How to Write Better Essays

Writing essays can be challenging for many students, particularly when they encounter higher academic expectations, complex topics, and the necessity for independent research and critical thinking. However, with the right ‘know-how’, anyone can learn to write better essays and ace their next assignment. So, what’s the secret? Top-notch essays demonstrate clarity, structure, and engagement. Wait a minute! These characteristics are also fundamental to high-ranking web pages. Therefore, let’s leverage Search Engine Optimisation practices to write better essays. As a lecturer at a prestigious UK university, I can attest to the effectiveness of the practical strategies and expert tips outlined in this guide, as evidenced by the success of numerous students in attaining first-class grades. So, let’s dive in!

How to Write an Academic Essay (Tips for University Students)

Write Better Essays by Using SEO Practices

SEO optimises web content to enhance its visibility and ranking in search engine results. So, incorporating the same strategies into your essay writing can dramatically improve clarity, structure, and engagement (and your result!). How? Because SEO techniques emphasise well-organised content, helping you write better essays with clear introductions, well-defined body paragraphs, and convincing conclusions. Essentially, engaging content (encouraged by SEO) makes your essays more readable, helping readers follow your argument. Just as SEO aims to create quality content that meets user needs, applying these methods to essay writing ensures your work is relevant, informative, and compelling, thus boosting your essay’s overall quality (and grade!).

Strategies and Tips to Write Better Essays

Now that we’ve outlined the significance of SEO in essay writing. Here’s a list of practical strategies and expert tips to help you write better essays.

1. Write Readable Text

Writing readable text can enhance clarity, comprehension, and engagement, thus improving your essay writing. Here’s how to do it:

  • Clarity is key. Simplify language and avoid confusing jargon to ensure clarity and understanding for your readers.
  • Chunk it up. Break down dense paragraphs into shorter (see below), more digestible chunks to make your text easier to read and comprehend.
  • Smooth transitions. Use clear transitions between ideas by using transition words (see below) to maintain flow and coherence throughout your writing.
  • Paint a picture. Engage your readers with vivid descriptions, relevant examples, and compelling storytelling to captivate their interest and enhance readability.
  • Structure matters. Prioritise the formatting and development of your ideas by integrating headings, subheadings, bullet points, and visual cues (where necessary). These elements will help guide readers through the text and enhance navigation.

To simplify the process, use a free online readability checker to enhance the readability of your essay: https://originality.ai/readability-checker/.

2. Use Active Voice

Writing in an active voice enhances your essays, making them clear, direct, and engaging (i.e., better). For example:

  • Position the subject first. Ensure that the subject precedes the verb in your sentences to maintain an active voice. For example, “The student wrote the essay.” Rather than, “The essay was written by the student.”
  • Use strong verbs. Choose persuasive, action-oriented verbs (e.g., achieve, create, analyse, influence, inspire, etc.) to convey meaning and emphasise the action.

In short, active voice results in more straightforward sentences, improving clarity and comprehension for the reader. So, use a grammar-checking tool like Grammarly to help highlight passive sentences, prompting you to rewrite them in an active voice. Alternatively, you can detect examples of passive voice in your work using this free tool: https://datayze.com/passive-voice-detector.

3. Start Consecutive Sentences With Different Words

Starting consecutive sentences with the same word makes text awkward to read and repetitive. It also breaks the rhythm of your storytelling, deterring readers from engaging with your work. Therefore, to make your writing more engaging, avoid using the same word to start consecutive sentences.

4. Write Shorter Paragraphs

Paragraphs of suitable length enhance your text’s readability by breaking it into manageable and comprehensible segments. Consequently, readers can understand your text more easily. In addition, follow these tips to write shorter paragraphs:

  • Focus on a single idea. Each paragraph should convey a single well-defined point to maintain clarity and conciseness.
  • Limit sentence count. Aim for paragraphs containing no more than five to six sentences (i.e., about 250 words) to prevent them from becoming overly lengthy.
  • Use transition sentences. Use transition sentences to move smoothly between paragraphs, allowing you to break up longer paragraphs into smaller, more readable segments.
  • Break at logical points. Break paragraphs at logical points, such as when introducing a new subtopic or transitioning to a new idea, to maintain coherence and flow.
  • Trim redundancy. Remove redundant or unnecessary information to streamline paragraphs and keep them focused on the main point.
  • Consider the reader’s attention span. Accept that readers may lose focus with lengthy paragraphs, so aim to keep them short.

