If you’ve been given an essay writing assignment and you don’t know where to begin…
If you find yourself staring at a blank screen or paper, not knowing what alphabet to type first or where to start writing from...
You’re not alone!
English as a Second Language ESL students find that writing in English is the most demanding academic task they face. While they may have the other elements of English language usage (speaking, listening and reading) covered, writing remains a challenge for many.
Staring at a blank screen
Essay writing is a fundamental requisite at the secondary and post-secondary levels, but without English writing skills, ESL students are at a serious disadvantage.
In this article, we’re going to solve that problem by answering some important questions:
Here are seven steps for writing an English language academic essay:
Tips to improve your essay writing skills
Essay writing is the most common form of academic writing, often dreaded even by native-English-speaking students. For beginners or non-native English speakers, writing an any essay can be a challenge. Once you know the basics of essay writing, however, things begin to flow.
The major issues that ESL or ELL students face when writing an essay include:
All of these shortcomings can be overcome simply by following some basic guidelines:
Read Work of Others
Reading and writing go hand in hand. Those who read the most write the best.
When it comes to essay writing, it’s important to invest your time reading the work of others that is related to your topic. It will help you develop your own position with respect to your essay topic and will help you to develop your own “writer’s voice” and techniques of written expression.
You need to read other essays, articles, blogs, and journals on the similar topics. Even when you’re not faced with an essay assignment, make it a habit to read a lot of essays and newspapers. Read on a daily basis throughout the week, and within a month, you’ll find your written fluency improve dramatically.
As much as developing your “voice” and composition skills, reading widely and frequently will help you explore different writing styles. That will lead to your own contextual learning --- inferring the meaning of words through the context of the essay elements of vocabulary, sentence structure, and essay organization.
As you read, make a list of words that you find intriguing or confusing. When you don’t know the meaning of a word, write that word down. Later, look those words up in a dictionary and write the definitions down. This collection of words and definitions will quickly build your English vocabulary and help you when writing your own essay.
You need to put everything you have learned from reading into practice. Write for at least half an hour each day.
To get the hang of writing in general, start a personal blog or a journal and simply record the events of your day. Then share your writing with a small group of native English-speaking students and ask for their feedback. Take their criticism with an open mind; this is how your writing will improve and how you will learn to avoid the same errors in the future.
One effective technique is to simply transcribe-copy good writing; it helps you understand the meaning of every word and how words are properly arranged in a sentence.
You can only write on a particular topic when you have ample information about it. When researching a particular topic, do what journalists do. Ask and answer six basic questions:f Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
A good essay is one that explores the different dimensions of a topic. Spend quality time researching. Then, incorporate those ideas in your essay.
Explore the topic
Avoid problems before you begin writing by searching for good essay topics. An essay topic that interests you will be much easier to research and write.
Before you begin writing an actual essay, make a list of the major points and ideas to include in your essay. These points will become your guideposts as you continue to outline and write your essay.
Think in your native language but don’t simply translate them word for word. Try to make sense of what it would sound like in English and arrange the words in proper sentence structure order.
Each item on your list of the major points of your essay topic become the elements of your essay outline. Write those points down in complete sentences and in order. These become your “topic sentences” upon which you will then expand with additional information, ideas, and perspectives.
The first sentence on your list should express the principal theme of your essay. It should tell the reader what the essay will be about and what your point of view is about the theme. Now your reader will know where this essay will take him.
Longer essays may include side-by-side arguments regarding the topic and then explore them thoroughly in the body of the essay.
For example, if the topic is smoking, then you can incorporate the point of view of smoker and non-smoker in the essay. It will help you elaborate the content by providing multiple perspectives.
Focus on multiple perspective
Make dictionaries your best friend
A dictionary is a non-native English speaker’s best friend.
But a simple dictionary definition won’t provide you with the context of the word within any given sentence. (That’s where habitual reading is of such value.) Fancy words you may find in the dictionary will have no use until you understand their context within a sentence, so be sure you understand the context in which you’re using a particular word before you use it in your essay.
Read your essay over again and again as you look for obvious grammar, punctuation and formatting mistakes. If you aren’t confident about your grammar, then make use of proofreading tools such as Grammarly and Ginger.
Even native English-speaking students and professionals use such software to double check their work and fix mistakes they miss while re-reading. You can never be too sure; rechecking can save you from a lot of embarrassing mistakes.
You can also ask your friends to take a look at your work and point out things that need fixing.
With consistent reading, writing, and re-writing, you’ll soon improve your English essay writing skills
Outlines: The Key to Your Essay Writing
Outlining your essay is vital to your writing. A properly-formatted outline serves as the skeleton that holds the entire essay together.
The basic essay outline structure applies to all essay types.
However, the length of the central body paragraphs may differ for complex and longer essays. A typical short essay is commonly known as a five paragraph essay and it follows the following structure.
The purpose of the introduction is simply to inform your reader about the topic that you will discuss in the following paragraphs. State it simply and clearly.
The introduction often contains your Thesis Statement as well. A thesis statement is a brief one- or two-sentence declaration indicating the conclusions you believe your essay will ultimately reach. “The opioid crisis can only be solved by the government” is a thesis statement. Everything that follows will either support or contradict that thesis.
The opening sentences of the introductory paragraphs are called essay hooks. Hooks are well-written sentences that create an impact on your readers and compel them to read further.
Various forms of essay hooks work well in your introductory paragraphs: quotations, stories, jokes, phrases, facts, historic dates.
