Tips for Writing a Great Essay

If you struggle with writing essays, whether it be for an assignment or a test, this post is for you!

In my last post, Different Types of Essays, I wrote about the various essays you will encounter throughout your academic career. Therefore, I thought it was fitting to write this post for you.

For many, writing an essay can be a daunting task. A lot of time and dedication goes into writing a great one. If you fail to plan ahead, your mark will unfortunately reflect your lack of preparation.

Here are some tips I’ve found useful for writing a successful essay:

Understand the question

Understanding instructions is the most crucial part of writing any essay. Make sure to highlight key words in the question that indicate what type of essay you are expected to write. As explained in my previous post, some examples of key words are ‘compare’, ‘contrast’, ‘explain’, ‘evaluate’, and ‘persuade’. Next, be sure to identify any limiting words that focus your discussion on the topic.

Pick a topic

There will be times when your teacher will give you essay topics to choose from. If you are free to pick a topic, choose one that interests you and that you know a thing or two about. This will also give you an opportunity to research something new about your interests. In order to pick a topic, sit down and brainstorm different ideas and allow yourself to freely write any thoughts or ideas that come to mind.

Create an outline

Your outline should include the framework of how you are going to write your essay. You can formulate this in any way, whether it be as a simple outline or a ‘bubble map’. I’ve highlighted both examples below:

Simple Outline:

Introduction Paragraph

      • First sentence – introduce or rephrase essay question
      • Body sentences – main ideas/arguments
      • Thesis statement – purpose of the essay

Body Paragraph #1

      • First main idea that supports your thesis
      • Give facts/supporting ideas
      • Indirect and/or direct quotes with references

Body Paragraph #2

      • Second main idea that supports your thesis
      • Give facts/supporting ideas
      • Indirect and/or direct quotes with references

Body Paragraph #3

      • Third main idea that supports your thesis
      • Give facts/supporting ideas
      • Indirect and/or direct quotes with references

Conclusion Paragraph

      • Summarize your main ideas
      • Restate your thesis statement
      • Support your stance


Bubble Map:











Plan and schedule

Planning and scheduling are crucial steps in essay writing, yet it is so easy to overlook this step. The main reason why many students do not get a good mark on their essays is because they underestimate the time and planning it takes to execute a great essay. If you are given a month to write an essay, your timetable might look like this:

Steps How long will it take? Deadline
  • Understand the question 
Weekend April 1st 
  • Brainstorm and pick a topic
2 days April 3rd 
  • Create an outline
1 day April 4th 
  • Research
3 days April 7th 
  • Read and take notes
10 days April 17th 
  • Finish first draft
10 days April 27th 
  • Proofread
1 day April 28th 
  • Rewrite
1 day April 29th 
  • Final draft
1 day April 30th 
  • Hand it in
1 day May 1st 

*Keep in mind that this is a sample outline and can be altered how you see fit.

Write a first draft

It’s so easy to procrastinate and write your essay in one go, but this is not the best practice. Writing essays takes time, and you must write a rough draft first. As you’re writing, make sure that the main point of every body paragraph ties back to your thesis. Additionally, make sure that every supporting detail in each of your body paragraphs relates to the main point of that paragraph. It happens to many of us – we are sometimes pressed for time and just write mindlessly without supporting our arguments. Finally, keep a close eye on your word count total as some teachers request a word limit for their essays.


After you complete your first draft, print it. I have learned first-hand that printing out my written work and editing with pen-to-paper allows me to read my work out loud and catch any grammatical or spelling errors that a computer might not pick up on. 

Submit your work and celebrate

Congratulations, you just submitted your first essay of many, which I know could be a nerve-wracking responsibility. However, with a lot of practice and dedication, you will learn what works best for you in organizing, writing, and editing a successful essay.

Did you find our essay writing tips helpful? Please let us know in the comment section below.

As always, happy writing!


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The Literary Tutor

We are English tutors helping students ignite their imagination through reading and discover their unique voice through writing.

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