another author's text you should always indicate exactly where the evidence comes from with a reference, i.e. give the author's name, date of publication and the page number in your work.  A full reference should also be provided in the reference list at the end.

See our page: Academic Referencing for more information.

A Conclusion

At the end of an essay you should include a short conclusion, the purpose of which is to sum up or draw a conclusion from your argument or comparison of viewpoints.

In other words, indicate what has been learned or accomplished. The conclusion is also a good place to mention questions that are left open or further issues which you recognise, but which do not come within the scope of your essay.

Neither the conclusion, nor the introduction, should totally summarise your whole argument: if you try this, you are in danger of writing another assignment that simply repeats the whole case over again.

You must include a reference list or bibliography at the end of your work.

One common downfall is to not reference adequately and be accused of plagiarism. If you have directly quoted any other author's text you should always indicate exactly where the evidence comes from in a reference. If you have read other documents in order to contrast your argument then these should also be referenced.

See our page: Academic Referencing for a more comprehensive look at the importance of referencing and how to reference properly.

Signposting or Guiding your Reader

When writing an essay it is good practice to consider your reader.

To guide the reader through your work you will need to inform them where you are starting from (in the introduction), where you are going (as the essay progresses), and where you have been (in the conclusion).

It is helpful to keep the reader informed as to the development of the argument. You can do this by using simple statements or questions that serve to introduce, summarise or link the different aspects of your subject.

Here are a few examples:

There are two reasons for this:  first,... second,...

Moreover, it should not be forgotten that...

With regard to the question of...

Another important factor to be considered is...

How can these facts be interpreted? The first point...

There are several views on this question. The first is...

Finally, it is important to consider...

Constructing Paragraphs

One important way of guiding the reader through your essay is by using paragraphs.

Paragraphs show when you have come to the end of one main point and the beginning of the next.  A paragraph is a group of sentences related to aspects of the same point.  Within each individual paragraph an idea is introduced and developed through the subsequent sentences within that paragraph.

Everyone finds it easier to read a text that is broken into short paragraphs.

Without paragraphs, and the spaces between them, the page will appear like an indigestible mass of words.

You should construct your essay as a sequence of distinct points set out in a rational order.

Each sentence and paragraph should follow logically from the one before and it is important that you do not force your reader to make the connections. Always make these connections clear signposting where the argument or discussion is going next.

Although the points you are making may seem obvious to you, can they be more clearly and simply stated?

It is also worth bearing in mind that the marker of your work may have a lot of other, similar pieces of work to mark and assess. Try to make yours easy to read and follow – make it stand out, for the right reasons!

Essay Style

There are two general misconceptions about essay style:

  • One is that a good essay should be written in a formal, impersonal way with a good scattering of long words and long, complicated sentences.
  • The other misconception is to write as we talk. Such a style is fine for personal letters or notes, but not in an essay. You can be personal, but a certain degree of formality and objectivity is expected in an academic essay.

The important requirement of style is clarity and precision of expression.

Where appropriate use simple and logical language and write in full or complete sentences.  You should avoid jargon, especially jargon that is not directly connected to your subject area. You can be personal by offering your own viewpoint on an issue, or by using that view to interpret other authors' work and conclusions.

Drafts and Rewriting

Most essays can be improved by a thorough edit.

You can cross out one word and substitute another, change the shape or emphasis of a sentence, remove inconsistencies of thought or terminology, remove repetitions and ensure there is adequate referencing.

In short, you are your first reader, edit and criticise your own work to make it better. Sometimes it is useful to read your essay out loud.

Another useful exercise is to ask someone else to read the essay through. A person proofreading the essay for the first time will have a different perspective from your own and will therefore be better placed to point out any incoherence, lack of structure, grammatical errors, etc.

Ideally find somebody to proofread who has a good grasp of spelling and grammar and at least a casual interest in your subject area.

One or two edits should be sufficient. It is best not to become involved in an unproductive multiplicity of drafts. The remedy is to analyse the question again and write another, simple, plan based on how to organise the material you are not happy with in the draft of your essay. Rewrite the essay according to that revised plan and resist the tendency to panic in the middle, tear it up and start all over again. It is important to get to the end and then revise again. Otherwise you will have a perfect opening couple of paragraphs and potentially the rest of the essay in disarray.

You will learn and improve much more through criticising and correcting your work than by simply starting again.

Don't Panic!

A few students can get so anxious about an assignment that they find themselves unable to write anything at all.

There are several reasons why this can happen. The primary reason is usually that such students set themselves too high a standard and then panic because they cannot attain it. This may also be due to factors such as the fear of the expectations of others or placing too high an expectation on themselves.

Whatever the reason, if you cannot write an assignment, you have to find a way out of your panic.  If you find yourself in this position, do not allow the situation to drift; try to act swiftly.  Discussing your worries with your tutor and/or peers, or simply writing them down, will help you clarify why you might feel stuck.

Another trick is to dash off what you consider to be a 'bad' essay, hand it in and see what happens, or decide to write the assignment in two hours without notes or references and see how that goes. You can always come back to enter the references later.

Students often say that their hurried and most casual essay got a higher mark than one which they struggled with for weeks; in fact this happened because they got down to essentials and made their points quickly.  The experiment might be worth a try.

If, despite study and good intentions, you cannot seem to get your essay written, or even started, you should let your tutor know as soon as possible.

Your tutor will have encountered such problems many times, and it is part of his/her job to help you sort them out.

Continue to: Assignment Finishing Touches Academic Referencing

See also: The Do’s and Don’ts of Essay Writing Effective Reading Note-Taking for Reading

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  • A step-by-step guide to the writing process

The Writing Process | 5 Steps with Examples & Tips

Published on April 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on December 8, 2023.

The writing process steps

Good academic writing requires effective planning, drafting, and revision.

The writing process looks different for everyone, but there are five basic steps that will help you structure your time when writing any kind of text.

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what are basic essay writing skills

Table of contents

Step 1: prewriting, step 2: planning and outlining, step 3: writing a first draft, step 4: redrafting and revising, step 5: editing and proofreading, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the writing process.

Before you start writing, you need to decide exactly what you’ll write about and do the necessary research.

Coming up with a topic

If you have to come up with your own topic for an assignment, think of what you’ve covered in class— is there a particular area that intrigued, interested, or even confused you? Topics that left you with additional questions are perfect, as these are questions you can explore in your writing.

The scope depends on what type of text you’re writing—for example, an essay or a research paper will be less in-depth than a dissertation topic . Don’t pick anything too ambitious to cover within the word count, or too limited for you to find much to say.

Narrow down your idea to a specific argument or question. For example, an appropriate topic for an essay might be narrowed down like this:

Doing the research

Once you know your topic, it’s time to search for relevant sources and gather the information you need. This process varies according to your field of study and the scope of the assignment. It might involve:

  • Searching for primary and secondary sources .
  • Reading the relevant texts closely (e.g. for literary analysis ).
  • Collecting data using relevant research methods (e.g. experiments , interviews or surveys )

From a writing perspective, the important thing is to take plenty of notes while you do the research. Keep track of the titles, authors, publication dates, and relevant quotations from your sources; the data you gathered; and your initial analysis or interpretation of the questions you’re addressing.

