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Two Secrets to a Better Essay

Back to School time means essay writing time. My guess is that most students, regardless of level, will be assigned some essay topic about your summer in the next coming weeks. For primary grades it might be a short paragraph about your summer. For secondary grades it might be about summer reading.

Regardless, start your school year with the two secrets to a better essay:

1) Make Your Point Clear: next time you are faced with an essay, think about who will read your essay. Put yourselves in their shoes and ask, “what number one point do I want the reader to understand?” Also known as your thesis, your main point should be very clear from the first sentence to the last. The worst type of essay is the one where the reader asks herself, “what did I just read?” Ouch! Ensure that your reader will walk away from your essay understanding your point very clearly. If you are writing about your summer vacation, make it clear how you spent your vacation. Was it fun? Boring? Short? Long? Whatever it was, make your point as clear as day. If you are writing on deeper subjects, like your summer reading, make sure your main point is the most obvious argument or statement in the essay. It never hurts to repeat your main point several times in a given piece.

2) Use Concrete Examples: I wrote about how a good essay is a “C” in a previous post. In this example, C was for concrete. The more concrete your essay, the more powerful the message. Trying to communicate that your summer was boring? Well, it’s one thing to say it was boring. It’s another thing to describe how your mind endlessly idled in a holding pattern while channel surfing through Judge Judy reruns on afternoon television programming. Or if you need to argue a point from a summer reading book, make sure you pull actual evidence from your story to paint a concrete picture of your point. For example, if you want to argue that Animal Farm is an allegory for the Russian Revolution, then use excerpts from the book to specifically connect actions and descriptions of Napoleon the pig to similar actions and descriptions of Stalin.

If you make your point clear and use concrete examples, your essay writing will drastically improve. Sure there are other things you can work on–like grammar, structure and vocabulary–but if you start with a clear point supported with concrete examples, your Back to School essays might cause your teacher to think you spent all summer studying!

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