In your work life- you will find yourself ‘writing’ many a time. People around you will be silently noting & checking your written presentation skills. These could be through the reports, formal emails, even love / hate letters & anything that you draft and send. “How to Write an Essay” shall help you in your essay writing endeavors for all times to come. And if you are targeting the WAT i.e. Written Ability Test by IIMs and other B-schools, UPSC, GMAT, GRE, SOPs for US / UK applications etc. this post is all you need!
As a young student you are very likely to get formally evaluated on this skill. Being a Motivational Speaker and Career Counselor, I have observed many examinations over the years and trained students for the same. They test you on Essay writing & presentation skills for the following reasons:
– They are looking for your ability to be logical.
– They want to check your focus & rationality.
– They are, of course, testing your language & writing skills.
– They are also looking at your spontaneous content generation skills.
You are of course, not expected to know it all. But, a decent & well structured representation can still make you stand out (Check out 17 personal essays that will change your life). If you really want to know how to write an essay and be spectacular at it, below are 5 things you can do to make them stellar:
1. Always follow a structure
Remember that you cannot afford to babble in your essay. It has to have a proper chain of thought. Start with an introduction where you brief the examiner about your stand about the topic.
In the following paragraphs, follow a routine. If you are tracing a history, make sure you start from the beginning. If you are making a general commentary, ensure that the paragraphs are distinct and each of them has distinguishable content. Similarly, if you are making an analysis, keep the flow in the same way in which you arrived at the result.
Different kinds of topics will need different treatment. But always, have a structure & stick to it. No need to ponder too much about how to write an essay that makes sense when you have that skeleton in place. As I said, chain of thought counts. Not many have that in their essays 🙂
It will be a good idea to spend the first 2-3 minutes in rough drafting & adding skeleton structure to your points. You may also abbreviate in rough the analogies, the examples & the supporting logic that come to your mind. Then begin writing the formal thing.
2. Keep it clean
Imagine your newspapers without Headlines? No one will want to read them. Similar goes for your essays. It is advisable to follow the similar headline approach in the essays. I am not saying that you actually put a headline. I mean –begin every paragraph with an interesting line which positively eggs the reader to dive further. Have catchy headlines for each paragraph if you can. Depending upon your exam/ situation you may choose to highlight them / underline them too; so that they also catch the examiner’s easy eye.
Using bullets is a good way too. The more your essay looks clean and organized, the more you convey that even if you know very little about the topic (which might happen at times), you are a candidate who likes to be organized & proper with information.
Underlining important parts of the essay also helps. The examiner will surely read them! But, don’t overdo it. If you underline every second line, he will simply trash your essay.
3. Use of language
When writing an essay, don’t use very sophisticated or flowery language. You don’t need to vomit the thesaurus on paper. What they would be looking for is conviction, similar to that of an SOP. It is advisable that you use simple but high impact words that convey your points with clarity.
Your vocabulary need not be very expansive. Simply reading articles on various topics on the newspaper / internet can help you build the required set of words. I would suggest that you read a few essays and go through topics that have generally been asked. Reading for a week or two and then starting to write two essays a day can do wonders to the repertoire of your words. Practice makes a man perfect. Oh wait! Women too 🙂
4. Extra runs
It is not very difficult to score them in an essay, to be very honest. Remember your hindi essays during school time. Weren’t you told to start with a bang? Same gets applied here. The trick to writing a superb essay is to create an awesome beginning! You can try doing that with one of the following:
– A quote.
– An example
– A short story
– A comment
– A question
If placed well, these can do wonders to your essay. You can strategically place them anywhere in your essay. Underline / highlight them & score those extra runs.
Again, having them on your fingertips might be a problem. However, those who have had a habit of reading can sail through this very well. A habit of reading, will always help you write well.
The conclusion is a crucial part of any essay. More often than not, the introduction & the conclusion are the only parts that get read. Even if you put really great content in between, always make sure these two sections sum up your essay very well.
You may end with a quote or a provocative note (as mentioned above). Going through the editorials of some of the reputed national dailies for a week (like The Times of India or The Hindu) or two can really help you spruce up your essay writing abilities.
Last but not the least, have a genuine tone to your writing. The examiner will always find a bit of your character in what you write & in the way you write. Saying more in fewer & powerful words, is an art that gets tested in an essay.
Very importantly- Practice it well. Write at least 10-12 essays (& get them checked from someone who can); before you finally get tested for your final essay. Writing a good essay is an art, a craft that you master with rigorous and continuous practice. It ain’t rocket science. Be it your WAT, essays for UPSC exams, your SOPs for your US/UK applications, the analytical writing section in GRE or the analytical writing assignment (AWA) of GMAT – knock them all right out of the park! And if you have any doubts, please mention them in comments below. I will try my best to answer them.
Strongly recommend you to definitely read the following blogposts on English and Communication:-
- How to crack every Interview that you sit for?
- How to write an SOP?
- How to write a good Resume & CV?
- 7 habits of highly ineffective Communicators
For more such blogs on English, click HERE. And for more blogposts on Careers and Training, click HERE. Work cleverly to become an awesome Communicator & a smart presenter because good communication can take you very far in life. Perceptions matter!