How To Write An Essay – A Complete Guide

Read on if you’re a beginner looking to learn How to Write an Essay for a Competitive Exam or Interview. I have thoroughly discussed essay types, essay outline, introduction, body, and conclusion.
How to write an essay

Quite a few people often come up with these seemingly simple questions: How to write an essay? Why should we write an essay while already progressing in our careers? Are there any benefits of writing an essay?

Actually, an essay is much more than something we wrote at school as part of our English or Science class. As a matter of fact, knowing how to write an essay can decide your success or failure in a career too.

The essays I am talking about aren’t a child’s play by any yardstick. In fact, every single essay written contains something important. However, we can gauge the importance of an essay only when we read one.

And to read an essay, someone needs to write an essay. This someone might be you as well. Hence, I suggest that you read this article right to the end. In this article, I will answer all the common questions including how to write an essay, its importance to your career and the benefits of writing an essay.

I’m sure that most people remain blissfully unaware of the importance of an essay and how to write an essay. This article, therefore, could serve as an educational resource for you.

It’s quite likely that you’ve heard the word essay and have written a few at school or college. But you might not know what is the meaning of an essay. Therefore, in a few words, I will explain what is an essay.

Understanding an Essay

Understanding an essay

Since you wish to know how to write an essay, the first step is, of course, understanding what is an essay. I will explain in detail what is an essay. That would surely provide an idea of how to write an essay.

In simple words, an essay is a short summary or write-up or an article that is based on real-life things, people and experiences. This means the person writing an essay doesn’t have to imagine something.

Instead, they would have some knowledge about the topic and write a few words easily.

Generally, an essay contains between 300 and 500 words only, depending on its use. Students at junior schools usually write an essay of only 200 words because it offers ease of writing.

There’re also cases where an essay could go as much as 750 words, but such instances are fairly rare and are useful in technical cases only. A longer technical essay is usually written to describe something that very few people with proper technical knowledge can understand.

Furthermore, an essay provides ease of reading. It doesn’t consist of complex words. Instead, it is written in a very simple language that even a third-grade or fourth-grade student can easily understand.

In fact, the word essay comes from the late 15th Century French word ‘assay’ which means, to test the quality of something. Therefore, people have to write an essay to prove their knowledge about something.

That’s the main reason an essay is always written with facts such as personal experiences or situations or even about someone such as a great personality.

Uses of an Essay

uses of an essay

The above explanation makes clear the fact that an essay is usually written to prove our knowledge about someplace, event, situation or personality and experiences, among other things. This means, there can be endless topics for writing an essay.

These topics to write an essay generally depend on the use. Here’re some common places where knowing how to write an essay comes in handy.

Schools and Colleges

school & colleges

Schools and colleges around the world use essays as a means to test the knowledge of their students. Teachers ask junior school students to write essays to find their overall knowledge of the language of instruction and a topic.

Older students have to write their experiences or describe what they have learned about something or someone, usually in real-life situations. Most of us learn how to write an essay at school, in our younger days.

Teachers also look for other details such as personality traits and thinking patterns of students, from the essays they write.

Visa Applications

visa application

Certain countries that receive a large number of immigrants such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, among others, require the applicant to write an essay about themselves and their plans or skills.

Their governments ask for such essays to know about the visa applicant’s English language skills as well as find out what they can do upon arrival, to join the workforce and contribute positively to their national economy.

Persons seeking work visas for certain countries also have to give an essay with their visa application, for some countries. That is to find whether the worker would eventually become an illegal migrant and a burden to the host country.

Job Applications

job application

As a Human Resources professional, I ask all job applicants, regardless of their experience, skills and education levels, to write an essay about themselves or their achievements in life.

That’s because I wish to gauge their communications skills, comprehension of the work and awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses. In fact, an essay provides excellent insights into the overall personality of job seeker and their thinking patterns.