Pointless, boring, or obscure introductions can make the reader lose interest at the outset and are ineffective ways to begin. Give your “hook” careful thought; it’s important for the success of your essay. If you need any help in writing an effective introduction, you can go to 5StarEssays.com , where you’ll find professional help at any stage of your essay writing.
Getting help from professional essay writers is often the best way to learn how to write an essay. The examples you’ll see when working with an essay writing service will teach you exactly what you need to know when it comes to your next essay writing assignments. These essay writing services are beneficial in many ways for students who need a little help managing their school and work life and/or don’t possess
Paragraphs in the middle of the introduction and conclusion are called “body”paragraphs.
These are the linking paragraphs that bridge the gap between conclusion and introduction. You will write all the pro and con arguments in these body paragraphs.
Be sure to use consistent arguments and/or points of view throughout the body of your essay, and to separate your points into separate paragraphs.
When you need to express a contradictory opinion or perspective, write it in a new, separate paragraph. Never conflate opposing ideas in the same paragraph.
Each paragraph should have a unique topic sentence. The topic sentence is the main introductory line of each paragraph that states the purpose and idea that is discussed within that paragraph.
For example, if your essay topic is “Causes of Global Warming,” then one cause should be stated and elaborated in one paragraph. Additional causes will then be discussed in following paragraphs.
Use transition words at the start of paragraphs to create relevance and context between paragraphs. Effective phrases include: in between, for example, in addition to, moreover, furthermore, firstly, lastly, however, etc. As each paragraph Also, make sure that each idea stated should lead to the next idea.
The conclusion is the ending paragraph that summarizes your main theme of the essay and its outcomes. This is where you can re-state your theme (from the introductory paragraph) and tell the reader whether your stated theme was supported by the points in your essay body.
In the concluding paragraph, you should include any call for action (“Based upon all the evidence, we should impeach the sitting President”) and offer your final opinion in the light of all arguments that you have given in the body. Again, make sure that it is appealing and leaves an impact on the reader’s mind by using active voice in the present tense with proper vocabulary used in context.
There are several different categories of essays, each with its unique requirements:
An argumentative essay consists of arguments for both sides of the issue being addressed. Similar to other essays, this involves the use of an introductory paragraph, body paragraphs with point-counterpoints clearly expressed, and the conclusion based upon a consideration of the evidence present in the body paragraphs.
The topic you choose for an argumentative topic must be well-researched and the tone of the essay must be persuasive, so the reader understands and is persuaded to agree with your point of view. To convince the reader make use of supporting facts and evidence.
Analytical essays are a variation of argumentative essays, but more explanatory in nature, with all points addressed clearly and in an easily understandable way with vocabulary in common usage.
The analysis subject usually involves topics drawn from the liberal arts (as opposed to data-driven scientific research) and can be performed on any work of art from movies, plays, literary works or historical events. The analysis should go far beyond a mere recitation or summary; facts are presented addressing the individual creative elements which create to the success of the subject as a whole.
When writing an expository essay, the topic is examined in depth with the objective of increasing the reader’s understanding of the topic subject matter. Everything discussed in an expository essay must be supported with researched and cited facts and proofs.
An expository essay is further divided into four different types:
Process essays are fundamentally informative-instructive essays. The subject matter involves directions to the reader--based upon established and cited information--to complete a process or understand how a particular thing is accomplished, with detailed steps leading to the reader’s complete understanding of the overall process. Educational and instructive in its impact.
Essays written in the passive voice tend to be purely observational and distance the reader from the thesis, arguments, and conclusion. Such essays tend to be boring from beginning to end.
Use active voice in your introduction to create a remarkable impression. Avoid using the passive voice as it destroys the feel of an introduction. Write in the present tense to give your essay writing the energy to engage your readers.
Common mistakes to avoid when writing an essay
Avoid the use of long and complex sentences. They distract and confuse the reader with difficult readability. Construct short and direct declarative sentences which make both the writing and reading process more enjoyable.
Transitions are those phrases which take the reader from one paragraph to another. Never jump to the next paragraph or sentence abruptly without creating a proper flow. To avoid doing so, use transitional words such as “therefore, moreover, however, firstly, secondly, lastly, etc.”
Copying the work of another writer without attribution is both a creative and legal problem. Plagiarism is an offense actionable in a court of law and damages the original author as well as the reputation of the plagiarist. The use of plagiarism detection software like Turnitin is widespread and should be used by all essay writers.
Before getting started with your assignment, you must first carefully read the professor’s instructions. Begin your research and outlining only with a clear understanding of all instructions for writing the essay.
For example, if you’re assigned a thousand-word essay and you write two thousand words, you are violating the clear instructions and will be graded negatively for doing so. Ignoring instructions in the hope of “impressing” anyone is simply an academic faux pas.
“I” and “me” are not interchangeable. “I” is the subjective form of the first person pronoun; “Me” is the objective form of the first person pronoun. Learn when to use either in writing your essay. Consider these following examples to understand the correct usage of “I” and “Me.”
When you use someone else’s work and reference it in your own, you must always provide references to avoid the appearance of plagiarism.
The most common format used is the MLA format. However, sometimes professors specify if another format is to be used. Learn the format and use it unless otherwise directed.
Don’t back up your arguments by providing information you have randomly found on the internet. Unless that information is supported by cited references, it is generally suspect and not to be relied upon. Be sure that the source you are referencing is credible and provides information that can be validated.
As you can see, writing an academic essay--particularly for ESL students who may not be perfectly fluent in English grammar, syntax, and diction--can be a challenge.
That challenge can be quickly met with the help of the professional essay experts at 5StarEssays, where you are guaranteed 100% plagiarism-free original research and writing.
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