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How to Write Any High School Essay

Last Updated: March 22, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Emily Listmann, MA and by wikiHow staff writer, Hunter Rising . Emily Listmann is a private tutor in San Carlos, California. She has worked as a Social Studies Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and an SAT Prep Teacher. She received her MA in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014. There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 561,895 times.

Writing an essay is an important basic skill that you will need to succeed in high school and college. While essays will vary depending on your teacher and the assignment, most essays will follow the same basic structure. By supporting your thesis with information in your body paragraphs, you can successfully write an essay for any course!

Writing Help

tips for writing a high school essay

Planning Your Essay

Step 1 Determine the type of essay you need to write.

  • Expository essays uses arguments to investigate and explain a topic.
  • Persuasive essays try to convince the readers to believe or accept your specific point of view
  • Narrative essays tell about a real-life personal experience.
  • Descriptive essays are used to communicate deeper meaning through the use of descriptive words and sensory details.

Step 2 Do preliminary research on your essay’s topic.

  • Look through books or use search engines online to look at the broad topic before narrowing your ideas down into something more concise.

Step 3 Create an arguable thesis statement

  • For example, the statement “Elephants are used to perform in circuses” does not offer an arguable point. Instead, you may try something like “Elephants should not be kept in the circus since they are mistreated.” This allows you to find supporting arguments or for others to argue against it.
  • Keep in mind that some essay writing will not require an argument, such as a narrative essay. Instead, you might focus on a pivotal point in the story as your main claim.

Step 4 Find reliable sources...

  • Talk to your school’s librarian for direction on specific books or databases you could use to find your information.
  • Many schools offer access to online databases like EBSCO or JSTOR where you can find reliable information.
  • Wikipedia is a great starting place for your research, but it can be edited by anyone in the world. Instead, look at the article’s references to find the sites where the information really came from.
  • Use Google Scholar if you want to find peer-reviewed scholarly articles for your sources.
  • Make sure to consider the author’s credibility when reviewing sources. If a source does not include the author’s name, then it might not be a good option.

Step 5 Make an outline...

  • Outlines will vary in size or length depending on how long your essay needs to be. Longer essays will have more body paragraphs to support your arguments.

Starting an Essay

Step 1 Hook the readers with a relevant fact, quote, or question for the first sentence.

  • Make sure your quotes or information are accurate and not an exaggeration of the truth, or else readers will question your validity throughout the rest of your essay.

Step 2 Introduce your thesis in one sentence.

  • For example, “Because global warming is causing the polar ice caps to melt, we need to eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels within the next 5 years.” Or, “Since flavored tobacco appeals mainly to children and teens, it should be illegal for tobacco manufacturers to sell these products.”
  • The thesis is usually the last or second to last sentence in your introduction.

Step 3 Provide a sentence that’s a mini-outline for the topics that your essay covers.

  • Use the main topics of your body paragraphs as an idea of what to include in your mini-outline.

Step 4 Keep the introduction between 4-5 sentences.

Writing the Body Paragraphs

Step 1 Start each paragraph with a topic sentence.

  • Think of your topic sentences as mini-theses so your paragraphs only argue a specific point.

Step 2 Include evidence and quotes from your research and cite your sources.

  • Many high school essays are written in MLA or APA style. Ask your teacher what format they want you to follow if it’s not specified.

Step 3 Provide your own analysis of the evidence you find.

  • Unless you’re writing a personal essay, avoid the use of “I” statements since this could make your essay look less professional.

Step 4 Use transitional phrases between each of your body paragraphs.

  • For example, if your body paragraphs discuss similar points in a different way, you can use phrases like “in the same way,” “similarly,” and “just as” to start other body paragraphs.
  • If you are posing different points, try phrases like “in spite of,” “in contrast,” or “however” to transition.

Concluding Your Essay

Step 1 Restate your thesis and summarize your arguments briefly.

  • For example, if your thesis was, “The cell phone is the most important invention in the past 30 years,” then you may restate the thesis in your conclusion like, “Due to the ability to communicate anywhere in the world and access information easily, the cell phone is a pivotal invention in human history.”
  • If you’re only writing a 1-page paper, restating your main ideas isn’t necessary.

Step 2 Discuss why the subject of your paper is relevant moving forward.

