“When you writing, it’s rather like going on a very long walk.” Roald Dahl

You are writing your English paper 3 exams (the essay and transactional writing paper). This can seem overwhelming, especially when you are going to be assessed on your ability to write a well-crafted essay following all those daunting English grammar rules.

We’re here to guide you with some tips and tricks on how to write better essays, especially the type that will make an impression on your teacher.

We already provided you with some hints on how to improve your English and we focused on how to get you to do better in a narrative and descriptive essay. In this article, we suggest ways to improve your essay writing skills by looking at the writing process as a whole. We also use some handy writing quotes from a favourite children's author, Roald Dahl, to assist.

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How to Write Better English Essays: Planning

“Never do anything in halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog.” Roald Dahl 

To write a good essay, you must start with a good plan.  

The reason we are taught that writing is a process is that, in order to craft a good essay, you must properly plan to write an essay. Many students panic at the idea of having to complete a draft, first copy, and final copy within an hour. It sounds outrageous to complete a draft, first copy, and final copy of your essay within the short amount of time, we understand. We consider this going the whole hog. There is a reason we go the whole hog when writing an essay because writing an outline of an essay is certainly not a waste of time!

The reason teachers advise you to do planning in the form of a brainstorm or mind map is so that you can gather your thoughts and get directions for your essay before you even start writing the essay. Think of the brainstorm as the foundation upon which you will build your essay.

Pen and paper
Make sure everything goes to plan with a great outline.

Remember you need not put every single idea in the brainstorm or mind map. It can take you less than fifteen minutes to actually plan because your brainstorm or mind map is just an overview of what you would like to include in an essay.

So how many points do you need to include in your plan?

This is entirely up to you. You can include as many as thirty points or you can have as little as a few simple sentences. Despite there being no limit on the number of points that you include in your planning, you must already have started thinking of your conclusion from the planning stage.

In this overview, try to sum up what your argument is for the argumentative essay and how you will reach the conclusion. Students make the mistake of not thinking of an ending to a story and just going ahead and writing the story. Not considering the ending of the story (irrespective of the essay type) can be a grave mistake. Writing a story and coming up with an ending as you write may lead to an anti-climax. Just as you aim to catch the marker's attention from the introduction, you must also make sure to impress your marker with the conclusion to your essay.

While there is no limit on how much you ought to include in your planning, you need to ensure that your main points are included. Especially when writing an argumentative and persuasive essay, you must establish the key points that you would like to use from the onset.

Still unable to wrap your head around how to get the ideas to flow, call on an English tutor to assist.

How to Improve My Writing Skills in English: First Draft

“If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read lots of books.” Roald Dahl

While you put points in your brainstorm that will help you to direct your essay, you make sense of your thoughts when you write your first draft. When getting your story complete, you need to remember to write clearly, concisely, and cohesively to create the right atmosphere.

One of the things you need to do from the onset is to use the right choice of words to create a specific type of atmosphere. This atmosphere can be conveyed to your reader through the tone that the reader interprets.

Man writing
The body of the essay should be both clear and cohesive.

When you are cohesively working to create a certain atmosphere, you are working on clearly outlining the main points.

Write Clearly

Try to adhere to the topic as best as possible.

A clear essay is one that successfully adheres to the topic given. For an argumentative essay, you need to decipher from the onset whether the topic requires to support the argument or to go against an argument.

A good essay is one that includes an amalgamation of simple, compound, and complex sentences. In order to write a variety of sentence types, you need to be able to identify sentences. You will be able to identify the different sentence types when you read more.

Reading more fictional stories could mean writing better narratives.

You need to also read as many non-fictional argumentative essays in order to master the technique behind writing a successful argumentative essay.

The more you read essays written by other authors, the easy it is for you to learn to make your point clear.

Cohesiveness

Alongside writing a clear essay, you cannot put random unrelated points and expect them to form a whole.  Your essay must make sense. Oftentimes writers use techniques to create an atmosphere that they wish to sustain throughout the entire essay.

Creating this cohesive atmosphere has to begin from the planning stage.

Once you have established what type of atmosphere you would like to create, you can use structural devices to help you maintain this type of atmosphere.

As per the structural devices used to create a cohesive atmosphere, you can use:

  • Time passing
  • Changing of place/setting
  • Narrowing of focus
  • Flashbacks

Ways to Improve Your Essay Writing Skills: Final Copy

Conducting thorough research is crucial to the success of any essay.

“By the time I am nearing the end of the story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” Roald Dahl

If there’s one thing that will prevent your teacher from giving you high marks, it would be an essay that you have submitted without having read through it before you submitted it. One of the best skills to master is that of editing.

If you are writing an argumentative essay and your essay seems highly opinionated with statements that cannot seem to be factually substantiated, you could lose unnecessary marks. When you edit your essay, you will be able to identify these clumsy sentences and eliminate them.

A simple reading over your essay and editing your work could do wonders. We cannot stress enough about the importance of taking time to find synonyms for basic words and adjusting incorrect grammar. What do you check for when you edit an essay?

Vocabulary and Grammar

The best essays are those that have the right choice of words that strongly aligns with the specific atmosphere that you have created. Good essays are also those that are well written in terms of grammar with limited grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

Should an essay be written in a certain tense? While it is a rule to write a literary essay in the present tense, choose to use the past tense to write narrative or descriptive essays. It is far easier to write in the past tense and writing in the past tense only is far less confusing. You can avoid errors of tense by using one tense throughout the essay.

Is the active voice or passive voice preferred for essays? Always chose to use the active voice instead of the passive voice. The active voice is easier to write and leads to fewer misunderstandings.

Try to use more sophisticated age-appropriate vocabulary. Avoid clichés. These overused phrases do not increase your marks at all. In fact, your teacher may subtract some marks if you use too many clichés.

When it comes to vocabulary there are ways to make yourself sound better. Here are 20 words to make you sound smarter. If you are a high school student writing an essay, you need to use more age-relevant verbs and adjectives. However, when using bigger words make sure that you know the spelling and meaning of words. You need to make sure that you avoid malapropism at all costs.

Eliminate all redundancy and tautology in the essay when you are editing your essay. The best way to ensure that you are not being verbose is to write simply.

Keep your writing simple yet sophisticated. Writing simply will mean the avoidance of grammatical errors as well as ambiguous sentences. Long sentences can be clumsy and filled with errors. Make sure to use short punchy simple sentences when you want to emphasize a point. Alternate your sentence lengths to create variety in your writing.

It is true that good writing happens when you keep rewriting and editing your work until you are happy with what you have written.

As Roald Dahl says, “Writing is mainly perspiration, not inspiration.”

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Laila

Laila is an enthusiastic English educator and a fun-filled freelance writer. She has accomplished her dream of getting her first book published and has managed to write over 1 000 000 words since beginning her freelance career. In her free time, she is a travel blogger who explores all South Africa has to offer.