4. Write Shorter Sentences

Longer sentences are more difficult to read than shorter sentences. To avoid someone’s mind wandering off—write shorter sentences! If more than 25% of your sentences are longer than 20 words—shorten them. Let’s explore how:

  • Use simple words. Opt for simple and direct words instead of lengthy or complicated ones.
  • Break up long sentences. Split long sentences into two or more shorter ones to enhance your essay’s readability.
  • Eliminate redundancy. Remove unnecessary words or phrases that do not add value to the sentence.
  • Use punctuation wisely. Utilise periods to break up thoughts rather than relying on commas to extend sentences.
  • Read aloud. Reading your sentences aloud can help identify where they may be too long.
  • Edit ruthlessly. Be willing to revise and cut down sentences during editing to improve clarity and brevity.

To write better essays, use this free tool to check your sentence lengths for improved readability: https://nav.computercomity.com/essay_sen_len_checker.html.

5. Use Transition Words

Transition words show your reader the relationship between sentences or paragraphs. So, use them to make it easier for your reader to understand how your thoughts and ideas are connected, enhancing storytelling! Here’s what to do:

  • Understand transition types. Learn different types of transition words, such as those for addition (e.g., furthermore, moreover), contrast (e.g., however, on the other hand), and conclusion (e.g., therefore, thus).
  • Use transitions to connect ideas. Use transition words to connect your ideas and ensure a logical flow between sentences and paragraphs, enhancing storytelling. Moreover, choose transition words that accurately reflect the relationship between your ideas or points.
  • Vary your transitions. Avoid repetition by varying the transition words and phrases you use throughout your essay. Additionally, using too many can make your writing seem mechanical. Balance their use to maintain a natural flow.
  • Position transitions strategically. Place transition words at the beginning or middle of a sentence to indicate the relationship between ideas.
  • Practice reading aloud. Lastly, read your essay aloud to ensure the transition words contribute to a smooth and coherent flow of ideas.

Check if you use enough transition words in your essays here: https://app.readable.com/text/transition.

6. Write Better Essays by Creating a Coherent Essay Structure

Just as SEO promotes coherent structure in web content, essays should also prioritise clarity and organisation. For academic essays, follow this structure:

  • Introduction: The first paragraph should include:
    • Background Information: Provide context related to the essay topic.
    • Hook: Engage your audience and draw them into the topic.
    • Thesis Statement: Clearly state your main argument or position on the topic and place it at the end of the introduction.
  • Body Paragraphs: These paragraphs provide evidence, analysis, and critical thinking to support the thesis statement. Each body paragraph should include:
    • Topic Sentence: Express the main point of the paragraph.
    • Supporting Sentences: Provide relevant details or explanations to elaborate on the main idea.
    • Closing/Transition Sentence: Summarise the paragraph’s main idea and create a smooth transition to the next one. Good linkage between paragraphs helps to develop your argument cohesively.
  • Conclusion: The final paragraph should:
    • Summarise the main points of the essay.
    • Offer a final thought or call to action, inspiring enthusiasm or changing how readers think about the topic.

7. Cite Credible Sources

Before writing, conduct thorough research using reputable references such as academic journals and scholarly books. Additionally, take notes and maintain a record of your sources. By crafting your essay from these notes, you’ll mitigate the risk of plagiarism, a common issue when students rely solely on primary sources.

Write Better Essays by Understanding the Marking Criteria

To help you pay closer attention to your reader’s needs and write better essays, remember:

Satisfactory essays (i.e., those awarded 2. ii) show:

  • Relevant knowledge of the topic.
  • Limited evidence of critical evaluation.
  • Unclear structure and is clumsily written.

Good essays (i.e., those awarded 2. i) show:

  • Strong knowledge and understanding of the topic.
  • Evidence of analysis using ideas/principles introduced in the module.
  • Coherent structure and is mostly legible.

Excellent essays (i.e., those awarded 1st) show:

  • Up-to-date knowledge and understanding of the topic beyond the course materials.
  • Evidence of analysis using ideas/principles beyond those introduced in the module (i.e., creates new knowledge).
  • Clear structure, logical and easy to read and follow.

Note. Before writing your essay, ensure you follow the guidelines provided by your instructor or institution.

Summary

Incorporating SEO practices into essay writing can help students develop essential writing skills for academic success. Writing with good readability encourages students to:

  1. Express ideas clearly and concisely, enhancing their overall writing ability.
  2. Use varied and appropriate vocabulary to convey their thoughts effectively.
  3. Create compelling and engaging content for their audience.

Remember, essays that are easier to read and understand are more likely to earn higher grades. So, improve your essays by focusing on readability. Just as Google rewards quality web content with higher rankings, your readers (i.e., assessors) will appreciate the clarity and reward you with higher grades.

Lastly, if you’re striving for better grades, don’t forget to check out my other pedagogy guides!

Did you find this study guide helpful? If so, please like and share. Thank you!

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