  • For example, if you write an essay discussing the themes of a book, think about how the themes are affecting people’s lives today.

Step 3 End the paragraph with a lasting thought that ties into your introduction.

  • Try to pick the same type of closing sentence as you used as your attention getter.

Step 4 Include a Works...

  • Including a Works Cited page shows that the information you provided isn’t all your own and allows the reader to visit the sources to see the raw information for themselves.
  • Avoid using online citation machines since they may be outdated.

Revising the Paper

Step 1 Determine if your point comes across clearly through your arguments.

  • Have a peer or parent read through your essay to see if they understand what point you’re trying to make.

Step 2 Check the flow of your essay between paragraphs.

  • For example, if your essay discusses the history of an event, make sure your sentences flow in a chronological way in the order the events happened.

Step 3 Rewrite or remove any sections that go off-topic.

  • If you cut parts out of your essay, make sure to reread it to see if it affects the flow of how it reads.

Step 4 Read through your essay for punctuation or spelling errors.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Allow ample time to layout your essay before you get started writing. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • If you have writer's block , take a break for a few minutes. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 2
  • Check the rubric provided by your teacher and compare your essay to it. This helps you gauge what you need to include or change. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 1

tips for writing a high school essay

  • Avoid using plagiarism since this could result in academic consequences. Thanks Helpful 5 Not Helpful 1

You Might Also Like

Plan an Essay Using a Mind Map

  • ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/types-of-essays/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/thesis-statements/
  • ↑ https://guides.libs.uga.edu/reliability
  • ↑ https://facultyweb.ivcc.edu/rrambo/eng1001/outline.htm
  • ↑ https://examples.yourdictionary.com/20-compelling-hook-examples-for-essays.html
  • ↑ https://wts.indiana.edu/writing-guides/how-to-write-a-thesis-statement.html
  • ↑ https://guidetogrammar.org/grammar/five_par.htm
  • ↑ https://learning.hccs.edu/faculty/jason.laviolette/persuasive-essay-outline
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/paragraphs/topicsentences
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/transitions/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/ending-essay-conclusions
  • ↑ https://libguides.newcastle.edu.au/how-to-write-an-essay/conclusion
  • ↑ https://pitt.libguides.com/citationhelp
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/revising-drafts/

About This Article

Emily Listmann, MA

Writing good essays is an important skill to have in high school, and you can write a good one by planning it out and organizing it well. Before you start, do some research on your topic so you can come up with a strong, specific thesis statement, which is essentially the main argument of your essay. For instance, your thesis might be something like, “Elephants should not be kept in the circus because they are mistreated.” Once you have your thesis, outline the paragraphs for your essay. You should have an introduction that includes your thesis, at least 3 body paragraphs that explain your main points, and a conclusion paragraph. Start each body paragraph with a topic sentence that states the main point of the paragraph. As you write your main points, make sure to include evidence and quotes from your research to back it up. To learn how to revise your paper, read more from our Writing co-author! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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The Write Practice

Essay Writing Tips: 10 Steps to Writing a Great Essay (And Have Fun Doing It!)

by Joe Bunting | 117 comments

Do you dread essay writing? Are you looking for some essay tips that will help you write an amazing essay—and have fun doing it?

essay tips

Lots of students, young and old, dread essay writing. It's a daunting assignment, one that takes research, time, and concentration.

It's also an assignment that you can break up into simple steps that make writing an essay manageable and, yes, even enjoyable.

These ten essay tips completely changed my writing process—and I hope that they can do the same for you.

Essay Writing Can Be Fun

Honestly, throughout most of high school and college, I was a mediocre essay writer.

Every once in a while, I would write a really good essay, but mostly I skated by with B's and A-minuses.

I know personally how boring writing an essay can be, and also, how hard it can be to write a good one.

However, toward the end of my time as a student, I made a breakthrough. I figured out how to not only write a great essay, I learned how to have fun while doing it . 

And since then, I've become a professional writer and have written more than a dozen books. I'm not saying that these essay writing tips are going to magically turn you into a writer, but at least they can help you enjoy the process more.

I'm excited to share these ten essay writing tips with you today! But first, we need to talk about why writing an essay is so hard.

