English Essay

Or, strategies for successful essay writing

Things to avoid in essay writing!

Write a creative title for your essay

Consider that the title is the first opportunity you have to inform your reader about the thesis of your essay

NEVER just write “Evaluation Essay”

Capitalize the title correctly

Format the essay with double-spacing and page numbers


The purpose of an introduction is to:

engage the reader

provide background information

present the thesis

Unless necessary for contextualization, save the evidence to support your claims in the body paragraphs.

Don’t serve the main meal at the same time as the appetizer!

Too many details in the introduction:

“Air travel is a form of travel in vehicles that can sustain flight”. (Really? No kidding!)

Don’t start your essay with a definition of what is probably unnecessary: obesity, global warming, cell phones, the internet, etc.

The purpose of simply taking up space is too obvious and wastes opportunity to craft useful sentences that further your essay.

ONLY use a definition if writing about something truly obscure.

Avoid Useless “definitions”

The trick to avoid these words: insert “as opposed to?”

Basically, very, really, literally, truly, personally (as opposed to…?)

Here is a link to a good page about writing concisely: http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/writing-concisely/

Using Words that Do Not Add Meaning

In this essay I will prove…

I will discuss…

As said in the previous paragraph….

As mentioned before…

Avoid these space fillers! Instead – just write what you are saying.

Don’t waste space saying what you WILL write about or what you already wrote.


Wrong: In this essay I will argue that cell phones should not be used while drive.

Better: Cell phones should not be used while driving.

Announcing Yourself to the Reader

Did you ever get tired of reading essays with questions?

Do you think that these questions would be stronger written as statements?

Are all the questions necessary?

Do they engage the reader?

Especially in a repeating pattern: did you ever wonder, did you ever think, why is it that… blah blah blah?


And if writing a question, remember to use a question mark when creating a question, even if it’s a rhetorical question.

Rhetorical Questions

Avoid Pointing the Camera at Yourself:

I think, I believe, I feel, in my opinion…

Write what you think in a statement

The reader will know what you think by what you write.

ONLY use “I” when framing a direct response:

“I agree/concede/argue/claim…”

Remove yourself

You didn’t actually write the paper, but you’re really good at introducing other people’s quotes!

Stringing them together is almost writing a paper, right?

Not quite!

The reader needs to hear your voice and your ideas that are supported by the evidence, not replaced by them.

After using a quote, be sure to explain how it supports the claim in the topic sentence and the thesis.

Don’t let a quote do the talking for you – it is only used as supporting evidence.

And, of course, CITE correctly (never an entire website)

Too Many Quotes

“In the essay Blah Blah by Joanne Smith she argues that…” = RPS Repeating Pronoun Syndrome!

Instead: “In the essay Blah Blah Joanne smith argues that…”

Articles don’t talk; authors do: “The article How to Write Effectively says that…”

Instead: “In the article How to Write Effectively, there are a number of strategies to use to improve your essays.”

Awkward sentence construction introducing a source

Your thesis may change as you write, so make sure the thesis:

is not a question but answers a question

strongly and clearly states a point that is arguable/debatable – NOT just an opinion

is not a quote

matches your conclusion, which should not repeat the thesis, but provides a closing idea to the reader

Revisit your thesis

Don’t give your reader whiplash from one idea to the next

Lead the reader gently and logically along using relevant transition words

Don’t simply insert a random “moreover” or “furthermore” if it isn’t logical – “Fast food is cheaper than healthy food. Moreover, not enough schools provide physical education courses”. Say what?

Make the connection clear.

Use transitions between ideas and between paragraphs

Avoid saying “In conclusion” or “In sum”

Instead, write a solid conclusion that wraps up the idea of the paper

Revisit the thesis without repeating it

The reader can figure out it’s the conclusion

Don’t introduce new ideas in the conclusion

Add paragraphs if new ideas crop up as your write

The Conclusion

Works Cited List:

It is called a Works Cited List because the sources have been cited in the paper.

If sources are cited in-text, they MUST appear on the Works Cited List.

List the sources in alphabetical order either by author, or, if no author, by the title of the source.

Do NOT just list a website.

Cite everything: graphics, interviews, videos, statistics; everything that is paraphrased, quoted or summarized.

In-Text Citations –

Citations belong at the end of a quote or a section, never mid-sentence.

Do NOT insert a website.

When using MLA formatting, DO NOT use footnotes.


Avoid making the same grammatical mistakes in your writing. Proofreading counts.

A good piece of writing loses its credibility by the use of a wrong word or misused and abused punctuation.

Look for: your/you’re; their/there/they’re; definitely/defiantly; lose/loose; its/it’s, etc.

If your teacher cares more about your writing than you do, there is a problem.

Sloppy proofreading shows you really just don’t care, and the grade you earn will reflect that.

Its a disappointing result. Oops – that should be IT’S, right? Right.

Finally, PROOFREAD carefully!

1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. Avoid cliches like the plague; they’re old hat.

4. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

5. Be more or less specific.

6.Writers should never generalize.

Seven: Be consistent!

8. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary, and don’t repeat ideas; it’s highly superfluous.

9. Who needs rhetorical questions?

10. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

…and, for fun: “How to Write Good”

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