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  • Holly Copeland

Essay Do's and Don'ts​​

The most common question we ask ourselves when sitting down to write an essay, whether its for a GCSE subject or A-Level is: "How do I structure this?" and "How do I get those higher marks?". Unfortunately, there is no magic spell that can transform your essay into an A* piece of work you just have to achieve it through your hard work and motivation. But, the question still remains "How are you going to do that?". Here are a few things I have learnt over the years about structuring essays and what to include and what not to include:

-Think of structuring your essay like you would structure a story. A story has a clear beginning, middle and end. In your essay your beginning is your introduction, your middle is your analysis and your end is your conclusion. Most people forget to write an introduction and/or conclusion in their essay, but think about this: Would you write a story without a beginning or an end? No, probably not, because it wouldn't make sense, you can apply this theory when setting out to structure your essay.

-Your introduction should be brief. You are not diving into the analysis straight away. Instead you are showing the examiner that you understand the question. To do this you need to include the essay question in your introduction. For example, if the essay question is: "How do the two texts differ in their representation of said character?" you could open with: "Both texts represent the character differently by using...". This shows the examiner straight away that you understand the question. When writing your introduction try to avoid phrases like: "I am going to be talking about..." (unless this colloquial style is for creative writing). This is because it sounds too chatty. You have to think of a way to convey what you are going to be talking about to the examiner without stating it, as it is too informal and won't get you the higher marks. Your introduction should be around 5/6 lines depending on the size of your hand writing and it should demonstrate that you understand the question. To elaborate on your introduction you can include theorists and theories to show you can apply wider knowledge. E.g you could have one sentence that says: "Many theorists such as X argued against this because it was not believable" you would then expand on this in your first paragraph.

-Your middle is completely up to you in how you structure it but, remember to use paragraphs!!! Depending on what kind of essay you are writing paragraphs vary in size. Try to avoid big blocks of writing and instead break it up with paragraphs (in a way that allows the essay to flow). If you forget to break up your writing with paragraphs just add "//" to show where you meant to put the paragraphs. Your middle should flow seamlessly in order to achieve the higher marks. Each point you make (one or two points per paragraph) should flow into the next point. This will help the examiner to understand the points you are making and see that you are able to link your ideas. In your middle try to avoid phrases like: "This makes the reader want to read on" you can use this but it sounds too basic. Try to elaborate and try something like: "This creates wider meaning for the reader as they feel a connection to the character and therefore are invested in their journey". Do you see the difference? The first one is fine because it's true, but if you want those higher marks, try to elaborate. When giving an opinion avoid: "I think that". Try using a wider vocabulary to show the examiner you can use more sophisticated language. Use: "This leads me to believe", "To me this implies that", "In my opinion" instead. Mix it up. Use all three and show the examiner you know more words than "think". If you are analysing a particular word try to avoid using "word". Let me give you an example because it sounds confusing. Instead of saying: "The word beautiful shows that he thinks the woman is pretty" try saying: "The adjective beautiful shows that he thinks the woman is pretty". This simple change shows the examiner that you have knowledge on different word classes and can identify them in a text (if you are writing about a text). You can also do this for sentence forms, instead of saying: "The sentence suggests..." try: "The exclamative sentence, the complex sentence shows that..." etc. This simple change will boost your mark! Lastly, keep linking back to the question at the end of every point! It will help the examiner to see the relevance of your point and make them further believe you fully understand the question.

-And finally, when you write your conclusion you are bringing all your thoughts and ideas, that you have just explained to the examiner in the middle of your essay, to a close. You should make sure that you use the question in your conclusion like you did in the introduction to do this. For example, you may write: "To conclude, in my opinion both texts differ in their representations of said character due to them both being told from different points of view and through their choice of language used because..." This shows the examiner once and for all you understand what you are writing about and it just neatly ties together your essay. Your conclusion shouldn't be long and you shouldn't introduce a new idea. It is simply a few sentence bringing your essay to an end.

These are just some general do's and don'ts when it comes to writing essays. Each subject has certain things you should include and how you include them. This blog post was requested by a user through my instagram @studentstudyhelp. If you would like me to do an in depth blog post about how to structure an essay or what to include in an essay for a certain subject you can email me or direct message me @studentstudyhelp on instagram.

I am not an expert so if you are really struggling with writing essays, I suggest talking to your teacher about it, but in the mean time, I hope this helped :)


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