How to Write the Perfect Essay

Writing the perfect essay isn't as tough as you think.

Writing an essay can be made much easier if you follow a simple formula. This formula is for a traditional five-paragraph essay, but the same strategy can work for lengthier manuscripts as you get a handle on it.

Select a topic and keep it simple. Once you choose a topic, start small and think of three main points you would like to make. For example, say your topic is “apples.” Your three main points could be something simple like, “apples taste good,” “apples come in many colors" and “apples are healthy.”

Create a basic outline. Start with the five basic components of the five-paragraph essay. The main components are the introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs and a conclusion paragraph.

Follow the three “Tells” to fill in your outline. First, tell the readers what you are going to tell them (introduction), then tell them the actual information (supporting paragraphs), then tell them what you told them (conclusion).

Use an inverted funnel to create an introductory paragraph. In other words, start broad and narrow to your thesis point. Always start with a catchy lead line, which can be broad. For our apple example, you could write something like, “We all know the story about Isaac Newton’s experience with an apple.” Your final statement of the introductory paragraph should be your thesis statement, which can be a collection of your three points. For example, you could say, “Apples taste good, come in many colors and are good for you.”

Follow with a paragraph for each of your three thesis points. Each paragraph should be an elaboration of one point. For example, in paragraph one, you could talk about the varieties of apples and how each one tastes; in paragraph two, you could talk about how the various varieties come in different colors; in paragraph three, you could talk about the health benefits of apples.

Develop your conclusion. Here you will reverse your funnel strategy. In your first sentence, you should restate your thesis sentence. This is where you “tell them what you told them.” Then, you can get a little creative and muse about what it all means as you finish your final paragraph (the broad end of the funnel).

If you have a more complex topic, expand this formula to include five or even 10 points. To keep your thesis concise in longer essays, group similar points together.

Read your essay several times for grammar, spelling, syntax, usage, style and flow. It can help to do this on screen and on paper. It can also help to read the essay aloud. You can also use the Microsoft Word “spelling and grammar” function to catch errors. While some might view this as cheating, it is actually a terrific learning tool, as Word provides explanations for a variety of common mistakes.

Christe Bruderlin-Nelson's work is in over 50 print publications and all over the Web. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers, the Association of Healthcare Journalists and the American Medical Writers Association.