Why Writing an Essay Is So Hard

When it comes to essay writing, a lot of students find a reason to put it off. And when they tackle it, they find it difficult to string sentences together that sound like a decent stance on the assigned subject.

Here are a few reasons why essay writing is hard:

  • You'd rather be scrolling through Facebook
  • You're trying to write something your teacher or professor will like
  • You're trying to get an A instead of writing something that's actually good
  • You want to do the least amount of work possible

The biggest reason writing an essay is so hard is because we mostly focus on those external  rewards like getting a passing grade, winning our teacher's approval, or just avoiding accusations of plagiarism.

The problem is that when you focus on external approval it not only makes writing much less fun, it also makes it significantly harder.

Because when you focus on external approval, you shut down your subconscious, and the subconscious is the source of your creativity.

The subconscious is the source of your creativity.

What this means practically is that when you're trying to write that perfect, A-plus-worthy sentence, you're turning off most of your best resources and writing skills.

So stop. Stop trying to write a good essay (or even a “good-enough” essay). Instead, write an interesting  essay, write an essay you think is fascinating. And when you're finished, go back and edit it until it's “good” according to your teacher's standards.

Yes, you need to follow the guidelines in your assignment. If your teacher tells you to write a five-paragraph essay, then write a five-paragraph essay! If your teacher asks for a specific type of essay, like an analysis, argument, or research essay, then make sure you write that type of essay!

However, within those guidelines, find room to express something that is uniquely you .

I can't guarantee you'll get a higher grade (although, you almost certainly will), but I can absolutely promise you'll have a lot more fun writing.

The Step-by-Step Process to Writing a Great Essay: Your 10 Essay Writing Tips

Ready to get writing? You can read my ten best tips for having fun while writing an essay that earns you the top grade, or check out this presentation designed by our friends at Canva Presentations .

1. Remember your essay is just a story.

Every story is about conflict and change, and the truth is that essays are about conflict and change, too! The difference is that in an essay, the conflict is between different ideas , and the change is in the way we should perceive those ideas.

That means that the best essays are about surprise: “You probably think it's one way, but in reality, you should think of it this other way.” See tip #3 for more on this.

How do you know what story you're telling? The prompt should tell you.

Any list of essay prompts includes various topics and tasks associated with them. Within those topics are characters (historical, fictional, or topical) faced with difficult choices. Your job is to work with those choices, usually by analyzing them, arguing about them, researching them, or describing them in detail.

2. Before you start writing, ask yourself, “How can I have the most fun writing this?”

It's normal to feel unmotivated when writing an academic essay. I'm a writer, and honestly, I feel unmotivated to write all the time. But I have a super-ninja, judo-mind trick I like to use to help motivate myself.

Here's the secret trick: One of the interesting things about your subconscious is that it will answer any question you ask yourself. So whenever you feel unmotivated to write your essay, ask yourself the following question:

“How much fun can I have writing this?”

Your subconscious will immediately start thinking of strategies to make the writing process more fun.

The best time to have your fun is the first draft. Since you're just brainstorming within the topic, and exploring the possible ways of approaching it, the first draft is the perfect place to get creative and even a little scandalous. Here are some wild suggestions to make your next essay a load of fun:

  • Research the most surprising or outrageous fact about the topic and use it as your hook.
  • Use a thesaurus to research the topic's key words. Get crazy with your vocabulary as you write, working in each key word synonym as much as possible.
  • Play devil's advocate and take the opposing or immoral side of the issue. See where the discussion takes you as you write.

3. As you research, ask yourself, “What surprises me about this subject?”

The temptation, when you're writing an essay, is to write what you think your teacher or professor wants to read.

Don't do this .

Instead, ask yourself, “What do I find interesting about this subject? What surprises me?”

If you can't think of anything that surprises you, anything you find interesting, then you're not searching well enough, because history, science, and literature are all brimming   over with surprises. When you look at how great ideas actually happen, the story is always, “We used  to think the world was this way. We found out we were completely wrong, and that the world is actually quite different from what we thought.”

These pieces of surprising information often make for the best topic sentences as well. Use them to outline your essay and build your body paragraphs off of each unique fact or idea. These will function as excellent hooks for your reader as you transition from one topic to the next.