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Especially in academic writing , it’s important to use a logical structure to convey information effectively. It’s far better to plan this out in advance than to try to work out your structure once you’ve already begun writing.

Creating an essay outline is a useful way to plan out your structure before you start writing. This should help you work out the main ideas you want to focus on and how you’ll organize them. The outline doesn’t have to be final—it’s okay if your structure changes throughout the writing process.

Use bullet points or numbering to make your structure clear at a glance. Even for a short text that won’t use headings, it’s useful to summarize what you’ll discuss in each paragraph.

An outline for a literary analysis essay might look something like this:

  • Describe the theatricality of Austen’s works
  • Outline the role theater plays in Mansfield Park
  • Introduce the research question: How does Austen use theater to express the characters’ morality in Mansfield Park ?
  • Discuss Austen’s depiction of the performance at the end of the first volume
  • Discuss how Sir Bertram reacts to the acting scheme
  • Introduce Austen’s use of stage direction–like details during dialogue
  • Explore how these are deployed to show the characters’ self-absorption
  • Discuss Austen’s description of Maria and Julia’s relationship as polite but affectionless
  • Compare Mrs. Norris’s self-conceit as charitable despite her idleness
  • Summarize the three themes: The acting scheme, stage directions, and the performance of morals
  • Answer the research question
  • Indicate areas for further study

Once you have a clear idea of your structure, it’s time to produce a full first draft.

This process can be quite non-linear. For example, it’s reasonable to begin writing with the main body of the text, saving the introduction for later once you have a clearer idea of the text you’re introducing.

To give structure to your writing, use your outline as a framework. Make sure that each paragraph has a clear central focus that relates to your overall argument.

Hover over the parts of the example, from a literary analysis essay on Mansfield Park , to see how a paragraph is constructed.

The character of Mrs. Norris provides another example of the performance of morals in Mansfield Park . Early in the novel, she is described in scathing terms as one who knows “how to dictate liberality to others: but her love of money was equal to her love of directing” (p. 7). This hypocrisy does not interfere with her self-conceit as “the most liberal-minded sister and aunt in the world” (p. 7). Mrs. Norris is strongly concerned with appearing charitable, but unwilling to make any personal sacrifices to accomplish this. Instead, she stage-manages the charitable actions of others, never acknowledging that her schemes do not put her own time or money on the line. In this way, Austen again shows us a character whose morally upright behavior is fundamentally a performance—for whom the goal of doing good is less important than the goal of seeming good.

When you move onto a different topic, start a new paragraph. Use appropriate transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas.

The goal at this stage is to get a draft completed, not to make everything perfect as you go along. Once you have a full draft in front of you, you’ll have a clearer idea of where improvement is needed.

Give yourself a first draft deadline that leaves you a reasonable length of time to revise, edit, and proofread before the final deadline. For a longer text like a dissertation, you and your supervisor might agree on deadlines for individual chapters.

Now it’s time to look critically at your first draft and find potential areas for improvement. Redrafting means substantially adding or removing content, while revising involves making changes to structure and reformulating arguments.

Evaluating the first draft

It can be difficult to look objectively at your own writing. Your perspective might be positively or negatively biased—especially if you try to assess your work shortly after finishing it.

It’s best to leave your work alone for at least a day or two after completing the first draft. Come back after a break to evaluate it with fresh eyes; you’ll spot things you wouldn’t have otherwise.

When evaluating your writing at this stage, you’re mainly looking for larger issues such as changes to your arguments or structure. Starting with bigger concerns saves you time—there’s no point perfecting the grammar of something you end up cutting out anyway.

Right now, you’re looking for:

  • Arguments that are unclear or illogical.
  • Areas where information would be better presented in a different order.
  • Passages where additional information or explanation is needed.
  • Passages that are irrelevant to your overall argument.

For example, in our paper on Mansfield Park , we might realize the argument would be stronger with more direct consideration of the protagonist Fanny Price, and decide to try to find space for this in paragraph IV.

For some assignments, you’ll receive feedback on your first draft from a supervisor or peer. Be sure to pay close attention to what they tell you, as their advice will usually give you a clearer sense of which aspects of your text need improvement.

Redrafting and revising

Once you’ve decided where changes are needed, make the big changes first, as these are likely to have knock-on effects on the rest. Depending on what your text needs, this step might involve:

  • Making changes to your overall argument.
  • Reordering the text.
  • Cutting parts of the text.
  • Adding new text.

You can go back and forth between writing, redrafting and revising several times until you have a final draft that you’re happy with.

Think about what changes you can realistically accomplish in the time you have. If you are running low on time, you don’t want to leave your text in a messy state halfway through redrafting, so make sure to prioritize the most important changes.

Editing focuses on local concerns like clarity and sentence structure. Proofreading involves reading the text closely to remove typos and ensure stylistic consistency. You can check all your drafts and texts in minutes with an AI proofreader .

Editing for grammar and clarity

When editing, you want to ensure your text is clear, concise, and grammatically correct. You’re looking out for:

  • Grammatical errors.
  • Ambiguous phrasings.
  • Redundancy and repetition .

In your initial draft, it’s common to end up with a lot of sentences that are poorly formulated. Look critically at where your meaning could be conveyed in a more effective way or in fewer words, and watch out for common sentence structure mistakes like run-on sentences and sentence fragments:

  • Austen’s style is frequently humorous, her characters are often described as “witty.” Although this is less true of Mansfield Park .
  • Austen’s style is frequently humorous. Her characters are often described as “witty,” although this is less true of Mansfield Park .

To make your sentences run smoothly, you can always use a paraphrasing tool to rewrite them in a clearer way.

Proofreading for small mistakes and typos

When proofreading, first look out for typos in your text:

  • Spelling errors.
  • Missing words.
  • Confused word choices .
  • Punctuation errors .
  • Missing or excess spaces.

Use a grammar checker , but be sure to do another manual check after. Read through your text line by line, watching out for problem areas highlighted by the software but also for any other issues it might have missed.

For example, in the following phrase we notice several errors:

  • Mary Crawfords character is a complicate one and her relationships with Fanny and Edmund undergoes several transformations through out the novel.
  • Mary Crawford’s character is a complicated one, and her relationships with both Fanny and Edmund undergo several transformations throughout the novel.

Proofreading for stylistic consistency

There are several issues in academic writing where you can choose between multiple different standards. For example:

  • Whether you use the serial comma .
  • Whether you use American or British spellings and punctuation (you can use a punctuation checker for this).
  • Where you use numerals vs. words for numbers.
  • How you capitalize your titles and headings.

Unless you’re given specific guidance on these issues, it’s your choice which standards you follow. The important thing is to consistently follow one standard for each issue. For example, don’t use a mixture of American and British spellings in your paper.

