English: Writing Tips

Essay Writing

Step 1: Read the Question

Before you begin writing, read the question. Highlight the key words. Make sure you know what the question is asking.

Step 2: Plan, plan, plan

Produce a clear plan for how you will answer the question. Have an idea about what point you want to make in each paragraph, and find yourself a quotation for each point.

Step 3: Introduction

Introductions can be tricky, but they will be easier to write if you think and plan first. There are two parts to an introduction:

  1. An introduction will give a brief overview to the novel and the author.
  2. Most importantly, a good introduction will state what you plan to argue in your essay.

For example, you might, if you study Of Mice and Men, get a question like:

How does Steinbeck present the character of Curley's Wife?

You might think that Curley's Wife is a "tart", or you might think that she is completely innocent, or you might think there are different aspects to her character. You must decide what your view is, and write an overview of your opinion in your opening paragraph.

Step 4: Answer the Question

Make sure you answer this question (which is harder than it sounds!). To make sure you answer the question, refer back to the question in each paragraph of your essay.

In the above question, for example, your paragraphs should begin something like this:

  1. Steinbeck first presents Curley's wife as...
  2. Steinbeck reveals more about Curley's wife as the novel progresses...
  3. Steinbeck also presents her as...

To get the higher marks, you need to be able to go beyond a simple PEE structure. In your 'explain' section, you must be really detailed. You must offer different interpretations, and show your thorough understanding of the subtleties of language. You must link your ideas to the bigger themes of the novel.

For example:

In the first symbolic description of Curley's Wife, Steinbeck presents her as both a threat to men and also craving for attention. The narrative tells us that "Both men glanced up" as she arrives, which shows at once that she has an immediate impact upon the male characters, and could also suggest that she manipulated events to draw attention to herself in this manner, thus suggesting her need for attention; the fact that "rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off" suggests that she is a bringer of darkness, and darkness is typically associated with danger, foreshadowing later events in the novel. Yet, her action is innocent in itself, for anyone entering the barn would surely cast a similar shadow over the proceedings, which leads to the central problem facing her: the fact that her gender causes her to be an outsider, and thus a danger to the men. She, like many of the other characters, is ultimately isolated and lonely, and this is the primary motivation for all her actions, innocent or otherwise.

In the example, there is a clear point, an embedded quotation, and an explanation that offers up various interpretations.

Step 5: Conclusion

This rounds up what you have been talking about in your essay...and you'll know, if you follow the steps before this one!

Creative Writing

Handy Tip: Do not whatever you do, write a poem, when asked to do any original writing. Most examiners won't know how to mark it, so they'll probably mark it lower than it deserves, and if you're really unlucky, they just won't mark it at all. Plus it's hard to write poety that isn't poor.

Don't write poetry!

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All text copyright © 2006 to EJ Taylor. Page Template created by James Taylor. Site created: 10 April, 2006. Last revised: 2 August, 2015