(By the way, what sources should you use for research? Check out tip #10 below.)

4. Overwhelmed? Write five original sentences.

The standard three-point essay is really made up of just five original sentences surrounded by supporting paragraphs that back up those five sentences. If you're feeling overwhelmed, just write five sentences covering your most basic main points.

Here's what they might look like for this article:

  • Introductory Paragraph:  While most students consider writing an essay a boring task, with the right mindset, it can actually be an enjoyable experience.
  • Body #1: Most students think writing an essay is tedious because they focus on external rewards.
  • Body #2: Students should instead focus on internal fulfillment when writing an essay.
  • Body #3: Not only will focusing on internal fulfillment allow students to have more fun, it will also result in better essays.
  • Conclusion: Writing an essay doesn't have to be simply a way to earn a good grade. Instead, it can be a means of finding fulfillment.

After you write your five sentences, it's easy to fill in the paragraphs for each one.

Now, you give it a shot!

5. Be “source heavy.”

In college, I discovered a trick that helped me go from a B-average student to an A-student, but before I explain how it works, let me warn you. This technique is powerful , but it might not work for all teachers or professors. Use with caution.

As I was writing a paper for a literature class, I realized that the articles and books I was reading said what I was trying to say much better than I ever could. So what did I do? I quoted them liberally throughout my paper. When I wasn't quoting, I re-phrased what they said in my own words, giving proper credit, of course. I found that not only did this formula create a well-written essay, it took about half the time to write.

It's good to keep in mind that using anyone else's words, even when morphed into your own phrasing, requires citation. While the definition of plagiarism is shifting with the rise of online collaboration and cooperative learning environments, always  err on the side of excessive citation to be safe.

When I used this technique, my professors sometimes mentioned that my papers were very “source” heavy. However, at the same time, they always gave me A's.

To keep yourself safe, I recommend using a 60/40 approach with your body paragraphs: Make sure 60% of the words are your own analysis and argumentation, while 40% can be quoted (or text you paraphrase) from your sources.

Like the five sentence trick, this technique makes the writing process simpler. Instead of putting the main focus on writing well, it instead forces you to research  well, which some students find easier.

6. Write the body first, the introduction second, and the conclusion last.

Introductions are often the hardest part to write because you're trying to summarize your entire essay before you've even written it yet. Instead, try writing your introduction last, giving yourself the body of the paper to figure out the main point of your essay.

This is especially important with an essay topic you are not personally interested in. I definitely recommend this in classes you either don't excel in or care much for. Take plenty of time to draft and revise your body paragraphs before  attempting to craft a meaningful introductory paragraph.

Otherwise your opening may sound awkward, wooden, and bland.

7. Most essays answer the question, “What?” Good essays answer the “Why?” The best essays answer the “How?”

If you get stuck trying to make your argument, or you're struggling to reach the required word count, try focusing on the question, “How?”

For example:

  • How did J.D. Salinger convey the theme of inauthenticity in  The Catcher In the Rye ?
  • How did Napoleon restore stability in France after the French Revolution?
  • How does the research prove girls really do rule and boys really do drool?

If you focus on how, you'll always have enough to write about.

8. Don't be afraid to jump around.

Essay writing can be a dance. You don't have to stay in one place and write from beginning to end.

For the same reasons listed in point #6, give yourself the freedom to write as if you're circling around your topic rather than making a single, straightforward argument. Then, when you edit and proofread, you can make sure everything lines up correctly.

In fact, now is the perfect time to mention that proofreading your essay isn't just about spelling and commas.

It's about making sure your analysis or argument flows smoothly from one idea to another. (Okay, technically this comprises editing, but most students writing a high school or college essay don't take the time to complete every step of the writing process. Let's be honest.)

So as you clean up your mechanics and sentence structure, make sure your ideas flow smoothly, logically, and naturally from one to the next as you finish proofreading.

9. Here are some words and phrases you don't want to use.

  • You  (You'll notice I use a lot of you's, which is great for a blog post. However, in an academic essay, it's better to omit the second-person.)
  • To Be verbs (is, are, was, were, am)

Don't have time to edit? Here's a lightning-quick editing technique .

A note about “I”: Some teachers say you shouldn't use “I” statements in your writing, but the truth is that professional, academic papers often use phrases like “I believe” and “in my opinion,” especially in their introductions.