Additionally, you will probably be provided with specific guidelines for issues related to format (how your text is presented on the page) and citations (how you acknowledge your sources). Always follow these instructions carefully.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
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Revising, proofreading, and editing are different stages of the writing process .

  • Revising is making structural and logical changes to your text—reformulating arguments and reordering information.
  • Editing refers to making more local changes to things like sentence structure and phrasing to make sure your meaning is conveyed clearly and concisely.
  • Proofreading involves looking at the text closely, line by line, to spot any typos and issues with consistency and correct them.

Whether you’re publishing a blog, submitting a research paper , or even just writing an important email, there are a few techniques you can use to make sure it’s error-free:

  • Take a break : Set your work aside for at least a few hours so that you can look at it with fresh eyes.
  • Proofread a printout : Staring at a screen for too long can cause fatigue – sit down with a pen and paper to check the final version.
  • Use digital shortcuts : Take note of any recurring mistakes (for example, misspelling a particular word, switching between US and UK English , or inconsistently capitalizing a term), and use Find and Replace to fix it throughout the document.

If you want to be confident that an important text is error-free, it might be worth choosing a professional proofreading service instead.

If you’ve gone over the word limit set for your assignment, shorten your sentences and cut repetition and redundancy during the editing process. If you use a lot of long quotes , consider shortening them to just the essentials.

If you need to remove a lot of words, you may have to cut certain passages. Remember that everything in the text should be there to support your argument; look for any information that’s not essential to your point and remove it.

To make this process easier and faster, you can use a paraphrasing tool . With this tool, you can rewrite your text to make it simpler and shorter. If that’s not enough, you can copy-paste your paraphrased text into the summarizer . This tool will distill your text to its core message.

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Essay Writing Skills & Techniques

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Many of our articles and guides frequently refer to essay writing, so to simplify this, we have collated our best essay writing skills and techniques into one section to assist students and teachers in learning the fundamentals of writing a wide variety of essays, learning the essential elements of all essays and even provide some activities and resource to help you along the way.

WHAT IS AN ESSAY?

Defining an essay is challenging as it crosses many genres and elements of writing. Still, in simple terms, an essay is a piece of writing allowing the author to state an argument, justify their position on a topic, express their emotions, and interpret information, facts and procedures.

The term essay comes from the Latin word ‘exagium’, meaning the presentation of a case or, as we may more commonly say “stating your case.” When writing a high-quality essay, it should be considered your definitive opportunity to have your say on something of meaning and purpose to you so make every word count by following our step-by-step guides below.

ESSAY WRITING SKILLS

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How to Start an Essay with Strong Hooks and Leads

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Top 5 Essay Writing Tips

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How to write a perfect 5 Paragraph Essay

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Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers

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The Writing Process

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How to write a Conclusion

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Top Research strategies for Students

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Perfect Paragraph Writing: The Ultimate Guide

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Teaching Proofreading and Editing Skills

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Punctuation rules for students and teachers: A complete guide

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Teaching Fact and Opinion

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Point of view in literacy: A guide for students and teachers

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Sentence Structure: A Complete Guide (With Examples & Tasks)

Essay Writing, writing skills, essay writing prompts, essay writing skills | HOW TO SUMMARIZE AN ARTICLE | How to Summarize an Article | literacyideas.com

How to Summarize an Article

How to write a Hypothesis

HOW TO WRITE A HYPOTHESIS

Guides for specific essay types.

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How To Write a My Best Friend Essay

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How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

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How to Write Excellent Expository Essays

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How to write an Argumentative Essay

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How to Write Perfect Persuasive Essays in 5 Simple Steps

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How to Write a Novel Study: A Complete Guide for Students & Teachers

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How to Write a Biography

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How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide

How to write an explanation text

How to Write an Excellent Explanation Text

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How to Write a Recount Text (And Improve your Writing Skills)

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How to write a text response

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Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students

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How to write excellent Procedural Texts

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How to Write an Excellent Information Report

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How to Write a Historical Recount Text

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Personal Narrative Writing Guide

Teaching resources and lessons to support essay writing.

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Top 25 Essay Topics for 2024

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Glossary of literary terms

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7 Evergreen Writing Activities for Elementary Students

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The Author’s Purpose for students and teachers

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The Ultimate Guide to Opinion Writing for Students and Teachers

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5 Top Persuasive Writing Lesson Plans for Students and Teachers

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Explanation Texts: Top 5 Writing tips for younger students

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How to Write a Winning Debate Speech

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23 Persuasive writing Topics for High School students

Don’t forget that we have loads of essay writing prompts and loads of essay resources and tools you can download today and use with your students.

Student sat writing at a table. Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Essay and dissertation writing skills

Planning your essay

Writing your introduction

Structuring your essay

  • Writing essays in science subjects
  • Brief video guides to support essay planning and writing
  • Writing extended essays and dissertations
  • Planning your dissertation writing time

Structuring your dissertation

  • Top tips for writing longer pieces of work

Advice on planning and writing essays and dissertations

University essays differ from school essays in that they are less concerned with what you know and more concerned with how you construct an argument to answer the question. This means that the starting point for writing a strong essay is to first unpick the question and to then use this to plan your essay before you start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

A really good starting point for you are these short, downloadable Tips for Successful Essay Writing and Answering the Question resources. Both resources will help you to plan your essay, as well as giving you guidance on how to distinguish between different sorts of essay questions. 

You may find it helpful to watch this seven-minute video on six tips for essay writing which outlines how to interpret essay questions, as well as giving advice on planning and structuring your writing:

Different disciplines will have different expectations for essay structure and you should always refer to your Faculty or Department student handbook or course Canvas site for more specific guidance.

However, broadly speaking, all essays share the following features:

Essays need an introduction to establish and focus the parameters of the discussion that will follow. You may find it helpful to divide the introduction into areas to demonstrate your breadth and engagement with the essay question. You might define specific terms in the introduction to show your engagement with the essay question; for example, ‘This is a large topic which has been variously discussed by many scientists and commentators. The principle tension is between the views of X and Y who define the main issues as…’ Breadth might be demonstrated by showing the range of viewpoints from which the essay question could be considered; for example, ‘A variety of factors including economic, social and political, influence A and B. This essay will focus on the social and economic aspects, with particular emphasis on…..’

Watch this two-minute video to learn more about how to plan and structure an introduction:

The main body of the essay should elaborate on the issues raised in the introduction and develop an argument(s) that answers the question. It should consist of a number of self-contained paragraphs each of which makes a specific point and provides some form of evidence to support the argument being made. Remember that a clear argument requires that each paragraph explicitly relates back to the essay question or the developing argument.

  • Conclusion: An essay should end with a conclusion that reiterates the argument in light of the evidence you have provided; you shouldn’t use the conclusion to introduce new information.
  • References: You need to include references to the materials you’ve used to write your essay. These might be in the form of footnotes, in-text citations, or a bibliography at the end. Different systems exist for citing references and different disciplines will use various approaches to citation. Ask your tutor which method(s) you should be using for your essay and also consult your Department or Faculty webpages for specific guidance in your discipline. 