Since essays deal with real life, there’s not much scope for fudging or writing imaginary stuff. Therefore, don’t be surprised if your employer asks you to write an essay as part of the interview or aptitude tests while applying for a job.

Tests for College Entrance

college entrance test

A lot of colleges in the US and elsewhere ask students to write an essay to find out their knowledge about their chosen field of study and their ambitions. In fact, failing to give a good essay can also mean losing a seat at that college and setting back a career.

Most foreign students in the US, the UK and other top education destinations have to give an essay along with their application for a seat at the college or university. In such cases, an essay is useful to assess the overall aptitude of a student to do the course, before granting admission.

An essay also indicates whether the student knows about that field of study and why they’re interested in that specialization.

Military Service

Entrance Exams for Public Services

Around the world, persons that wish to join military services such as army, navy, air force, special forces or nuclear forces have to write an essay. They have to write about their own reasons to select a career in the military.

This helps selectors to shortlist persons with the best communication skills and proper objectives for joining the toughest services in the world.

While physical fitness and mental alertness are also important to joining any of the services of armed forces, clear objectives indicate motivation and proper communication skills ensure there’s no ambiguity over anything at a later date.

Selectors could ask for an essay either during the written tests or as part of the overall assessment of a candidate for military service.

Creating Awareness

create awarenes

Essays are useful in creating awareness about a place, situation, thing or person. We have wonderful essays written by some of the best essayists in the world such as George Orwell, TS Elliott and Ralph Waldo Emerson, to name a few.

These essayists created awareness about their experiences in life or social injustice, the need for freedom from colonial rule and various other things as a means of inspiring people.

Unfortunately, essays also become a tool for propaganda against someone. Nazi criminals such as Dr Josef Goebbels had essays written to find support for Adolf Hitler’s regime and the Holocaust.

These essays were written on distorted or incorrect facts given by the Nazi rulers and not reality, as they existed during the Second World War.

Entrance Exams for Public Services

Military Service

Persons that wish to apply for jobs in public services of various governments also have to write an essay as part of their entrance exams. India is one such country where even persons appearing for the prestigious Indian Administrative Services (IAS) exams have to write a full essay of 300 to 500 words based on any general knowledge topic and current affairs.

Marks from this essay feature in their final results and scoring low can disqualify a person from becoming a senior administrator in the Indian government.

In such cases, the essay helps examiners in knowing the command of the specific language and the general knowledge of the candidate. It also gives some insights into the thought pattern of the aspiring bureaucrat.

Hobby

hobby

Just in case you’re unaware, there’re countless people in the world who write an essay merely as a hobby. They write a short essay about some interesting experience, their thoughts about something or even certain situations- both good and bad- that affect them personally.

By itself, writing is a superb hobby. The physical act of writing helps you to relieve stress. Additionally, writing helps to improve your focus and concentration, much more than conventional meditation.

Writing an essay also helps in developing a strong vocabulary. Since essays are generally short- between 300 and 500 words only, these hobby writers make sure they write an essay at least twice or thrice a week, if not daily. Some essayists have actually become writers too.

Compiling a Book

compile a book

There’re several essays by famous and lesser-known writers that have made it to some of the bestselling books in the world. These books have made writers such as TS Elliott and George Orwell fairly famous too.

The concept and basic idea for several books of legendary French writer, Jules Verne came from essays he wrote during childhood about his experiences after watching the ocean and gazing at the moon.

Books with a collection of essays are favourite among frequent travellers that travel for long hours on trains or aircraft. Since essays are short, it’s possible to complete reading one while commuting or travelling or even as a pastime. In fact, if you wish to learn to read fast, try reading essays as a beginner.

Romance

romance

Not many people are aware of the fact that essays are also written and exchanged by lovers. In fact, some of these famous essays have found their mention or have been adapted and assimilated in great works such as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, by legendary playwright, Shakespeare.

Of course, these essays were written by real-life couples and based on their experiences of missing one another or excitement before a meeting.