10. It's okay to use Wikipedia, if…

Wikipedia is one of the top five websites in the world for a reason: it can be a great tool for research. However, most teachers and professors don't consider Wikipedia a valid source for use in essays.

Don't totally discount it, though! Here are two ways you can use Wikipedia in your essay writing:

  • Background research. If you don't know enough about your topic, Wikipedia can be a great resource to quickly learn everything you need to know to get started.
  • Find sources . Check the reference section of Wikipedia's articles on your topic. While you may not be able to cite Wikipedia itself, you can often find those original sources and cite them . You can locate the links to primary and secondary sources at the bottom of any Wikipedia page under the headings “Further Reading” and “References.”

You Can Enjoy Essay Writing

The thing I regret most about high school and college is that I treated it like something I had  to do rather than something I wanted  to do.

The truth is, education is an opportunity many people in the world don't have access to.

It's a gift, not just something that makes your life more difficult. I don't want you to make the mistake of just “getting by” through school, waiting desperately for summer breaks and, eventually, graduation.

How would your life be better if you actively enjoyed writing an essay? What would school look like if you wanted to suck it dry of all the gifts it has to give you?

All I'm saying is, don't miss out!

Looking for More Essay Writing Tips?

Looking for more essay tips to strengthen your essay writing? Try some of these resources:

  • 7 Tips on Writing an Effective Essay
  • Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement

How about you? Do you have any tips for writing an essay?  Let us know in the  comments .

Need more grammar help?  My favorite tool that helps find grammar problems and even generates reports to help improve my writing is ProWritingAid . Works with Word, Scrivener, Google Docs, and web browsers. Also, be sure to use my coupon code to get 20 percent off: WritePractice20

Coupon Code:WritePractice20 »

Ready to try out these ten essay tips to make your essay assignment fun? Spend fifteen minutes using tip #4 and write five original sentences that could be turned into an essay.

When you're finished, share your five sentences in the comments section. And don't forget to give feedback to your fellow writers!

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Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

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Top 7 High School Writing Skills for Students and Teachers

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Contrary to what many students believe, writing well is a craft that can be learned by anyone. It isn’t just a talent that is the exclusive domain of those ‘good’ at English. It’s a skill. And, like any skill, it can be broken down into a series of subskills that can be taught, practised, and ultimately mastered. The ability to write with proficiency will reap rich rewards for students across many subject areas, as well as life beyond the school gates.

In this article, we’ll explore some specific high school writing skills that can be worked on in isolation to help your students develop into capable and confident writers in the shortest time possible.

So, without further ado, let’s get write into it and learn the seven essential skills that make a difference within the high school writing curriculum.

1. Build Strong Foundations

It all starts with the basics. If our students are to become skilled writers, they’ll need a firm grasp of the mechanics. In writing terms, these are foundational skills such as handwriting, spelling, punctuation, and grammar .

These are broad areas, and student knowledge of these will be built up over time, but students will struggle to express their thoughts and ideas coherently without a solid understanding of each. 

For emergent writers, areas such as handwriting, spelling, and basic punctuation will form the basis of most of their writing work. But, some high school-aged writers will still need support in these areas at times. 

For most of us, grammar is a life’s work! Be sure to take every possible opportunity to reinforce student understanding in this area, regardless of age, in literacy-specific lessons and other areas of study too.

  • Do a baseline assessment of foundation skills.
  • Identify gaps in learning.
  • Fill in the gaps!

2. Read – a Lot!

Reading is the mirror image of writing. Where writing is considered an active skill, reading is often viewed as its passive counterpart. But, in truth, reading should be anything but a passive experience for our students.

As writing apprentices, students should approach reading with a curious, investigative mindset. Reading the work of skilled writers is an opportunity to witness how they solve the problems of expression and communication via the printed word. 

It’s not just a chance for students to reinforce their understanding of foundational skills such as spelling, punctuation, and grammar, but to gain knowledge on text organization, writing dialogue, the use of literary devices , etc. Students should approach their reading with a magpie’s eye – what shiny jewels can they pluck for their own writing nest?

Remember, there’s a reason why we learn to read before we learn to write. We need to know the destination before we depart on our writing journey.

