How to Write an Effective Essay

An essay is a piece of writing that sets out to convey an argument, opinion or viewpoint. It can take on many forms: it might be informative, persuasive, analytical, or narrative. It might be a short or long piece, and it might be on a given subject or on any topic. It might also be a research paper or an essay for a scholarship application. But whatever form it takes, the essay is a highly structured, formal piece of writing that should meet a set of specific requirements in terms of length and style.

Receiving the Assignment

Your essay journey starts when your instructor or professor gives you the assignment prompt, which details the essay’s topic, length, and any other particular requirements (such as a word count). Be sure to read this carefully, making notes as necessary, to fully understand what is required.

Understanding the Task

Once you’ve understood the essay assignment, it’s time to begin researching. Start with the assigned readings, and then move on to more in-depth resources that are relevant to your argument or viewpoint (for example, scholarly journals, academic books, and articles). Make notes as you read, and be sure to include a bibliography at the end of your essay.

Creating an Outline

The essay outline is your essay’s skeleton, providing its fundamental shape and structure. It should include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each paragraph should build on the previous, forming a logical sequence that is easy for your reader to follow. It is often helpful to use transitional phrases, such as “in addition to,” “meanwhile,” and “afterwards” to guide the flow of your ideas.

Writing a Draft

The first draft of your essay is rough, but that’s okay. Think of it as raw material that you will hone and refine through the editing process. During the drafting phase, try to avoid worrying about spelling, grammar, and other issues that can be corrected in the final edit.


After completing the rough draft, you will need to go back and rewrite your essay, ensuring that it meets the requirements of its genre and the specific essay type. Rewriting your essay can include sentence rewrites, reordering of paragraphs, and reoutlining. Often, it is helpful to wait a few days before rewriting your essay, so you can look at it with fresh eyes.

Revising for Clarity and Conciseness

Once your essay is polished, it’s ready to be reviewed by your peers and submitted for final review. Be sure to check for grammatical errors, formatting problems, and other typos. A tool such as Grammarly can help catch these mistakes for you.

An essay can be an intimidating task, but with the right planning and preparation, it can be a great way to showcase your skills in writing and argumentation. By following these simple steps, you can create an essay that is both clear and concise while remaining persuasive and interesting for your reader. Good luck!