I get asked a lot of questions from my students– mostly asking for tips and tricks to writing essays. While there’s no way to avoid doing the work, there are certainly tips and tricks to improve your writing and, in turn, to improve you yourself as a writer.
1. Write more than one draft.
It’s certainly more time-efficient to bang out a draft, staple it together, hand it in, and be done with the assignment. It saves time, but doesn’t save you from submitting an essay riddled with mistakes. Simple grammatical gaffes, like mixing up “your” and “you’re”, can go unnoticed and even more serious ones, like mixing up citations and copy-and-pasting wrong quotes, can fly under the radar if you hand in only your first draft. Thoroughly proofreading your work ensures that you’re not handing in an essay that is full of misspellings, bad grammar, or worse. Realizing your mistakes is the first step to a successful essay, and writing multiple drafts where you can make corrections and tweak your writing will ensure that you’ll be submitting your best work.
2. Have someone else look at it.
In the same way that writing two (or more!) drafts is crucial to writing a good essay, having someone else read your work can give you ideas and insight that you may not have thought of or seen otherwise. This can be your professor, a friend, your roommate, a neighbor, anyone. Giving your paper to an outside reader is essentially what you are doing when submitting your essay to a professor: you’re providing a written argument, explaining your point of view on the subject, and hoping your argument comes across clearly. An outside reader can spot critical errors that might not seen right away and tell you if your argument is explained fully and, most importantly, if what you’re saying makes sense. Through an outsider’s opinion, you can better gauge what your professor’s criticisms might be and (through drafting!) correct them preemptively.
3. Make sure you give yourself enough time.
I know, I know– this is easier said than done. And, sometimes, you’re not given the time to begin with. I have previously covered ways in which to make the most of your time allotted, but all of the above should explain why it’s important to do so. You want to give yourself enough time to complete these important steps in order to hand in an essay that truly shows off your ability. Aside from completing the assignment, you want to prove that you’re a capable student and a good writer. Skimping on these steps can lead to mistakes, which could instead showcase the opposite– that you are careless, rushed, and maybe even lazy.
All in all, these are not tips on “how to write a paper in 90 minutes or less”, or other get-rich-quick schemes. These are instead tools that will, ultimately, show your best work possible and that you are a good and careful writer.