Essay writing in science subjects

If you are writing an essay for a science subject you may need to consider additional areas, such as how to present data or diagrams. This five-minute video gives you some advice on how to approach your reading list, planning which information to include in your answer and how to write for your scientific audience – the video is available here:

A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.

Short videos to support your essay writing skills

There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing, including:

  • Approaching different types of essay questions  
  • Structuring your essay  
  • Writing an introduction  
  • Making use of evidence in your essay writing  
  • Writing your conclusion

Extended essays and dissertations

Longer pieces of writing like extended essays and dissertations may seem like quite a challenge from your regular essay writing. The important point is to start with a plan and to focus on what the question is asking. A PDF providing further guidance on planning Humanities and Social Science dissertations is available to download.

Planning your time effectively

Try not to leave the writing until close to your deadline, instead start as soon as you have some ideas to put down onto paper. Your early drafts may never end up in the final work, but the work of committing your ideas to paper helps to formulate not only your ideas, but the method of structuring your writing to read well and conclude firmly.

Although many students and tutors will say that the introduction is often written last, it is a good idea to begin to think about what will go into it early on. For example, the first draft of your introduction should set out your argument, the information you have, and your methods, and it should give a structure to the chapters and sections you will write. Your introduction will probably change as time goes on but it will stand as a guide to your entire extended essay or dissertation and it will help you to keep focused.

The structure of  extended essays or dissertations will vary depending on the question and discipline, but may include some or all of the following:

  • The background information to - and context for - your research. This often takes the form of a literature review.
  • Explanation of the focus of your work.
  • Explanation of the value of this work to scholarship on the topic.
  • List of the aims and objectives of the work and also the issues which will not be covered because they are outside its scope.

The main body of your extended essay or dissertation will probably include your methodology, the results of research, and your argument(s) based on your findings.

The conclusion is to summarise the value your research has added to the topic, and any further lines of research you would undertake given more time or resources. 

Tips on writing longer pieces of work

Approaching each chapter of a dissertation as a shorter essay can make the task of writing a dissertation seem less overwhelming. Each chapter will have an introduction, a main body where the argument is developed and substantiated with evidence, and a conclusion to tie things together. Unlike in a regular essay, chapter conclusions may also introduce the chapter that will follow, indicating how the chapters are connected to one another and how the argument will develop through your dissertation.

For further guidance, watch this two-minute video on writing longer pieces of work . 

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  • Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt
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  • Introductions
  • What Do Introductions Across the Disciplines Have in Common?
  • Anatomy of a Body Paragraph
  • Transitions
  • Tips for Organizing Your Essay
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A (Very) Simple Way to Improve Your Writing

  • Mark Rennella

what are basic essay writing skills

It’s called the “one-idea rule” — and any level of writer can use it.

The “one idea” rule is a simple concept that can help you sharpen your writing, persuade others by presenting your argument in a clear, concise, and engaging way. What exactly does the rule say?

  • Every component of a successful piece of writing should express only one idea.
  • In persuasive writing, your “one idea” is often the argument or belief you are presenting to the reader. Once you identify what that argument is, the “one-idea rule” can help you develop, revise, and connect the various components of your writing.
  • For instance, let’s say you’re writing an essay. There are three components you will be working with throughout your piece: the title, the paragraphs, and the sentences.
  • Each of these parts should be dedicated to just one idea. The ideas are not identical, of course, but they’re all related. If done correctly, the smaller ideas (in sentences) all build (in paragraphs) to support the main point (suggested in the title).

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Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .

Most advice about writing looks like a long laundry list of “do’s and don’ts.” These lists can be helpful from time to time, but they’re hard to remember … and, therefore, hard to depend on when you’re having trouble putting your thoughts to paper. During my time in academia, teaching composition at the undergraduate and graduate levels, I saw many people struggle with this.

what are basic essay writing skills

  • MR Mark Rennella is Associate Editor at HBP and has published two books, Entrepreneurs, Managers, and Leaders and The Boston Cosmopolitans .  

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The Write Practice

100 Writing Practice Lessons & Exercises

by Joe Bunting | 50 comments

Want to become a better writer? Perhaps you want to write novels, or maybe you just want to get better grades in your essay writing assignments , or maybe you'd like to start a popular blog .

If you want to write better, you need practice. But what does a writing practice actually look like? In this post, I'm going to give you everything you need to kick off your writing practice and become a better writer faster.

100 Top Writing Practice Lessons and Exercises

What Is Writing Practice?

Writing practice is a method of becoming a better writer that usually involves reading lessons about the writing process, using writing prompts, doing creative writing exercises , or finishing writing pieces, like essays, short stories , novels , or books . The best writing practice is deliberate, timed, and involves feedback.

How Do You Practice Writing?

This was the question I had when I first started The Write Practice in 2011. I knew how to practice a sport and how to practice playing an instrument. But for some reason, even after studying it in college, I wasn't sure how to practice writing.

I set out to create the best writing practice I could. The Write Practice is the result.

I found that the best writing practice has three aspects:

Deliberate . Writing whatever you feel like may be cathartic, but it's not an effective way to become a better writer or build your writing skills. You'll get better faster by practicing a specific technique or aspect of the writing process each time you sit down to write.

This is why we have a new lesson about the writing process each day on The Write Practice, followed by a practice prompt at the end so you can put what you learned to use immediately.

Timed . It's no secret writers struggle with focus. There are just too many interesting distractions—Facebook, email, Kim Kardashian's Instagram feed (just kidding about that last one, sort of)—and writing is just too hard sometimes.

Setting a timer, even for just fifteen minutes, is an easy and effective way to stay focused on what's important.

This is why in our writing practice prompt at the end of each post we have a time limit, usually with a link to an online tool egg timer , so you can focus on deliberate practice without getting distracted.

Feedback . Getting feedback is one of the requirements to deliberately practice writing or any other craft. Feedback can look like listening to the reactions of your readers or asking for constructive criticism from editors and other writers.

This is why we ask you to post your writing practice after each lesson, so that you can get feedback from other writers in The Write Practice community. It's also why we set up The Write Practice Pro community , to provide critique groups for writers to get feedback on each finished piece of writing.

How to practice writing

Our 100+ Best Creative Writing Practice Exercises and Lessons

Now that you know how we practice writing at The Write Practice, here are our best writing practice lessons to jumpstart your writing skills with some daily writing exercises, for beginner writers to even the most expert writers:

All-Time, Top 10 Writing Lessons and Exercises

These ten posts are our most viewed articles to boost your writing practice:

1. What is Plot? The 6 Elements of Plot and How to Use Them . Great stories use similar elements in wildly different ways to build page-turning stories. Click here to read what they are and learn how to start using them !

2. Top 100 Short Story Ideas . Here are over a hundred writing prompts in a variety of genres. If you need ideas for your next story, check this out!

