What Makes Up a Well-Written Essay in High School?

Good essays include good introductions, bodies and conclusions.
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The Common Core State Standards advocate writing across the curriculum. This means writing is no longer limited to English language arts classes in high schools. In fact, the Common Core State Standards require literacy and writing in science, social studies, history and technical subjects. Although the formats and expectations for writing assignments will vary from class to class, all well-written essays have strong content, an engaging introduction, solid body paragraphs, a thought provoking conclusion and excellent grammar and mechanics. Most high schools require students to follow Modern Language Association or MLA style guidelines.

1 Introduction

From the beginning, a well-organized and structured paper engages the reader with a strong introduction that introduces the topic, explains the methodology and includes a clearly stated thesis statement, describing the paper's main idea. When provided with a topic or a prompt, writers thoroughly address the subject and do not leave any unanswered questions. A well-written introduction leaves the reader understanding what the writer plans to address and how it will be delivered.

2 Body

The body paragraphs succinctly express the essay's main idea. Body paragraphs usually have three components: a topic sentence, supporting sentences and a concluding sentence. The topic sentence states the paragraph's main idea. The supporting sentences support and add to the topic sentence while building a conclusion. The concluding sentences summarize or connect the details, and they let the reader know that the paragraph is ending. If properly written, the details should integrate well within the essay and support the thesis.

3 Conclusion

In contrast to the commonly held belief that concluding paragraphs restate the essay's thesis, they should compel the reader to take a stand, look at something differently or comprehend a subject from an alternate perspective. The concluding paragraph should illustrate the importance of the writing and explain the results or implications of the paper's findings. Never begin your conclusion with cliche phrases such as "In conclusion...," "In summary..." or "To this end...."

4 Voice

When writers allow their personality to shine through the text, they develop a distinctive voice. Voice is what makes their writing special. It allows the readers to make a connection to the writer and interact with the text. Because each assignment will have a different purpose and audience, a student must alter her voice to satisfy the requirements of each writing assignment. Without using superfluous language, the writer uses an engaging and sophisticated style to present the content.

5 Grammar and Mechanics

If writers have excellent ideas and interesting stories to tell, but they do not follow the rules of the language, they have failed to communicate effectively as writers. Just as poor grammar and mechanics such as sentence fragments, rambling sentences and comma splices, distract and confuse readers, correct subject-verb agreement, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization make easily read, well-written essays. Because even minor errors can cause confusion, it is important to proofread and edit essays before submitting them.

Janet Rutherford began her writing career in 2006. She served as an English teacher and education consultant for 15 years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English education from Rust College and a Master of Education in educational leadership from the University of Mississippi.