Essay Writing Tips to Help You Excel in English

Many students find essay writing daunting because they don’t understand how to structure an essay response. When you write without a clear plan, your ideas can become jumbled and it’s easy to lose sight of what you want to say.

The secret to a good essay is solid planning before you begin writing. Once you’ve worked out the structure for your essay it becomes much easier to compose because you have a blueprint in place. All you need to do is fill in the details.

These tips will help you plan and write great essays in English.

Coming up with a thesis

Your thesis is your argument or approach. English essays are usually written in response to questions like this one from a recent HSC exam paper:

Explore how imagery is used in the poem to convey the wonder of discovery

It’s important to remember that there’s no single right answer in English. Your interpretation is as valid as anyone else’s and markers are looking for originality and depth in your response.

It helps to circle the key words in the question and re-read the text several times. In this case you would underline examples of imagery and jot down ideas about how to approach the question.

Once you have identified some examples of imagery, you’re ready to come up with a thesis which you should be able to explain in one sentence. For example, ‘the poem conveys a sense of the wonder of discovery through the use of metaphors, similes and descriptive language.’

As this question specifically asks about imagery, it’s important to show you understand what this term means by giving concrete examples. There may be other forms of imagery used in the poem, but by narrowing it down to three literary techniques, you’ve got the basis for an essay plan.

Structuring your essay

An essay consists of an introduction, a main body made up of several paragraphs and a conclusion. It’s helpful to think of your introduction as a plan for your essay. Your thesis statement can be used as the first sentence as it clearly states your approach and demonstrates you’ve understood the question.

The next sentences in your introduction provide brief details about what you’ll be discussing in the body of the essay. In this case you could explain what ‘the wonder of discovery’ means and expand a little on how imagery conveys it in the poem.

Your main body for this essay topic would consist of separate paragraphs on each technique you’ve identified, with evidence to support your claims. It’s important to back up your thesis with direct quotes from the text. Choose the strongest one or two examples to support each statement.

In this example, the three literary techniques explored in the main body should be discussed in the same order they were introduced in your opening paragraph for consistency.

Your conclusion sums up what you’ve said and reinforces that you’ve addressed the question. This is the last opportunity to leave a good impression with your marker, so take the time to craft it well.

The best way to become skilled at essay writing is to practice composing plans and responses. Students can also look at marking guidelines and read sample responses online to find out what markers are looking for.

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