3. How To Use Neither, Nor, Or, and Nor Correctly . Even good writers struggle figuring out when to use neither/nor and either/or. In this post, our copy-queen Liz Bureman settles the confusion once and for all. Click to continue to the writing exercise

4. Ten Secrets To Write Better Stories . How does Pixar manage to create such great stories, year after year? And how do you write a good story? In this post, I distill everything I've learned about how to write a good story into ten tips. Click to continue to the writing exercise

5. 35 Questions To Ask Your Characters From Marcel Proust . To get to know my characters better, I use a list of questions known as the Proust Questionnaire, made famous by French author, Marcel Proust. Click to continue to the writing exercise

6. How a Scene List Can Change Your Novel-Writing Life . Creating a scene list changed my novel-writing life, and doing the same will change yours too. Includes examples of the scene lists from famous authors. Click to continue to the writing exercise

7. Why You Need to be Using the Oxford Comma . Most people I've met have no idea what the Oxford comma is, but it's probably something that you have used frequently in your writing. Click to continue to the writing exercise

8. Six Surprising Ways to Write Better Interview Questions.  The interview is the most-used tool in a journalist's bag. But that doesn't mean novelists, bloggers, and even students can't and don't interview people. Here's how to conduct a great interview. Click to continue to the writing exercise

9. Why You Should Try Writing in Second Person . You've probably used first person and third person point-of-view already. But what about second person? This post explains three reasons why you should try writing from this point-of-view. Click to continue to the writing exercise

10. The Secret to Show, Don't Tell . You've heard the classic writing rule, “Show. Don't Tell.” Every writing blog ever has talked about it, and for good reason. Showing, for some reason, is really difficult. Click to continue to the writing exercise.

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12 Exercises and Lessons To Become a Better Writer

How do you become a better writer? These posts share our best advice:

  • Want to Be a Better Writer? Cut These 7 Words
  • What I Mean When I Say I Am A Writer
  • How to Become a Writer: 3 Simple Steps
  • 72% of Writers Struggle With THIS
  • 7 Lies About Becoming a Writer That You Probably Believe
  • 10 Questions to Find Your Unique Writing Voice
  • The Best Writing Book I’ve Ever Read
  • The Best Way to Become a Better Writer
  • The Creative Writer’s Toolkit: 6 Tools You Can’t Write Without
  • Should You Write More or Write Better: Quantity vs Quality
  • How to Become a Better Writer in One, Simple Step
  • 11 Writing Tips That Will Change Your Life

6 Lessons and Exercises from Great Writers

If you want to be a writer, learn from the great writers who have gone before you:

  • 23 Essential Quotes from Ernest Hemingway About Writing
  • 29 Quotes that Explain How to Become a Better Writer
  • 10 Lessons Dr. Seuss Can Teach Writers
  • 10 Writing Tips from Ursula Le Guin
  • Once Upon a Time: Pixar Prompt
  • All the Pretty Words: Writing In the Style of Cormac McCarthy

12 Genre and Format Specific Writing Lessons and Exercises

Here are our best writing lessons for specific types of writing, including essays, screenplays, memoir, short stories, children's books, and humor writing:

  • Writing an Essay? Here Are 10 Effective Tips
  • How To Write a Screenplay: The 5 Step Process
  • How to Write a Great Memoir: a Complete Guide
  • How to Write a Short Story from Start to Finish
  • How to Write a Thriller Novel
  • How to Write a Children's Book
  • How to Write a Love Story
  • How to Write a Coming of Age Story or Book
  • How to Write an Adventure Book
  • 5 Key Elements for Successful Short Stories
  • 4 Tips to Write a Novel That Will Be Adapted Into a Movie
  • Humor Writing for People Who Aren’t Funny

14 Characterization Lessons and Exercises

Good characters are the foundation of good fiction. Here are our best lessons to create better characters:

  • Character Development: How to Create Characters Audiences Will Love
  • Writing Villains: 9 Evil Examples of the Villain Archetype
  • How NOT to Introduce a New Character
  • The Strongest Form of Characterization
  • The Most Important Character Archetype
  • How Do You Build A Strong Character In Your Writing?
  • 75+ Antihero Examples and How to Use Them
  • How to Explore Your Characters’ Motivations
  • 8 Tips for Naming Characters
  • The Protagonist: How to Center Your Story
  • Heroes vs. Anti-Heroes: Which Is Right For Your Story?
  • The Weakest Form of Characterization
  • How to Write With an Accent
  • How To Create a Character Sketch Using Scrivener

15 Grammar Lessons and Exercises

I talk to so many writers, some of whom are published authors, who struggle with grammar. Here are our best writing lessons on grammar:

  • Is It Okay To End A Sentence With A Preposition?
  • Contractions List: When To Use and When To Avoid
  • Good vs. Well
  • Connotation vs. Denotation
  • Per Se vs. Per Say
  • When You SHOULD Use Passive Voice
  • When Do You Use “Quotation Marks”
  • Polysyndeton and Asyndeton: Definition and Examples
  • The Case Against Twilight
  • Affect Versus Effect
  • Stop Saying “Literally”
  • What Is a Comma Splice? And Why Do Editors Hate Them?
  • Intra vs. Inter: Why No One Plays Intermural Sports
  • Alright and Alot: Words That Are Not Words
  • The Poor, Misunderstood Semicolon

4 Journalism Lessons and Exercises

Want to be a journalist? Or even use techniques from journalism to improve your novel, essay, or screenplay? Here are our best writing lessons on journalism:

  • Six Ways to Ask Better Questions In Interviews
  • How Should You Interview Someone? Over Email? In Person?
  • What If They Don’t Want to Talk to You?
  • Eleven Habits of a Highly Effective Interviewers

16 Plot and Structure Lessons and Exercises

Want to write a good story? Our top plot and structure lessons will help:

  • The Ten Types of Story and How to Master Them
  • Points of a Story: 6 Plot Points Every Story Needs
  • How to Shape a Story: The 6 Arcs
  • 7 Keys To Write the Perfect First Line of a Novel
  • The Secret to Creating Conflict
  • 4 Tips to Avoid Having Your Short Story Rejected by a Literary Magazine
  • 7 Steps to Creating Suspense
  • 5 Elements of Storytelling
  • 3 Important Rules for Writing Endings
  • A Writer’s Cheatsheet to Plot and Structure
  • Overcoming the Monster
  • How to Satisfy Your Reader With a Great Ending
  • Pow! Boom! Ka-Pow! 5 Tips to Write Fight Scenes
  • The Dramatic Question and Suspense in Fiction
  • How to Write a Memorable Beginning and Ending
  • How to Write the Perfect First Page

6 Lessons and Exercises to Beat Writer's Block

Writer's block is real, and it can completely derail your writing. Here are six lessons to get writing again:

  • How To Write Whether You Feel Like it Or Not
  • This Fun Creative Writing Exercise Will Change Your Life
  • When You Should Be Writing But Can't…
  • What to do When Your Word Count is Too Low
  • 7 Tricks to Write More with Less Willpower
  • When You Don’t Know What to Write, Write About Your Insecurities

