How to Write an Effective Essay Fast

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Writing clear, concise prose on a short deadline is one of the most demanding tasks for even an experienced writer. Students are frequently required to write essays in short time windows, with varying results. Regardless of the subject matter, there are a few approaches that can help you write the most effective essay under these circumstances. With some practice, these techniques will become second nature and the process much easier.

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Watch or stopwatch

1 Allot at least 10 percent

Allot at least 10 percent of your time for planning. If you have 20 minutes to write an essay, use at least two minutes to plan. If you have an hour, use at least 6 minutes. Rushing into an essay is counterproductive, since you will almost certainly run into a mental dead-end, requiring more time to write your way out than you would have used to plan.

2 Outline your essay

Outline your essay. Typically you will want to structure it with an introduction, a body that presents supporting evidence and arguments, and a conclusion. Depending on the time permitted, this could be anywhere from three paragraphs to multiple pages. However, an essay with structure will be faster and easier to write, and it will be more comprehensible for the reader.

3 Think of your supporting examples and arguments

Think of your supporting examples and arguments before you begin writing. You do not need to flesh these out in full, but save yourself the trouble of brainstorming after you have begun the actual writing process.

4 Write in clear

Write in clear, direct sentences. Do not attempt elaborate grammatical structures unless you are confident. Restrict your vocabulary to words you know well. A flashy vocabulary will not impress the reader if you deploy any of these words incorrectly.

5 Write an introduction

Write an introduction. Depending on the overall length of the essay, this could be a sentence or a paragraph. Try to open with an arresting sentence or idea that's a grabber. Most important is to make clear what your essay is about.

6 Write your supporting arguments

Write your supporting arguments. Depending on the nature of your essay, this could be evidence-heavy or mostly rhetorical. Keep close to the main subject of your essay and avoid tangents, however interesting they might seem. When using evidence, be as specific as possible. Vague examples such as "a person I once knew" are not strong evidence.

7 Write your conclusion

Write your conclusion. This should not introduce any new information or line of reasoning, but should sum up your basic argument. If possible, make your final sentence an interesting and memorable one. It will be the last impression the reader receives.

  • Try to allot a few extra minutes at the end to scan your essay and correct any spelling or grammatical mistakes.
  • If hand-writing your essay, take extra pains to be legible. You can read your own messy handwriting, but do not assume other readers can.

Nathaniel Williams has been writing for the web since 2001. He has written for the History News Network, Being There Magazine, and Vote iQ. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Washington and is a working filmmaker.