As a matter of fact, some so-called ‘love letters’ of yesteryears that were exchanged secretly are also essays written by moonstruck women and men, to their lovers.

These essays provided writers with valuable insights on how a woman or man in love perceives things related to their partner, nature, life and other things they deal with on a day-to-day basis in reality.

What Does This Mean?

This means that essays are useful in almost every part of our lives. Whether you write an essay as a hobby or to convey your feelings to a partner or spouse, essays are important. And of course, they’re important for your career as well.

It is also one of the best ways to earn a lot of money by writing essays. If you’re good at writing, it’s possible to open your own blog and upload amazing essays online for everyone to read. Or, you could compile your own essays and publish them through Kindle Desktop Publishing to become an author.

Therefore, writing an essay well can serve a lot of purposes in your life. They can serve as a superb resource for entertainment when you read or write essays. Or you can open doors to an amazing career by writing essays for your job application or college entrance or any qualifying exams.

In simple terms, this means, you should learn how to write a good essay at any point in time. Since essays are written with first-hand experience or even your own thoughts and feelings, you really don’t need a vivid imagination or a good topic. You can start with any topic that comes to your mind.

Now, let’s proceed to see the various types of essays that are common in the world.

Common Types of Essays

Since we’re now aware of the importance of essays and their uses, let’s see what’re the different kinds of essays that we could write. Depending on which school of thought you follow, there are anything from four to 10 different styles of writing an essay.

However, realistically speaking, there’re five main types of essays that you could write. Knowing these different types of essays helps to learn how to write an essay.

1. Argumentative Essay

As the term implies, this essay presents both, the pros and cons of something. This means you could be supporting or opposing some specific action or cause such as environment protection or price increase.

Obviously, both have some positive sides and negative sides. In an argumentative essay, you write both sides and argue about why something is right and present what’s wrong.

These essays made some of the older essayists fighting for a justified cause, very famous in their own countries as well as abroad. You can write these essays on simpler things such as the pros and cons of air travel or a rail journey or anything that merits the presentation of both sides.

2. Descriptive Essay

Descriptive essays are generally the types we wrote at school, after returning from a field trip, vacation or even a picnic. The first and foremost requirement to write a descriptive essay is a personal experience.

You can’t and shouldn’t even attempt writing a descriptive essay based on someone else’s perceptions or experience. Usually, a descriptive essay contains your own experience and views about anything.

It could something as common as buying groceries from your neighbourhood store to an encounter with alien beings from another planet. This essay is written in a manner by which the reader can make a mental image of the place or situation or a product or service or just about anything. It takes the reader to become a participant in your experience.

3. Persuasive Essay

Persuasion is a skill that very few people have. And those who can persuade are either sales and marketing staff or senior managers at a company. That’s because it’s not easy to persuade someone to take a specific action or buy a particular product or try a certain experience.

Therefore, a persuasive essay is written in a manner that actually persuades a person to do something that you believe would be good. Essays written for selling products and services, romantic essays, business-related essays and political essays are written in this format.

A persuasive essay carries only the plus points about the topic while minus points or negative ones remain hidden for the reader to figure out on their own. Essays for propaganda also come under this broad category.

4. Expository Essay

When you need to present an unbiased view about something, that is, without adding your own opinion, the best essay to write is an expository essay. This means you’re simply speaking with words from a totally neutral perspective.

You’re neither supporting something nor opposing something. An example of an Expository Essay is, that if you’re writing about the city of Boulder in Colorado, you wouldn’t write about your own perceptions of the place.

Instead, you would be writing only the basic facts as they exist, according to what you know. These essays are generally written while describing a personality, for example, George Washington, the first president of the US.

No human in our times has met a great leader and nor can they expect to meet. However, we can read about his life and write an essay based on facts, as we know.

5. Narrative Essay

Narrative essays are somewhat similar to descriptive essays. However, they differ in the sense that you’ll be writing a narrative essay in the first person. You would be writing this essay in a manner like you’re narrating a story or some incident to the reader.

