Most teachers assign essays with plenty of time for students to plan, write and revise their papers. However, should you find yourself stressing over a due date, there are a number of guidelines you can follow to craft a solid, effective essay – no matter how short you are on time.

How Do You Start Off an Essay?

Whether you’re writing a short essay or a lengthy one, the best place to start is with the thesis statement. Once you’ve developed a strong and effective thesis statement, you’ll find that the rest of your content will quickly fall into place. You’ll need a thesis statement that summarizes what you’re going to cover in your essay into one or two sentences – think of it as a mini-outline for your paper. To write your thesis, take the subject of your paper, turn it into a question and then answer that question – being sure to include the "why" or "how" of your statement. For instance, if the topic of your assignment is whether college athletes should be paid, you'd ask yourself, “Should college athletes be paid?” Then, depending on what side of the argument you’re on, you’ll answer your question with a succinct statement, such as “College athletes should be paid because they're expected to train and perform at the level of a professional athlete, and they also generate significant revenue for their respective universities.”

Once you’ve written your thesis statement, the next step is to build the remainder of your introduction. Every introduction should begin with a compelling hook, such as a shocking statistic, quote, rhetorical question or short anecdote to grab your reader’s attention. After your hook, you’ll want to add about three or four more sentences to capture interest in your subject. The last sentence or two of your introduction should be your thesis statement.

How to Write an Essay Fast

After you’ve written the introduction, you’ll want to work on the body of the essay. The body is the "meat" of the paper and should focus on expanding the points you make in your thesis statement. Each body paragraph should have a topic sentence, at least three to five more sentences expanding upon that topic and a concluding sentence that sets the stage for a smooth transition into the next paragraph. Following the college athlete debate above, for example, your body paragraphs could address the amount of training college athletes incur while they’re also expected to study and remain academically successful. Subsequent body paragraphs could focus on how much revenue a school earns from college sports and could also include specific anecdotes about well-known college athletes. No matter what your topic or subject matter, each body paragraph should focus only on one main idea and include five to seven well-developed sentences. Also, remember to properly cite your sources using the citation method required by the assignment.

Once you’ve crafted the body paragraphs, the final step is to write the conclusion. The conclusion should briefly restate the thesis and main points you made in your paper and then end with a powerful clinching statement, such as a quote, a call to action or another rhetorical question. Like the body paragraphs, your conclusion should include at least five well-developed sentences.

How to Make Your Essay Great

Once you’ve written the rough draft of your essay, the next step is to take time to revise and therefore improve it. Revisions should include basic proofreading for grammar and conventions, as well as editing for vague word choices, such as the use of phrases or words like “very good” or “things” in your essay, which you’ll want to replace with more sophisticated language. When you’re revising, look for ways to vary your sentence structure; too many simple sentences can make your writing sound choppy and robotic. Peppering your essay with a blend of simple, compound and complex sentences with smooth transitions can improve the tone and voice of your essay.

Finally, once you’re satisfied with your final draft, read your essay aloud. This will allow you to catch any errors you may have previously missed and will help you determine whether any areas need to be smoothed out or tweaked a little more. Above all, you’ll need to remember that rushing the writing of an essay is only effective if it’s well written. No matter how limited your writing time is, setting aside a short period to revise and edit can make a significant impact on the quality of your essay.