  • Read poetry out loud in class.
  • Create a class book club.
  • End the day with quiet reading time.

3. Improve Understanding of Text Types

high school writing skills | 2 different text types | Top 7 High School Writing Skills for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

Writing isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of tool. Students need to learn to select the right tool for the task. This is why we teach the different criteria for each text type or genre.

The more knowledgeable our students become about each text type’s purpose, structure, and the specific features that define it, the more able they’ll be to construct well-written texts that fulfil these particular requirements.

Of course, students can explore many different text types, from nonfiction genres such as procedural and persuasive texts to narrative fiction and poetry. It will take time and lots of practice to master all of these. Be sure to take every opportunity to reinforce student understanding in these areas, whether engaged in reading or writing activities .

  • Explicitly teach the purpose, structure, and features of each text type.
  • Create criteria checklists for each text type.
  • Use checklists when reading, writing, and editing.

4. Teach a Writing Process Model

REad our guide to the writing process  here.

Writing well has nothing in common with winning a jackpot. There’s no Lady Luck involved here. Tight writing results from proper planning and the excellent execution of that plan. To help our students create texts that are the cat’s meow every time they put pen to paper, we need to teach them a writing process model.

There are many different versions of writing process models, but each describes writing as a series of distinct sequential steps to be taken when producing any written text.

Our 5-step writing process model includes the following steps:

Each step of the process requires students to master several skills specific to that step. For example, students will need good research and planning skills to complete the prewriting stage successfully. Here’s a quick overview of some of the primary skills students will need for each step:

Stage 1: Prewriting

Related Skills: Research and planning

Stage 2: Drafting

Related Skills: Writing to an outline, timed writing, writing to a word count

Stage 3: Revising

Related Skills: Close reading, using a checklist

Stage 4: Editing

Related Skills: Knowledge of text and sentence structures and organisation, grammar, word choice, and punctuation 

Stage 5: Submitting

Related Skills: Punctuality, a positive outlook on criticism

One of the best ways for students to get to grips with this process is to start by modelling each stage explicitly for students. 

Then, they can work on the related supplementary skills, some of which we’ll cover later in this article.

The Writing Process Model is a much bigger topic than we can cover here. If you want to learn more about it, check out our comprehensive article dedicated to the subject here.

  • Teach the 5-Step Writing Process Model
  • Model completion of each step of the process
  • Create opportunities to practice the various related skills

5. See Feedback as an Opportunity

For our students, the writing process doesn’t end when they pop their essays onto your desk. The feedback of the student’s teachers and peers should be an essential part of the writing process.

The old saying among coaches and athletes that ‘there is no losing, only winning and learning’ applies to writing too. Just as knowing how to give feedback is a skill to be learned, so is learning how to receive feedback, which is essential for students to develop.

When done correctly, feedback provides the student with up-to-date information about the level of their writing skills are currently at. It will identify areas for improvement and help students to focus their efforts in a targeted manner.

This is an area where we, as teachers, can assist enormously. For students to incorporate feedback effectively for improving their writing skills , we need to ensure the feedback we provide is optimal. 

To do this, we need to follow some best-practice guidelines for giving feedback:

  • Be as specific as possible – students won’t know what to fix unless the feedback is detailed and specific. Avoid useless general statements such as ‘Must try harder!’ or ‘Well done!’. These aren’t helpful.
  • Strike while the iron is hot – research shows that immediate feedback results in a more significant increase in performance than delayed feedback.
  • Identify a goal – longer-term goals should be broken down into a series of smaller, more attainable goals, which should be communicated to the student in their feedback.
  • Involve the student – students need to understand the feedback to implement improvements; make sure you’re available if they have any questions or need advice.

6. Revise these High School Writing Skills – Rigorously!

Drafting, revising, and editing are all part of the writing process. Students must learn to approach these aspects of writing with the same focus and energy they bring to their first draft.

Just as with many other steps of the writing process, when students develop effective routines to follow they will eliminate much of the guesswork. 

The first round of revision should employ a broader perspective on the writing. It should focus on organisational elements of the writing, answering questions such as:

  • Does the article follow a logical, coherent structure?
  • Are paragraphs used effectively?
  • Does the text contain the characteristic structural features of the genre?
  • Does the text contain a compelling opening, body, and conclusion?