Example of the Narrative Essay: If you go on a holiday in Asia and wish to write about some experience there, use the narrative style. You can begin by narrating the experience from the time you landed at an airport or arrived at a port.

And give more details about a single experience that you had there. Another example is your experience in writing about something that you use. Obviously, you would have your own experience and narrating it could help other buyers.

Generally, book reviews, and product and food reviews are written in this form of essay writing.

Eulogies As Form of Essay

There’s some debate in literary circles about whether a eulogy can be considered an essay. For those who’re unaware of the term, I will explain a bit more.

A eulogy is generally written upon the death of a person. It could be some great leader or scientist or any other prominent personality. Or, it could be just a close friend or relative whom we knew for some period of time, personally.

Generally, a eulogy is used as a short speech to praise the dead person and their life. It serves as a homage to the deceased person and their achievements and qualities.

While a eulogy is primarily read as a speech during the funeral, it is often published in newspapers or other periodicals as a tribute to someone who is no more.

It is written using descriptive and persuasive styles because the person making the eulogy wishes to impress upon those present, the fine qualities of a person while conveying the loss they feel over their death.

Some literary figures believe that a eulogy doesn’t qualify as an essay because it is more of a speech rather than a written document like an essay. Others argue that a eulogy is an essay that’s readout as a speech.

Personally, I have no opinion over this debate. At the same time, I will say that it does make sense to write a eulogy in the form of an essay and only read it out during a funeral, by adding the appropriate etiquette at these sombre events.

How to Write an Essay?

Armed with all the basic knowledge to write an essay? If not, I suggest that you read the above descriptions again, before proceeding to read how to write an essay.

That’s because all the information that I provided above will prove useful as you read along, now.

Here we go.

1. Define the Purpose of the Essay

Define the purpose

The first and foremost step to write an essay lies in defining the exact purpose. Are you writing an essay as a hobby or to persuade someone? Is it for a job application or for college and university admission?

Unless you define the purpose of an essay, it could prove very difficult to write. Each form of essay can be used to write one for any purpose. At the same time, your essay needs to address the main purpose too.

This means, your objectives for writing an essay should be very clear to you.

Obviously, this isn’t a difficult task. You would definitely know beforehand, why you’re writing an essay. But the toughest part comes when selecting any of the five styles of writing an essay: narrative, persuasive, expository, descriptive or argumentative? Ask yourself, how would you like to present the essay to finalize the style.

The best way to find this out is to judge your own knowledge about the topic. If you have sufficient knowledge, use the argumentative style because it shows you are aware of both sides of the proverbial coin.

But if you’re not very familiar with the subject, use the descriptive style of writing the essay. In such cases, the idea is to impress the reader with your knowledge, regardless of how much you know about a specific subject.

2. Read Instructions Carefully

read instruction carefully

Writing an essay for school or college or even for a job application can be relatively easy. That’s because there are no specific guidelines to write, except very general ones.

Yet, when it comes to writing an essay for college admissions, scholarships, visa applications or specific purposes, things could go difficult. That’s because such essays generally have to follow very clear rules that a college or some organization specifies.

Unless you meet their guidelines for an essay, your applications could fail miserably.

The first thing to do in such cases is to read the instructions provided by the organization or entity that wants you to write an essay. Broadly speaking, these kinds of essays are persuasive essays. That’s because you’re requesting something from someone.

Therefore, you need to persuade the person that reads your essay, that you merit getting what you’re asking such as a seat at a specific college or a visa to travel somewhere for work or a scholarship.

This essay actually is like marketing yourself to the reader. In some cases, it could be more than a single person that reads the essay and hence, you would have to persuade everyone on a panel, such as in the cases of scholarships.

3. General Knowledge is Important

general knowledge

I always tell persons that wish to write anything from content for a blog to technical manuals, that their general knowledge is the best resource. That’s because we acquire general knowledge during our daily and routine activities, without the need to go to a school or college.