7 Literary Technique Lessons and Exercises

These writing and storytelling techniques will teach you a few tricks of the trade you may not have discovered before:

  • 3 Tips to “Show, Don’t Tell” Emotions and Moods
  • 3 Reasons to Write Stream of Consciousness Narrative
  • 16 Observations About Real Dialogue
  • Intertextuality As A Literary Device
  • Why You Should Use Symbolism In Your Writing
  • 6 Ways to Evoke Emotion in Poetry and Prose
  • 3 Tips To Write Modern Allegorical Novels
  • Symbol vs. Motif: What’s the Difference

3 Inspirational Writing Lessons and Exercises

Need some inspiration? Here are three of our most inspiring posts:

  • Why We Write: Four Reasons
  • You Must Remember Every Scar
  • 17 Reasons to Write Something NOW

3 Publishing Blogging Lessons and Exercises

If you want to get published, these three lessons will help:

  • The Secret to Writing On Your Blog Every Day
  • How to Publish Your Book and Sell Your First 1,000 Copies
  • How to Get Published in Literary Magazines

11 Writing Prompts

Need inspiration or just a kick in the pants to write. Try one of our top writing prompts :

  • Grandfathers [writing prompt]
  • Out of Place [writing prompt]
  • Sleepless [writing prompt]
  • Longing [writing prompt]
  • Write About Yourself [writing prompt]
  • 3 Reasons You Should Write Ghost Stories
  • Road Trip [writing prompt]
  • Morning [writing prompt]
  • The Beach [writing prompt]
  • Fall [writing prompt]
  • How to Use Six-Word Stories As Writing Prompts

Is It Time To Begin Your Writing Practice?

It's clear that if you want to become a writer, you need to practice writing. We've created a proven process to practice your writing at The Write Practice, but even if you don't join our community, I hope you'll start practicing in some way today.

Personally, I waited  far  too long to start practicing and it set my writing back years.

How about you? Do you think practicing writing is important?  Let me know in the comments section .

Choose one of the writing practice posts above. Then, read the lesson and participate in the writing exercise, posting your work in the Pro Practice Workshop . And if you post, please give feedback to your fellow writers who also posted their practices.

Have fun and happy practicing!

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Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

proust questionnaire

50 Comments

Kristen

You have THE BEST content for writing on this blog!!

Joe Bunting

Thank you, Kristen. This made my morning. 🙂

Mitch Hamilton

Thanks Mitch. 🙂

George McNeese

I can’t remember when I started following this website. I have to look in my notebooks because that’s where I did these practices. I didn’t have access to a computer when I did them, so I wrote them out, setting the time limit. But even when I do get to a computer, I have my reservations about putting my practices on the page. even though it’s practice, I want them to be the best, almost perfect. But I know it won’t be. I’ve gotten feedback before that says so. It still gets to me that I didn’t put something together that not everyone liked. I need to get over it. After all, that is what these practices are about: to learn and improve on our craft.

I don’t know either, George, but it’s been several years. Perfectionism is something so many of us face, and it’s made worse when you don’t have a critique community as warm and encouraging as ours is. I hope you and everyone here are always willing to try something new, even if it comes out a little messed up, because you know we’ll support you and try to make you better.

Elizabeth Varadan

What a great share! Thanks so much!

You’re so welcome, Elizabeth. Thank you for commenting.

Patience

when I ran writing classes I wrote. when I am “a member of writing classes” the teacher/leader/facilitator is NOT MY AUDIENCE and so I don’t write as well/as much. I don’t get the feedback I need from fellow students because most of them have never run their own writing projects/workshops. So many people expect you to write their story for them. I’ve actually got quite a few stories of me own. I have finally decided I like owning them. 😉

It sounds like you need a new critique group, Patience! Hope you can find a place where you get the feedback you need.

Stephanie Ward

Wow! Terrific round-up of resources. 🙂

Thanks Stephanie. 🙂

Carrie Lynn Lewis

Practice is necessary, period. It doesn’t matter what you want to learn. If you want to improve, practice is vital.

It’s odd. I’ve known and applied that principle for years on a variety of things. Painting. Drawing. Blogging. Gardening. Laundry.

But never writing.

Like you, I had the notion that just writing every day was all it took to improve. Why not the same level of dedication to writing?

Perhaps it’s time to change that!

I can relate, Carrie. It’s easy to confuse the craft of writing with journaling, thinking that you can just write whatever you feel like and you’ll get better, write something worth reading. The truth is that writing interesting things to read is a skill, but the good news is that you can get better at it with practice. Thanks for practicing with us! 🙂

Debra johnson

I love these suggestions , and have set Writing Practice as my homepage so the first 15 minutes of my day is spent writing, whether its a practice or exercise here or another that is sprinkled through out this site, Thank you for all you do everyone here at The Write Practice

marlita

This is great Debra. I want to write the first 15 minutes of my day too!

I agree with Joe, Do it. Could be your to do list… ( that could lead to something else story wse later)

I love that, Debra. Such a good way to start your day.

Thanks Joe!

Hyacinth Fidelis Joaquin

The best! Thank you so much for this.

You’re very welcome!

nobody geek

I simply LOVE all the tips and suggestions given on this blog. They are super helpful!

THANK you. We love sharing them with you. 🙂

Thiago d'Evecque

Hi! You forgot the link to How to Write a Story a Week: A Day-by-Day Guide.

Thanks a lot for your work! This post is amazing.

It’s a great post Thiago. Definitely one of our most shared. Thanks for mentioning it! BTW here’s the link:

https://thewritepractice.com/a-story-a-week/

Harsh Rathour

Wow!! There are so many exercises…. I just love it..! I am gonna really enjoy it..!

Awesome! Thank you for reading and practicing with us. 🙂

Macau Mum

I only read halfway , My tootie is jumping all over me, and typing this is a struggle when a 3yr old wants his Toy Story movie on Youtube in this computer. Thank you for this article, will come back later to finish reading.

I know the feeling! Good luck!

Beth

Can’t wait to get stuck in with this! 🙂

LaCresha Lawson

Very helpful! Thank you!

strictlynoelephant

I’ve just bookmarked this page. Thanks for this wonderful list.

fireandparchment

This is awesome! So many helpful tips. I will be coming back to this often. Thanks for posting this!

Jessica M

Wow, so many goodies! Thank you for always providing such amazing content!!

Jacqueline Nicole

I have enjoyed all these articles. Thank you for the help an inspiration to get my writing on its way. My creativity is boosting with confidence. Tootle loo.

Emmanuel Ajayi Adigun

Amazing contents for beginners like me Joe. I am highly inspired by your commitment. Thank you.

Hey, thanks!

Sondra

Although I have only read half of thisc article, the practice exercises are excellent. Some of them are exactly what a beginning writer like myself needs. I am committing to at least try ALL of them. Thanks Joe!!

Kbee E. Betancourt

very helpful! thank you..