This leads us on to an ever-narrowing focus in the subsequent editing rounds. It’s also important to remind students that the act of editing is as much about what they take out as it is about what they put in.

Students start by focusing on text structure and organisation, moving on to sentence construction, and, finally, the proofreading stage.

7. Proofread Closely

Proofreading has a much narrower focus than the prior rounds of editing. Here, the student’s primary focus will be vocabulary, punctuation , and spelling. Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Vocabulary: 

Words are the very building blocks of a text. Learning to choose just the right word for the job is a crucial skill for students to develop. Getting good at this requires the student to develop a strong vocabulary that must be built out over time. 

One of the best ways to build a broader active vocabulary is to encourage students to read frequently and widely. However, in the meantime, the thesaurus is an essential tool for every student writer to use. 

Not only will it help students widen their vocabulary and deepen their ability to express more subtle shades of meaning in their writing in the long term, but the thesaurus can help the student select the right word on the fly too. Encourage your students to get into the habit of using a thesaurus during the drafting, editing, and proofreading stages. 

Punctuation:

Read our guide to punctuation  here.

Precise use of punctuation helps the writer accurately convey their intended meaning. It allows the writer to create pauses and indicate an emphasis on certain words or ideas. 

Skilled punctuation brings clarity to the writing and can add a sense of rhythm to it too. This element of musicality can be essential for students when engaged in writing poetry .

Sometimes, students know what they want to say perfectly well in their head, but there is something lost when the thoughts are transcribed onto paper. Often, this is just the result of our ideas flowing faster than our pens can keep up. It is this that the proofreading process is geared towards correcting.

A practical method of ensuring a sentence has been punctuated correctly is for the student to read it aloud and carefully listen as they do so. The student may even wish to record themselves reading their work on a sound recorder like those on most modern cell phones. 

When reading aloud, the student must be careful to read the text exactly as written, pausing where the punctuation dictates and flowing through where there is no punctuation. This will soon reveal to the student not only the meaning of what they’ve written but the rhythm too. They can then identify any mistakes and make the necessary corrections.

As word processing increasingly becomes the norm, spelling (not to mention handwriting) is becoming something of a lost art. However, spellcheckers are not yet infallible. For example, spellcheckers won’t catch typos that are actual words. Not only that, but spellcheckers can lead to laziness and don’t allow students to learn from their mistakes. The lesson here is clear – students shouldn’t rely exclusively on software to do all the heavy lifting!

Usually, we think of learning to spell as one of the first skills students develop as emergent writers. However, English is far from consistent in its approach, so it is worth revisiting high school spelling strategies. 

Here are some simple strategies to help your students improve their spelling skills quickly.

  • Review the basic rules of spelling
  • Take note of the exceptions to these rules
  • Use the Read-Write-Cover-Check method to learn new spellings
  • Keep a notebook of new spellings
  • Read – a lot!

There’s no doubt that writing plays a big part in any high schooler’s life. As it’s a highly complex process, it’s vital that we break that process down into its various component skills for students to practice in isolation.

While the development of these skills should be consistently linked with their writing practice, reading also provides students with a model for how these skills express themselves in a text. Encouraging your students to adopt reading as a daily habit will go a long way to lifting the level of their writing.

14 Ways to Write Better in High School

Write better essays, papers, reports and blogs

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tips for writing a high school essay

  • B.A., English, University of Michigan

Whether you're putting together a research paper for class, posting a blog, composing your SAT essay or brainstorming for your college admissions essay , you just kind of need to know how to write. And sometimes, high school kids really struggle to get the words from their brain onto paper. But really, writing is not all that tricky. You should not break out in a cold sweat when your teacher announces an essay exam . You can write better in six minutes if you just use some of these tips to help you get the ideas that flow so easily from your mouth to do the same thing from your fingertips. Read on for 14 ways to write better essays, blogs, papers, the works!

1. Read Cereal Boxes

Yep, cereal boxes, magazines, blogs, novels, the newspaper, ads, e-zines, you name it. If it has words, read it. Good writing will challenge you to up your game, and bad writing will help you learn what not to do.