General knowledge doesn’t exist in encyclopedias, as most persons believe. Nor can it be learned overnight. General knowledge comes from years of silent observation of things around us, comprehending what’s happening and sometimes being an overall part of life itself.

Therefore, the best way to write an essay is by creating a blend of what you’re reading with general knowledge. Any essay purely written on bookish information and lack of general knowledge isn’t even worth a scrap of paper.

As I mentioned earlier, general knowledge comes from your own understanding of things while an essay is a presentation of your knowledge of those things.

Hence, I would encourage you to read newspapers, magazines, books and periodicals o even watch educative TV shows to sharpen your general knowledge to write essays.

4. Avoid Complex Words

avoid complex

One of the basic rules of writing an essay is avoiding complex words. I mean, the reader of your essay shouldn’t be reaching for a dictionary to find the meaning of some word that you’re using.

In fact, your essay should be written in a manner that even a fourth-grade or fifth-grade student in the US or elsewhere in the world can understand easily. That’s because one of the main purposes of an essay is to present your knowledge and information.

Unless it is understood by anyone that reads your essay, all efforts to project the knowledge and information you possess, will prove futile.

When you’re writing an essay, you’re writing to get the message across that you know something. Writing an essay isn’t a call to competition. Therefore, there’s no need to show off your vocabulary and linguistic skills while writing an essay.

However, I do appreciate that certain people could find it difficult to write an essay in simple words when they already know complex ones. If you’re among these people, I suggest that you use a dictionary and thesaurus. That’s better than asking your reader to search for one.

A dictionary and thesaurus contain easier words.

5. Think Like the Reader

think like reader

Why would anyone want to read your essay? Of course, to gain some knowledge, assess your skills or find the level of your knowledge, while getting some insights into your personality. Therefore, think like the person that would most likely read your essays.

For example, if you’re writing an essay for a visa interview, you would have to think about what you would look for as a consular official in the essay.

And if you’re applying for college admissions where an essay is necessary, try and imagine what a member of the admissions board or committee would be looking for from your essay.

When we think from the reader’s perspective, it’s much easier to write an essay. That’s because we’re giving the reader what they wish to read, from your essay.

This simple tweak always works wonders. Firstly, it helps you to focus on writing only a few points and secondly, you can speak at length about these points, within the set limits of 300 to 500 words only per essay.

6. Research the Subject

research

Obviously, your general knowledge wouldn’t always be sufficient to write an essay. That’s because things around us are always changing. And then we have different viewpoints about different things in life.

Therefore, use your general knowledge as the foundation and start researching the subject of the essay. Nowadays, doing research is very easy, thanks to the Internet and smartphones.

There’re a couple of pitfalls that you could avoid while researching any subject. The first major problem you would find while doing research is the overdose of information. This tends to distract you from the essential things that you wish to know for writing an essay.

Secondly, unless you know the proper sources for researching information for the essay subject, it’s easy to find lots of misleading stuff or even incorrect info. Therefore, the best thing that anyone can do is to look for authentic information from websites that deal with the subject.

Reading blogs is the surest way to fail at essay writing because several bloggers simply compile information rather than writing it from their own experience or general knowledge.

7. Finalize Key Points to Write

finalise key points to write

When you combine general knowledge and research, you are fairly ready to write an essay. Now, you could face another major problem. And that is, not knowing where to write or what to write, despite having enough information to use.

Therefore, the best thing to do in these situations is to finalize the key points to write. Go through the information that you have. Try to think from the perspective of the reader and what would they love to read from your essay.

Based on this, finalize the key points that you wish to write in an essay. These can be sorted on basis of relevance to the reader and importance to you.

To give you an example, one reader may wish to know about the achievements of George Washington as the first president of the US. The other might wish to learn about his contribution in the War of Independence.

But you could want to focus on his overall career. Therefore, focus on overall career while highlighting the role in the War of Independence and contributions to the USA as its first president.

