Writing a Great Essay: The Ten Commandments

Picture of a preacherWelcome to the ten commandments of writing a great essay.

You’d better take a pew and listen very carefully.

I say onto you that I have visited the promised land of Exceptional Grades. As I was tempted to coast through the Valley of Scrape-By, a voice spake with me and bade me to listen, for he had knowledge to share.

The celestial power handed down these ten rules for writing a great essay, and I present them to you, my brothers and sisters. Follow them all, or you shall perish in the hell of infernal bad grades (failing that, you can hire an essay editor!)

(No offense intended to the author of the original Ten Commandments.)

The Ten Commandments of Writing a Great Essay

Picture of the number oneThou shalt research, and thou shalt recognize that Facebook is not research

Great essay writing involves research

Yep, you really do need to read the books, search the journals and scour the web to find as much information about the topic as you can. Even though this element of the essay writing process is somewhat dull, it will actually make writing the damn thing much easier in the long term. Trust me on this.


Picture of the number twoThou shalt structure thy essay before thou writes it

Planning an essay

Ever heard the phrase “It’s all in the planning?” Well, it really is. Your essay should have a very clear structure that consists of an introductory paragraph, three to five paragraphs that develop the ideas and arguments, and a conclusion. Create a high-level plan of which ideas and points you intend to develop in which section, and this will make the writing process much more effective.

Have you  written an essay that needs editing? Our guide to essay editing may be exactly what you need.

Picture of the number threeThou shalt write a thesis statement and shalt buildeth thy entire paper around thy thesis statement

Writing a thesis statement

Once you have a good idea about what you are actually going to say in your essay, you should know what type of answer you intend to give. If you don’t, you need to do more research… did you read what I wrote about Facebook?

Before actually writing the essay, you should form a thesis statement. This statement will tell the reader what you will be writing about and what your essay will seek to prove. Include your thesis statement in your introductory paragraph so that you set the scene for the information that will follow. If you want a shortcut to how to write a thesis statements, check out our thesis statement formula.


Picture of the number fourThou shalt answereth the question set, and it will be good

Make sure your essay answers the question

It is very common for students to reel off tons of facts and figures without actually answering the question that has been set. What a total waste of time! Make sure you read the question several times and are 100% certain that you know what is being asked. Repeatedly ask yourself if you are answering the question as you write your essay. One great method to ensure that you are, is to refer back to the question at the end of every paragraph by including a statement that confirms how the information you have provided answers the prompt or supports your thesis statement.


Picture of the number fiveThou shalt avoid waffle and shalt not use jargon when common language will serve

Avoid jargon in essays

Every single sentence that you write in your essay should serve a purpose. They should be clear, straight to the point and informative. Don’t be tempted to use up your word count by repeating the same idea several times using different words: you will fool no one. Waffle will bore your reader and damage the overall coherency of your paper.

Picture of the number sixThou shalt present one idea per paragraph, and never shalt thou write a paragraph that serveth no purpose

structuring your essay

Present and write about just one idea per paragraph. This will help you to create a structured argument and will make your paper easy to follow. Refer back to your thesis statement or question at the end of every paragraph (yep, it’s that important I have written it twice), by doing this, you ensure that you are actually answering the question in a methodical manner.

Thou mayest covet other authors’ works, but thou shalt not steal them

I like the writing in the paper, I only wish more of it had been yours

Never, ever copy an essay off the Internet or from a friend. Despite the fact that there is absolutely no point in doing this because you will learn absolutely nothing, the majority of educational establishments now use plagiarism software. Even if you don’t get caught out now, there’s a chance you will in the future and, in the worst-case scenario, your qualification may even be cancelled. Can you imagine breaking that news to your parents?

Always ensure that you fully reference the work of any publications you have utilized within your essay and include full and accurate citations where required.

Looking for more help to write an essay? Take a look at our essay writing checklist.

Picture of the number eight

Thou shalt write thy essay thyself and shalt not pay thy neighbor

Don't buy essays

There are websites out there that offer to write your essay for you for a very substantial fee—avoid them like the plague. Regardless of the fact that using these sites is actually cheating, you will not learn anything from your essays and will not have the knowledge that you need to get on in life.

If you have no morals and don’t care about learning, there’s another problem with paying for essays; unless you can avoid using these sites for every essay you submit, there’s a chance that your professor will notice discrepancies in the quality of your writing, and you may be forced to answer some very serious questions. Good luck with that.

picture of the number nine

Thou shalt avoid the use of passive voice

Avoid passive voice in essays

Overuse of the passive voice can lead to writing which is unclear and flat. If you repeatedly use passive voice throughout your essay, you will bore your audience to tears, and the reader will lose all concept of the agent (no, I am not referring to 007).

Picture of the number ten

Thou shalt not forsake thy proofreading, and thou shalt honor English rules

Proofreading is easier said than done

Do you think Stephen King or J. K. Rowling publish their work without ensuring that it is painstakingly proofread? Of course they don’t, and neither should you. There’s no point in putting hours of work into an essay if you are going to damage your credibility by handing in something that is full of mistakes. Your professor won’t take you seriously, and your grade will suffer.

If you need help perfecting your essays, check out our academic editing services.

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