Remember those essays and letters you had to write in school? Some people hated writing them, but others liked doing it. Essay writing, letter writing, story writing and dialogue writing all constitute the term academic writing.
Problem was, academic writing didn’t allow much creativity. Topics were already given. You had to have an outline. You had to keep your voice formal and precise. You had to have an introduction, three paragraphs of body and a conclusion. You were not allowed to go off topic. You were not allowed to do anything unusual or unconventional.
And you wondered why you couldn’t write anything at all.
Today, let’s forget the pain of academic writing and instead make it a joy to write. Today, we will study what essays and letters are, and how to write them effortlessly and with fun. So let’s start!
An essay means a short nonfiction composition. School essays are a select kind of essays – they have rules, dos and don’ts and so on. An essay has to be an attempt at putting down your thoughts on a particular subject down to paper in a logical manner. This was what many students were incapable of accomplishing or achieving. Why?
- They hadn’t read enough about the subject, which resulted in them not knowing what to write about.
- They hadn’t formed their opinions on the subject, or they hadn’t observed it yet.
- They simply didn’t have an interest in writing about the subject.
These were all common problems. But once solved (and writing problems are simple to solve), essays can become a joy to write. All you need to have is:
- An interest in writing.
- Proper knowledge and mastery of voices (active and passive), tenses, other grammar, spelling and punctuation.
- Prior reading of the topic.
- Observation and curiosity in the minds of the writer.
That’s all. Once you passed this list, essay writing became easier for you. You now had an opinion about the topic. You could write about it. Language was not a problem now because you had mastered grammar. Readability was not an issue because you had mastered spelling and punctuation. You now had an introduction, body and a conclusion. You were on the right foot.
But did you need an outline?
As I’ve written before, outlining has its own advantages and disadvantages – and it rests entirely up to you whether you decide to use it or not. Think it hampers your writing process? Don’t use it! Think it improves the writing flow? Then do the opposite. Simply put, don’t force outlines on essays – try and experiment first.
The Length of an Essay
The famous five paragraph essay is quite short. Therefore, if you want to write on a subject in this format, you must make your writing concise. You must cut all the unnecessary adjectives, adverbs, generalization, and you must convert passive sentences to active sentences. By doing this, not only your writing will become shorter and concise, it will also be better and easier to read!
If you want to write longer essays, you may want to consult your teacher. Literary essays are typically longer than school essays. Learn the difference between them.
Essay Writing Tips
- You must have a well written introduction, one which draws the reader in and doesn’t let them go again. If you want to know how to write this, use quotes, proverbs, or whatever you like for a grabbing intro. You may find Writing Compelling Opening Chapters helpful (even though it’s aimed at fiction writers, you may get some useful tips).
- Your language should be simple and lucid, and not too informal. Some teachers recommend not using the word “I”, but it is not mandatory and it can actually improve some essays.
- You should keep a focus and write inside the topic given.
- End your essay with a great conclusion which sums it up. Don’t force it; write naturally and practise, and your conclusions will improve automatically.
- Don’t use technical words in order to sound professional. It just has the opposite effect.
- Write for an audience. If you are writing a school essay, this will almost certainly be your teacher. So you should address your writing style to something which is suitable.
- After having written the essay, you should edit and proofread it. It’s amazing how many errors you can find in this stage, and how much your essay shines after having corrected them.
Letters are of two kinds – informal and formal. Today, the informal letter has been almost completely replaced by email (although it is still necessary to know how to write it), but the formal is still necessary. Read Letter Writing 101 for tips and tricks on how to write these letters. For informal letters, wait for part II of this article, where I will also address story writing and dialogue writing.
Effective Academic Writing
Even for those who hate it, academic writing is necessary and will remain so. Therefore it’s better to just learn to like it; learn to like writing essays. After all, who knows: you may just have some fun writing them. 🙂
Effective academic writing has this one characteristic: it is written for a purpose. You don’t want anyone to say “So what?” after reading your essay. Even you don’t outline, you must have a plan behind it, and you must know why you are writing it. It must have an idea, and it must have a focus.
You don’t need to have some degree in English to create effective academic writing, you just need to have an interest in writing, like I had. Academic writing came easily to me; in fact, I used to love writing essays and stories. My marks were always excellent, yet I didn’t have to learn them by heart or write an outline. I just wrote whatever came in my head, and maybe you can do the same.
Do you have any academic writing tips and experiences to share? Anything to add to this article? Feel free to share them in the comments.