How to Write an Essay Like a Pro: Top 8 Tips

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The best essay writer understand how to craft an argument and make it convincing to their audience. While anyone can learn this skill, it’s not something that comes naturally to many people, particularly those who are just starting out in college. Fortunately, however, it’s possible to learn how to write an essay like a pro if you follow these eight steps toward writing the perfect paper every time.

1) Pick up the right tools

This may seem obvious, but you can’t write effectively if you’re typing on a laptop in your lap while trying to watch TV at the same time. Find yourself a quiet space with minimal distractions, and invest in good headphones so others around you don’t have to listen in on your next literary masterpiece. 

When it comes to actually putting pen (or keyboard) to paper, think about what makes sense for you. Are index cards more helpful than whiteboards? Do you prefer writing everything out by hand or using notes from a phone call?

2) Prepare your mind

You’re writing an essay, not a novel, so don’t try to impress everyone with your wordsmithing. Aim for clarity instead. When you read back what you’ve written, you should be able to clearly understand your argument and convey it in short sentences and paragraphs. If your mind is cluttered, seek clarity elsewhere before diving into your essay—take a walk or spend some time meditating if it helps.

3) Start with a rough draft

Before you write your first draft, think about what you’re going to say. You might want to sketch out some quick ideas before diving in—this process can save you time and trouble later on. Plus, it helps you avoid writer’s block. Once you have a rough idea of what you want to say, start drafting (or writing). Start with an outline if it helps—this is especially effective if your first draft is really rough.

4) Use templates

One of my favorite tools for helping students get started on their essays is The Muse. The online tool provides several templates that I use with my students. They are familiar and comfortable—and once students realize how easy it is to create a template, they begin creating their own!  Here’s what you need to know about using them in your classroom

5) Write from your heart

College essay prompts often require you to express a personal opinion. The easiest way to do that is by writing about something you’re passionate about. Whether it’s what you ate for breakfast or your vision for world peace, write from your heart. When you’re happy with your draft, show it to a friend and ask her what she thinks of it. Does she feel like she knows more about you? Good—that means that essay is hitting its mark!

6) Take breaks

A lot of people try writing without taking breaks, only to feel burnt out and disappointed in their work. To write your best work, you need time away from your essay so that you can come back refreshed and more open-minded. If possible, take a 20-minute break for every hour that you’re working on it. This can help you get things done faster while also avoiding burnout. You should also make sure to leave yourself plenty of time between drafts; many writers like to give themselves at least 24 hours before coming back with fresh eyes.

7) Read and edit for style

There are two main reasons why you should read and edit. First, reading and editing forces you to really understand what it is you’re writing about, which makes it easier for your readers to understand, too. Second, and more importantly, it teaches you how professional writers actually put words on paper. 

8) Share it out loud

Most of us write for ourselves—we write for our own benefit, not because we want anyone else to read it. But when you share your work out loud with others, you’ll likely notice glaring errors that you might have missed if you had just been reading through by yourself. So grab your friends and peers, and have them read what you’ve written aloud. It will be helpful to hear how they interpret it, and maybe even incorporate their feedback into your paper.