How to Write a Killer Essay

Hello All,

You may not know this about me, but I have worked as an English reading and writing tutor at my college. From this experience, I have come to understand the dos and don’ts of planning, writing, and proofreading your essay. Here is a little synopsis of what I have learned.

I.) Type of Essay

Be sure that you clarify with your instructor what type of essay he or she expects from you. There are four major types of essays.

Expository essays are papers that are informative. This type of essay requires research and gaining a deep knowledge about a topic. You may have written these types of essays without even knowing it, such as writing a comparison and contrast essay. These works should have support from logical sources.

Narrative essays are all about telling a story. This should include a very particular outline like an introduction that includes some sort of problem. This is followed by rising action, a climax, and a conclusion.

Descriptive essays are all about…description, duh! These essays require you to think about a subject with all of your senses and write concisely about it. This is not about leaving ideas vague; be specific!

Argumentative essays are about taking a stance on an issue. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can say whatever you want. You need to back it up with some facts! But in the end, one choice is best, and you will lead your reader in that direction.

Now, you can be writing an argumentative essay and dedicate a paragraph about description. Or use some comparison and contrast writing within a narrative piece of work. In general, though, there should be one direction that the essay is going.

II.) Topic

Sometimes coming up with a topic can be so difficult, and subsequently discouraging. The topic of your essay should be big enough for you to write the page requirement your instructor assigned. However, it should be narrow enough that you don’t leave room for too many questions after the reader is finished. For example, if I were assigned a five-page essay that had something to do with animals. I may choose to a topic like chihuahuas or the Cincinnati Zoo. These topics are broad enough that I could go in couple directions and fill a couple of pages. Yet, they are narrow enough that after I write about four or five sub-topics, the reader will have a good understanding about chihuahuas or the Cincinnati Zoo.

III.) Thesis Statement

The first task I ask of students who bring in their essays is to point out their thesis. If you cannot highlight your thesis, your essay will certainly be less than par. The thesis is the most integral part of your essay. A sentence or two within you introduction, it should tell your readers exactly what they are going to learn about. This should also give a hint as to which type of essay you are writing (expository, narrative, descriptive, or augmentative). So, an example thesis would be something like: Baking a cake has three essential steps: preparation, baking, and decorating. This statement set up a plan for my essay. It states that I am writing an expository type of essay that has three parts to the body. This is a pretty basic thesis, but there is more at Also, don’t be afraid to write a couple different thesis statements and choose which one fits best!

IV.) Outline

Seriously people. Create. An. Outline. It is going to save you so many headaches. For every essay I write, I first have planned an outline. With an outline, all my facts are organized, and I have an idea of where my writing is going. I have created an outline that you can print out and follow if you’d like!

V.) Filling in the Body Paragraphs

Once you’ve got a general plan of how your essay will pan out, it is time to get to the meat and potatoes of the work. My process for this part of research can be kinda long, but the basics are researched your topic, organize the facts, and keep track of your resources. As I gather facts, I would copy and paste each individual fact into a word document and be sure keep those facts attached to their authors. Then I will cut out the facts so that every strip of paper has one fact. Then, I arrange and re-arrange the facts to form my paper. These facts fill in the general outline that I have made.

VI.) Introduction and Conclusion

I grouped these two important paragraphs together because they play off of each other. A good intro includes a “hook” or an attention grabber as the opening sentence of your essay. I like to think of the intro paragraph as a funnel. Introduce your topic in a broad, general sense, and then you can narrow the paragraph down to your thesis — which is as concise as you can get. Then, the conclusion recaps your paper in a general but concluding sense. Within your conclusion, you should basically restate your thesis statement as a fact. Your thesis statement is now a fact because of all of the research that your reader has read to this point.

VIII.) Proof-reading

As a writing coach, I have learned that everyone looks at their own work differently. The first thing to look at is your thesis and the outline of the essay. If you took each body paragraph and summed each one up in one or two words, does it still make sense with your thesis? Meaning, if your thesis statement was, “Baking a cake has three essential steps: preparation, baking, and decorating,” then I should expect that my first body paragraph summed up in one word to be “preparation.” Similarly, my second body paragraph should be about “baking,” and the third about “decoration.”

Next, I read each sentence out load by itself. So, go sentence-by-sentence through your essay slowly. Did that sentence make sense? Are the pronouns, tense, or plural/singular correct? Does that word work in that sentence?

Know your weaknesses! I know that sometimes the way that I word things sounds odd. So, I have to look at the sentence as a whole and how it fits with the sentences around it. Some people have issues with staying in the same tense throughout the paragraph. Or others may have issues with commas and run-ons. Once you can point this out, you and anyone else can look at the essay with a more keen eye.

Okay, so this is all the basic info for each part of writing, but I could go on for so much longer! Please check out the Purdue OWL for more info. They have great examples and descriptions for just about anything.

Did I miss anything that you think should be included? Should I go into more depth about any of these topics? Please feel free to leave a comment to let me know!

Good Luck,