8. Use Wit and Humor

use wit & humour

What elements would make your essay stand apart from others? What new information would you provide others are unaware of?

In my opinion, there’re very few topics under the sun where you could write an essay about something that actually teaches something new to people unless it has something to do with a Martian spacecraft or finding treasure under your kitchen sink.

Therefore, look for ways and means that would set your essay apart from the others. This makes your essay interesting and keeps readers craving for more. One of the best ways to do so is by adding wit and humour to your essays.

Rather than writing an essay merely providing some information, try making it interesting to read. That way, you’re presenting the same info again, but in a much more readable and reader-friendly style.

You could study some of the superb essays written by great humorists and satirists. They contain a lot of wit and humour. These great writers used humour and wit to drive home their point and appeal to a broader audience of readers.

It’s possible to do that with your essays too if you take the effort.

9. Structure an Essay

structure an essay

Let’s consider that you have all the elements necessary to write an essay. However, there’s one more important element that you need to know and develop over a span of time. That is, How to structure an essay?

Your essay shouldn’t look like a loosely assembled collection of words providing information in different patches. In fact, an essay should provide a seamless transition from one point to the other, if you want those efforts to make any significant impact on the reader.

Here’s how to structure an essay.

>> An Introduction

The intro or introduction is the opening paragraph of the essay. An introduction of the essay is the most important paragraph because a reader will usually judge whether or not to read further, depending on how you present the few opening lines.

Therefore, start your introduction with something unique that you know about something. This can be used in all five forms of essay writing. Your introduction has to be appealing enough to attract the reader to read the next 300 to 500 words.

Ideally, the introduction should be between 50 words and 80 words only for a 300-word essay. You can stretch it to 100 words if you’re writing a 500-word essay.

>> The Body

The body paragraph of an essay is where you will be writing the bulk of your essay. In a 300-word essay, you could allot about 200 words for the body. In a 500-word essay, you can safely give at least 350 words to the body.

That’s because the body paragraph of an essay is where you will impress the reader with your knowledge about the subject. To write the body of the essay, prioritize the most important things first. That also means, writing the things that you actually know.

You can give fewer words while writing about any element where you don’t have much knowledge.  This style of writing the body text of an essay serves two purposes.

Firstly, you can write an essay immediately, with basic knowledge and without the need to do research. Secondly, you can cover your grey patches about anything by highlighting the info that you have while leaving out points that you don’t know about or have limited knowledge of.

>> The Conclusion

The conclusion of the essay should always be smooth. It should be a summary of your intro and the body. That way, you’re not leaving the reader in the dark.

For example, if you’re writing a narrative essay about a picnic, you could end the essay with words expressing hope that the reader would have a similar experience.

And if you’re writing an expository essay, simply conclude with a couple of lines that highlight the main elements from the introduction and the body texts.

The conclusion of an essay should not exceed more than 50 words in cases of a 300-word essay and definitely not more than 50 words in case of a 500-word essay too. A conclusion is always short because you’re already making your point in the first two parts of the essay.

10. Transition Words

Use a few transition words while switching from one theme to the other. This provides the reader with a smoother reading experience. It also prevents your essay from appearing like patches of information compiled together loosely. Transition words bring in the much-needed continuity between various paras and sentences.

11. Read and Revise

read & revise

Invariably, all of us write an essay and later regret that we forgot to add a specific point or element. Or, that the introduction could have been better or we could have given a better conclusion.

This is easy to avoid. Simply read and revise your essay. While doing so, you would be able to recollect pieces of information that you overlooked while writing the essay. If such info is important and adds value to the essay, go ahead and make the necessary changes.

Wrap Up

This guide would help you write amazing essays. However, I will caution that using these steps isn’t really as simple as it looks. In fact, some of the things would require hard effort before you can actually begin writing in those styles.

Therefore, I suggest that you start writing essays using all the five styles that I mention and using the various tips and tweaks I have given in this guide on how to write an essay.

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