Celia Costa

Amazing articles! Thanks so much for sharing!

The Black Hearth

My god this article made me love this site . You know it’s kinda hard for a beginner writer, who don’t know where to start and fixing goals, even samll ones give us a direction . A place to go , an aim for our creativity so thanks you , this community and this site. Love you all . At your pens ! 😉

carmelle

Wow. This is great. I find all your posts informative, but this one is the best for me to use as a guide to get my self starting to write….Thank you.

aurora1920

I’m an old lady who wants to publish one more book before I die — have published several, all non-fiction, and done two under contract to a major publisher (reference books). So help me, the BIGGEST problem I have all along, is keeping track of the damned paper work and research that goes into a book!!! Yet I never ever see articles on something as simple as “How to file” — Oh I know, there’s wonderful software these days so probably I will never find a way to get paper organized — everybody will use software and do it on the computer. I’m too old for that — just one look at the learning curve for software, even putting the damned stuff into computer files is even MORE frustrating than paper!! Oh well, somehow I managed in the past to get books published, I may be able to do it one more time.

Hamzah Ramadan

you enjoy writing more than anything else and you do indeed care to help others write. I love writing but translation from Arabic into English and English into Arabic is taking all of my time from the early hours of the morning till the evening. I will soon get all of your books in order to read them as soon as possible. One thing I am sure of. You know what you are doing very well. Hamzah

Dusan

Excellent! Many useful tips. Many thanks!

Mark Bono

Liz and Joe, I have only looked at a few exercises. Already, I am convinced that your site is one of the best sites out there. Thank your for sharing your wisdom.

aparna WWeerakoon

Wow, these are the best lessons and exercises for writing. Actually i’m participating in a compitition this wendsday. so, i’m quite nervous and exited. this helped me a lot

Mehedi

Magnificent post ever I have read. This article will help me a lot to write a right way. Thank you.

Alexiss Anthonyy Murillo

i need your help to improve to become a better writer please. i think i usually commit moist of these errors and i don;t pay attention to many advices too.

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22 Basic Paragraph Writing

A paragraph is a distinct and separate piece of writing that forms part of an overall text. Each paragraph contains one key idea or topic and at least one controlling idea . When writing a larger text, such as an essay, the writer must also consider how the ideas in each paragraph connect to each other. Types of Academic Writing are discussed in Chapter 15 of this resource, therefore this chapter examines only the BODY paragraph.

This chapter explores a useful academic structure for a basic body paragraph and the elements that contribute to its cohesiveness.

what are basic essay writing skills

Beginner writers should follow the simple acronym explained below (TEEL) as it will help to organise your academic writing and make the meaning and aim of each paragraph clear to the reader.

what are basic essay writing skills

Intermediate writers should work towards refining sentence structures and academic language choices to develop more cohesive and coherent paragraphs.

what are basic essay writing skills

Experienced writers should consider how they can augment the basic paragraph structure with more sophisticated examples, linking arguments, and logical conclusions.

Many readers of this chapter may have already encountered the T.E.E.L. (or P.E.E.L.) structure of a body paragraph in school and have a good understanding of general paragraph structure, however, now would be a good opportunity to refresh your memory. Review the following diagram that demonstrates where the acronym comes from:

T  –  Topic sentence with a controlling idea

E  –  explain and make a claim (about the controlling idea), e  –  evidence from academic sources (plus evaluate how this supports the claim), l  –  link back to the key idea or argument (or to the topic of the next paragraph).

This simple paragraph structure will introduce your ideas to the reader, add additional explanations and evidence for support and then link all this information back to the main idea of the overall paragraph or essay. Perhaps it could be more effectively displayed as a series of gears working together to make the whole machine move forward.

what are basic essay writing skills

What is a topic sentence?

A topic sentence makes a connection between the overall topic or main idea of the essay and a controlling idea. For example, the overall topic of an essay could be sustainable energy. The controlling ideas might examine solar, wind, and hydro electricity. Each controlling idea becomes the basis for a paragraph, whereas the overall topic remains the same throughout the essay.

It is often taught that each new paragraph represents a new topic, though in actuality the topic remains the same and the controlling idea changes.

What is a controlling idea?

A controlling idea limits, restricts or controls what is being discussed in relation to the main topic.

For example:

Sustainable energy (topic) has long been a topic of discussion and solar energy (controlling idea), in particular, has had a great deal of attention.

This signals to the reader that the essay is about sustainable energy, though in this particular paragraph only solar energy will be discussed. Therefore, the topic is restricted to only solar energy (controlling idea). It may go on to discuss both the positive and negative attributes of solar energy, however, it is still being controlled by one idea.

In the next paragraph the topic would remain sustainable energy , but the controlling idea would change to wind power ; the third paragraph would discuss hydro power . When you understand the building blocks behind good paragraph structure, the essay begins to write itself.

What am I explaining to the reader?

The next sentence or sentences should elaborate on the controlling idea and may make an assertion or claim about it.

Modern Australian home owners are turning to solar panels to offset their electricity costs (fact), however, their effectiveness is greatly depleted in sustained cloudy weather (claim).

What is the evidence meant to support?

Given that the claim is often unsupported initially, the next sentences should provide supporting information for the controlling idea and the claim made in relation to it.

According to Energy Australia (2020) [2]  solar panels operate at 10-25% capacity in cloudy weather, although this varies depending on the type of panel.

Writers can build on their discussion or argument by adding more evidence to support the claim. Use reputable academic sources (refer to Chapter 14).

What am I evaluating?

It is important not to assume that the reader will make the mental connection between the claim and the evidence. Therefore, evaluate the relevance and explicitly state the connection to the reader.

This demonstrates that solar energy, while environmentally supportive, may not be a solution to all of Australia’s energy needs.

How do I link my topic, claim, and evidence?

If we use the analogy of the gears working together, think of the linking sentence as the one that turns back in on the contents of the paragraph and locks it all together.

Sustainable energy is currently being debated and solar power offers one alternative, though it may be less productive on cloudy days depending on the quality of solar panels being installed on Australians’ rooves.

A linking sentence can also be used to draw the reader onto the next paragraph and provide a mental bridge between controlling ideas for the reader. This creates good cohesion and coherence throughout the essay.

While there are benefits to using solar energy to offset household electricity costs, even if somewhat inconsistent in cloudy weather, wind power (next controlling idea) also offers a more sustainable energy source than our finite fossil fuel supplies.

The next paragraph could discuss how wind power is infinite and therefore far more sustainable than fossil fuels.

Now let’s put it all together:

Sustainable energy (topic) has long been a topic of discussion and solar energy (controlling idea), in particular, has had a great deal of attention. Modern Australian home owners are turning to solar panels to offset their electricity costs (fact), however, their effectiveness is greatly depleted in sustained cloudy weather (claim). According to Energy Australia (2020) solar panels operate at 10-25% capacity in cloudy weather, although this varies depending on the type of panel (evidence). This demonstrates that solar energy, while environmentally supportive, may not be the solution to all of Australia’s energy needs (evaluation and explanation of evidence). **Sustainable energy is currently being debated and solar power offers one alternative, though it may be less productive on cloudy days depending on the quality of solar panels being installed on Australians’ rooves (links back to claim).

