So you have another paper to write for your class, and you’re dreading it. No problem. I’m going to teach you how to write the perfect essay, and how you can make writing any essay extremely easy to do. It turns out it’s not as hard as you might think it is to make a compelling essay, and this method can be utilized in most classes you take in college or high school for nearly guaranteed success.
Composition is Everything; Everything is Composition
In high school, I often had trouble writing essays. My grades on my papers were spotty at best. But that was because back then, no one explained to me that there’s a hidden set of rules to writing essays that most teachers and professors use to grade your writing. So, I would just throw whatever sounded good at my papers and turn that in, not understanding that I was playing a game without knowing how to play it. It was like I was playing a video game and instead of learning the controls I was just mashing the buttons every time in the hopes that I would win. That all changed when I took English Composition in my first year of college.
Finally, someone explained the rules to me in a way that I was able to understand, and it was like a light bulb had gone off in my head. The professor explained to me that essays are really more about composition than content. Rather, the first thing that we need to understand when making an argument or presenting information is that the information needs to be given to the reader in a way that is clearly laid out in an expected fashion. To put it more plainly, how you write your paper is far more important than what you write in your paper.
My professor explained that everything comes down to composition, and everything in this world is composition. He was so adamant about the importance of composition that he had a special fixation with memorizing street compositions of all the cities he visited, saying that if we study how things are composed, we can begin to see patterns in everything in life. That brought him a certain kind of comfort, but it impressed all of us when we would name a city and he could recite the street names and intersections off the top of his head.
And then he told us the secret to writing a perfect paper through the magic of English composition.
How to Compose the Perfect Essay
The way he explained writing composition was this: All writing is about boiling down the essence to its simplest form. If you can understand up front exactly what you want to say, or at least a close idea, then you can do all the hardest parts of writing in the first few minutes of writing.
Think about this – why do authors have chapters in their books, and why do those chapters tend to have titles? That is because the author is telling you up front what the boiled down essence of that chapter is in one sentence or phrase or even one word. But it goes even deeper than that. What is the entire book’s essence boiled down to its purest form? That’s right, the book’s title.
In this same way, we can boil down an essay to its key elements before we even write it. What are the key elements of an essay?
In high school, I was only told that an essay has three parts – an introduction, a body and a conclusion. This is somewhat right, but this is where all of my confusion came from. Don’t think of it like this anymore. Think of it more along these lines.
What is the most pure, simplest form of an essay? The title.
If you extrapolate on the title, what do you get? The thesis.
What should the thesis do? Clearly state the strongest arguments (typically three of them), which you are going to be presenting in your essay.
How should you present the arguments? Through tying back to the thesis.
How do you tie back to the thesis? By writing strong topic sentences for each of the key points in your thesis.
Then what? Expand upon those topic sentences to get your paragraphs.
The conclusion is typically the easiest part, as you are just re-stating the introduction.
Everything in this paper is about making the bones as strong and as well-formed as possible, and then filling it out with your extrapolation and research. Everything is composition.
A Simpler Formula for Success – Thesis and Topic Sentences
To make it even more simple to follow, do this. Based on the topic you are assigned or have chosen to write about, spend a while figuring out your thesis. A thesis should be as specific as possible, so try to stick away from generalizations. The rule of thumb is that you should include three arguments, or three truths in your thesis that you are going to try to prove in your paper. These should be statements, and should be written as if you believe they are cold-hard facts. Once you have done this, congratulations, you’ve just completed the hardest part of your paper.
Now it gets easier. Write topic sentences that directly align with your thesis, one topic sentence for each major point in your thesis. These should also be written as fact, and you should be able to do link them up with your thesis easily. The best way to know if your topic sentence is good is to read your thesis, then say “I know this to be true because…” and then state your topic sentence. If it makes sense when you read that, then you’re off to a good start to that part of your essay.
Now do the same thing for the other parts of your thesis by creating more topic sentences.
So now you have a well-formed thesis and your three topic sentences. Congratulations, you have just done the hardest work and now you can extrapolate and include as many references as required to back up your statements and thesis. Now just fill in the introduction by making a compelling argument and ending with your thesis, and then write your conclusion that repeats your introduction in less words, and you are done with your first draft.
The only thing left to do is revise your essay as needed, depending on how much weight the paper has on your grade in the class. But that should be easy to figure out.
For fun, I wrote this article a while back that explains exactly the concepts I have laid out here. Feel free to check it out for more reading.