Essay writing is a craft that takes time to develop. Indeed, first-rate academic prose can take years to master. Achieving such qualities are thus a slow-burning process that cannot simply be fast-tracked, mimicked, or faked with tricks and gimmicks. One has to do the ground work, developing one's writing skills in sync with their critical thinking. How one does this is a matter of personal choice. There is no single formula for writing a good essay. Rather, numerous alternate approaches are available. However, there are some overriding precepts which will guide the student in their efforts to completing the perfect paper. Good essay writing is first and foremost about clarity: the primary objective of scholarly prose is to communicate information. Academic texts must therefore be clear and concise. Also, they must be cogent; that is, they must present relevant information in a logical order. In order to ensure an essay is relevant, one must undertake thorough and effective research, compiling a wide variety of critical sources; these must then be filtered through and arranged, with the most apposite examples being prioritised and thus cited. One must present this information in a critical and analytical manner. This means dissecting the information presented, synthesising it with other related information and evaluating all sides for critical merit. This latter, being critical, is of the utmost importance. One does not want to be overly descriptive and simply echo what others have said; this will inevitably cost you marks. The crux of critical prose is in argumentation: employing formal logic to adduce evidence and form hypotheses which are then tested against measurable results. In sum, have a point of view and make a case for it, mount your own argument and cite sources that add to or buttress your own position.
In terms of the technical process of writing, the most important thing to understand is that good writing is re-writing, in every instance. Excellent essays are invariably the result of a revisionary process. Even the greatest writers in the world are re-writers. It is highly unlikely that you will say what you want to say in the best way possible at the first attempt. It is far more likely that you will have to re-work certain sentences or passages one, two, three or more times before you arrive at the optimal version. You must factor this in to your composition process; make sure you allow adequate time for revisions, at least a day or two. Getting an essay to first-rate standard is mostly done in the editing stage. Any first-class essay will have been submitted to thorough and circumspect editing. Hence essay writing is as much about hard work and discipline as it is about knowledge or skill. Crafting a perfect essay is like sculpting. One wants first to carve out the broad shape and contour of the piece, moving on thereafter to the finer details, finally smoothing out imperfections and polishing to a finish. One wants to strike a balance between formal elegance, critical rigour, and technical perfection. If you need help with a particular style of essay, you can find the advice you need on our essay help pages.
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