Writing A How To Essay

  • 1

    Wait a day or so and re-read your essay. Get your essay done a couple of days before the due date so that you have time to go back and revise it to make it polished. Avoid turning in a first draft that you haven't double-checked for errors.

  • 2

    Correct errors related to grammar, punctuation and spelling. Consult a style book if you are unsure how to properly use quotation marks, colons, semicolons, apostrophes or commas. Avoid using exclamation points.

  • 3

    Check your statements.
    • Look for mistakes involving than/then, your/you're, its/it's, etc. Make sure you know how to use apostrophes correctly.
    • Look for mistakes involving general punctuation. Check for run-on sentences, commas and periods inside quotation marks, as well as sparely-used dashes, colons, and semi-colons.
  • 4

    Remove any repetitive or unnecessary words.Vary your language with the help of a thesaurus. Also, consult a dictionary to make sure that you're using unfamiliar words correctly.
    • At the same time, try to keep your language short, sweet, and to the point. A thesaurus is a great tool, but don't just use big words to sound fancy. The best essays are clear, concise, and easily understood by a wide audience.
    • Focus on writing killer verbs for sentences. Verbs communicate the action in a sentence and drive the action. A great verb can be the difference between a bland sentence and a beautiful one.
    • Use adjectives lightly. Adjectives are great descriptive words, but when used indiscriminately, they can burden an essay and make it less readable. Try to let the verbs and nouns do most of the heavy lifting before you focus on adjectives.
  • 5

    Avoid colloquial (informal) writing. Do not use contractions or abbreviations (e.g., don't, can't, won't, shouldn't, could've, or haven't). Your essay should have a serious tone, even if it's written in a light or lyrical style.

  • 6

    Analyze how your essay flows. Does each sentence lead smoothly to the next? Does each paragraph flow logically to the next? Good connections will help your ideas to flow:
    • When events happen in sequence: I first started to realize that I was in the minority when I was in middle school...My realization was confirmed when I proceeded to high school.
    • If sentences elaborate on each other: Plants need water to survive...A plant's ability to absorb water depends on the nutrition of the soil.
    • When an idea contrasts with another idea: Vegetarians argue that land is unnecessarily wasted by feeding animals to be eaten as food...Opponents argue that land being used for grazing would not be able to be used to create any other kind of food.
    • If you're relaying a cause and effect relationship: I will be the first person in my family to graduate from college...I am inspired to continue my family's progress through the generations.
    • When connecting similar ideas: Organic food is thought to be better for the environment . . . local food is believed to achieve the same goals.
  • 7

    Cut information that's not specifically related to your topic. You don't want your essay to ramble off-topic. Any information that doesn't directly or indirectly support your thesis should be cut out.

  • 8

    Have someone read your paper aloud to you, or record yourself reading it aloud and play it back. Your ears are sometimes better than your eyes at picking up mistakes in language. The essay should sound like it has a good flow and understandable words.

  • 9

    Rewrite any problematic body passages. If needed, rearrange sentences and paragraphs into a different order. Make sure that both your conclusion and introduction match the changes that you make to the body.

  • Essay Writing for Standardized Tests: Tips for Writing a Five Paragraph Essay

    Most, if not all, high school and college standardized tests include a writing portion. Students are provided a writing prompt and must then write an essay on the topic. Writing for standardized tests can strike fear in the hearts and minds of students of all ages, but it doesn’t have to. If you know what to expect and understand how to write a five paragraph essay, you will be prepared to tackle any essay writing prompt.

    Types of Essays on Standardized Tests

    When you begin to write your essay for a standardized test, you must first decide what type of essay you are being asked to write. There are many different types of essays, including narrative, expository, argumentative, persuasive, comparative, literary, and so on. The type of essay will determine your topic and thesis. Essays for standardized tests are typically either persuasive, in which you will answer a question, or literary, in which you will write about something you read.

    For standardized tests, students usually have to write a five paragraph essay, which should be 500 to 800 words long and include an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs and a concluding paragraph.

    The First Paragraph: The Introduction

    The first paragraph will introduce your topic. The introduction is the most important paragraph because it provides direction for the entire essay. It also sets the tone, and you want to grab the reader’s attention with interest and clarity. The best way to tackle the introduction is to:

    • Describe your main idea, or what the essay is about, in one sentence. You can usually use the essay writing prompt or question to form this sentence.
    • Develop a thesis statement, or what you want to say about the main idea. When the writing prompt is a question, your thesis is typically the answer to the question.
    • List three points or arguments that support your thesis in order of importance (one sentence for each).

    Voila! You’ve just written your introductory paragraph.

    The Second, Third and Fourth Paragraphs: Supporting Details

    These three paragraphs form the body of the essay. They provide details, such as facts, quotes, examples and concrete statistics, for the three points in your introductory paragraph that support your thesis. Take the points you listed in your introduction and discuss each in one body paragraph. Here’s how:

    • First, write a topic sentence that summarizes your point. This is the first sentence of your paragraph.
    • Next, write your argument, or why you feel the topic sentence is true.
    • Finally, present your evidence (facts, quotes, examples, and statistics) to support your argument.

    Now you have a body paragraph. Repeat for points two and three. The best part about introducing your main points in the first paragraph is that it provides an outline for your body paragraphs and eliminates the need to write in transitions between paragraphs.

    The Fifth Paragraph: The Conclusion

    The concluding paragraph must summarize the essay. This is often the most difficult paragraph to write. In your conclusion, you should restate the thesis and connect it with the body of the essay in a sentence that explains how each point supports the thesis. Your final sentence should uphold your main idea in a clear and compelling manner. Be sure you do not present any new information in the conclusion.

    Parting Thoughts

    When writing an essay for a standardized test, outline your essay and get through each paragraph as quickly as possible. Think of it as a rough draft. When your time is up, a complete essay will score more points than an incomplete essay because the evaluator is expecting a beginning, middle and an end.

    If you have time to review your essay before your time is up, by all means do so! Make any revisions that you think will enhance your “rough draft” and be sure to check for any grammatical errors or misspellings.

    Online instruction like  the Time4Writing essay writing courses for elementary, middle and high school students can help children prepare for state and college-entrance standardized writing tests. These interactive writing classes build basic writing skills, explain essay types and structure, and teach students how to organize their ideas.

    For general tips on test preparation and details about each state’s standardized tests, please visit our standardized test overview page.

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