**While there are benefits to using solar energy to offset household electricity costs, even if somewhat inconsistent in cloudy weather, wind power (next controlling idea) also offers a more sustainable energy source than our finite fossil fuel supplies (links to next controlling idea in the essay).

These are the basics of writing a well structured academic body paragraph. Repeat this process to structure an essay that demonstrates a logical progression of thoughts, claims, and supporting evidence. T.E.E.L. is an easy acronym to remember and great to fall back on if you begin to get a little lost in your writing. You can augment your paragraphs with further evidence, explanations, and elaborations; you are not limited to only two “E” sentences.

what are basic essay writing skills

  • Adapted from Slide Geeks https://images.app.goo.gl/m23jmMu1qevSEPd26 ↵
  • Energy Australia. (2020). 8 surprising facts about solar. https://www.energyaustralia.com.au/blog/better-energy/8-surprising-facts-about-solar ↵

controls, restricts, or limits what will be discussed in relation to the topic

unified or united

logically connected; consistent

add to; enlarge; strengthen

verb - add details; expand

a statement or declaration as if something is true, often without support or reason

researched, reliable, written by academics and published by reputable publishers; often, but not always peer reviewed

Academic Writing Skills Copyright © 2021 by Patricia Williamson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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COMMENTS

  1. The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay

    Come up with a thesis. Create an essay outline. Write the introduction. Write the main body, organized into paragraphs. Write the conclusion. Evaluate the overall organization. Revise the content of each paragraph. Proofread your essay or use a Grammar Checker for language errors. Use a plagiarism checker.

  2. 7 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills

    Here are some strategies for developing your own written communication: 1. Review grammar and spelling basics. Grammar and spelling form the foundation of good writing. Writing with proper grammar and spelling communicates your professionality and attention to detail to your reader. It also makes your writing easier to understand.

  3. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    oConsideration of counterarguments (what Sandel might say in response to this section of your argument) Each argument you will make in an essay will be different, but this strategy will often be a useful first step in figuring out the path of your argument. Strategy #2: Use subheadings, even if you remove themlater.

  4. 12 Ways to Quickly Improve Your Academic Essay Writing Skills

    Avoid transition words that don't add anything to the sentence and unnecessary wordiness that detracts from your argument. Furthermore, use the active voice instead of the passive whenever possible (e.g., "this study found" instead of "it was found by this study"). This will make your essay's tone clear and direct. 3.

  5. Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers

    Essay writing is an essential skill for every student. Whether writing a particular academic essay (such as persuasive, narrative, descriptive, or expository) or a timed exam essay, the key to getting good at writing is to write.

  6. The Basics of Essay Writing

    Take notes from your readings. Write an essay plan and organise your ideas. Write a first draft to include your introduction, body and conclusion. Set the draft aside for a day or two, then re-read and make changes. Get some feedback - ask a friend/parent/colleague to read it. Edit and redraft your essay. Complete or finalise your references ...

  7. 10 Important Essay Writing Skills You Need to Know

    9. Self-Edit. Never EVER blow through a single draft of an essay and turn it in to your professor. One of the best essay writing skills you can develop is the ability to review and edit your essay for mistakes in grammar, typos, and logic. Here are some ways to go about the editing process.

  8. Essay Writing

    There are two general misconceptions about essay style: One is that a good essay should be written in a formal, impersonal way with a good scattering of long words and long, complicated sentences. The other misconception is to write as we talk. Such a style is fine for personal letters or notes, but not in an essay.

  9. The Writing Process

    Table of contents. Step 1: Prewriting. Step 2: Planning and outlining. Step 3: Writing a first draft. Step 4: Redrafting and revising. Step 5: Editing and proofreading. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about the writing process.

  10. Excellent Essay Writing Skills and Techniques

    Essay Writing Skills & Techniques. By Shane Mac Donnchaidh September 7, 2021March 5, 2024 March 5, 2024. Many of our articles and guides frequently refer to essay writing, so to simplify this, we have collated our best essay writing skills and techniques into one section to assist students and teachers in learning the fundamentals of writing a ...

  11. Essay and dissertation writing skills

    A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.. Short videos to support your essay writing skills. There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing ...

  12. Strategies for Essay Writing

    Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt. Asking Analytical Questions. Thesis. Introductions. What Do Introductions Across the Disciplines Have in Common? Anatomy of a Body Paragraph. Transitions. Tips for Organizing Your Essay. Counterargument.

  13. A (Very) Simple Way to Improve Your Writing

    Summary. The "one idea" rule is a simple concept that can help you sharpen your writing, persuade others by presenting your argument in a clear, concise, and engaging way.

  14. 7 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills

    Remove phrases that are redundant, repetitive, or obvious. Read out loud. Reading aloud can help you find awkward phrases and areas where your writing doesn't flow well. 4. Gather feedback. Whether you're writing emails or essays, asking for feedback is a great way to see how somebody else will interpret your text.

  15. PDF ACADEMIC WRITING

    "Writing" is usually understood as the expression of thought. This book redefines "writing" as the thought process itself. Writing is not what you do with thought. Writing is thinking. Better living through interpretation: that's the promise of academic writing, which is a foundational course in most schools because it's a

  16. 100 Writing Practice Lessons & Exercises

    Writing practice is a method of becoming a better writer that usually involves reading lessons about the writing process, using writing prompts, doing creative writing exercises, or finishing writing pieces, like essays, short stories, novels, or books. The best writing practice is deliberate, timed, and involves feedback.

  17. [2024] 180 Free Online Writing Courses to Improve Your Skills

    From grammar to creative writing to technical writing, these free online courses will help you hone your writing skills. Pat Bowden Jan 30th, 2024. 38. Becoming a better writer can help you achieve professional and personal goals. Whether you're preparing for university studies, drafting résumés and cover letters, writing sales copy, or ...

  18. Write & Improve

    Our free online tool helps you to practise your writing and get valuable feedback instantly. Write & Improve is simple to use: just choose a task, write or upload a written response and use the feedback to quickly improve. It shows you how to improve your spelling, grammar and vocabulary. Join over 2 million learners of English who have used ...

  19. Basic Paragraph Writing

    22. Basic Paragraph Writing. A paragraph is a distinct and separate piece of writing that forms part of an overall text. Each paragraph contains one key idea or topic and at least one controlling idea. When writing a larger text, such as an essay, the writer must also consider how the ideas in each paragraph connect to each other.

  20. 5 Basic Writing Skills and How to Improve and Highlight Them

    2. Outlining. Outlining is creating a plan for the structure and flow of a piece of writing. Good writing needs to have a logical structure to make sense to a reader. Your ability to organize sentences and paragraphs in the most compelling way influences how others perceive you and understand the point of your writing. 3.