A variety of reading materials can influence you in subtle ways, too. Ads are often perfect examples of succinct, persuasive text. The newspaper will show you how to hook a reader in a few lines. A novel can teach you how to incorporate dialogue seamlessly into your essay. Blogs are great for demonstrating an author's voice. So, if it's there, and you've got a second, read it.

2. Start a Blog/Journal

Good writers write. A lot. Start a blog (maybe even a teen blog?) and advertise it all over Facebook and Twitter if you're interested in feedback. Start a blog and keep it quiet if you're not. Keep a journal. Report on things happening in your life/around school/ around your home. Try to solve daily problems with quick, one-paragraph solutions. Get started on some really unique creative writing prompts . Practice. You'll get better.

3. Open Up a Can of Worms

Don't be afraid to get a little risky. Go against the grain. Shake things up. Tear apart the poems you find meaningless on your next essay. Research a touchy political subject like immigration, abortion, gun control, capital punishment, and unions. Blog about topics that generate real, heartfelt, impassioned discussion. You don't have to write about hummingbirds just because your teacher loves them.

4. To Thine Own Self Be True

Stick with your own voice. Nothing sounds faker than a high school essay with words like alas and evermore sprinkled throughout, especially when the author is a skater kid from Fresno. Use your own wit, tone, and vernacular. Yes, you should adjust your tone and level of formality based on the writing situation (blog vs. research paper), but you don't have to become a different person just to put together your college admissions essay . They'll like you better if you're you.

5. Avoid Redundancy

Just drop the word "nice" from your vocabulary. It doesn't really mean anything. Same goes for "good." There are thirty-seven better ways to say what you mean. "Busy as a bee," "sly as a fox," and "hungry as a wolf" belong in country songs, not in your ACT essay .

6. Keep Your Audience in Mind

This goes back to adjusting your tone and level of formality based on the writing situation. If you're writing to gain entrance to your first choice for college, then perhaps you'd better not talk about that time you made it to second base with your love interest. Your teacher is not interested in your sticker collection, and the readers on your blog don't care about the stellar research project you put together on the migratory habits of emperor penguins. Writing is one part marketing. Remember that if you want to be a better writer!

7. Go To the Dark Side

Just for the heck of it, allow yourself to consider the possibility that the opposite opinion is actually correct. Write your next essay defending the 180 of your thought processes. If you're a Coke person, go Pepsi. Cat lover? Defend dogs. Catholic? Figure out what the Protestants are talking about. By exploring a different set of beliefs, you open up your brain to endless creativity, and maybe garner some fodder for your next debate, too.

8. Make It Real

Boring writing doesn't use the senses. If your writing assignment is to report on the local parade and you fail to mention the shrieking kids, dripping chocolate ice cream cones, and rat-tat-tatting from the marching band's snare drum, then you've failed. You need to make whatever you're writing about come alive to your reader. If they weren't there, put them on that street with the parade. You'll be a better writer for it!

9. Give People Goosebumps

Good writing will make people feel something. Tie something concrete – relatable –to the existential. Instead of talking about justice as a vague idea, tie the word, "judgment," to the sound the gavel makes as it hits the judge's desk. Tie the word, "sadness," to a young mother lying on her husband's freshly dug grave. Tie the word, "joy" to a dog careening around the yard when it sees its owner after two long years at war. Make your readers cry or laugh out loud at the coffee shop. Ticked off. Make them feel and they'll wanna come back for more.

10. Write Creatively When You're Sleepy

Sometimes, the inspiration bug bites when you're all strung-out from being up too late. Your mind opens up a bit when you're tired, so you're more likely to shut down the "robot-I-am-in-control" portion of your brain and listen to the whisper of the muses. Give it a whirl the next time you're struggling to get out of the gate on your take-home essay.

11. Edit When You're Fully Rested

Sometimes those late-night muses steer your writing vessel directly into a rocky shoreline, so don't make the mistake of calling your work done at 3:00 AM. Heck, no. Make time the next day, after a long, satisfying rest, to edit all of those ramblings and misspelled words.

12. Enter Writing Contests

Not everyone is brave enough to enter a writing contest, and that's just silly. If you want to become a better writer, find some free writing contests for teenagers online and submit everything you wouldn't be embarrassed to see plastered all over the Internet. Often, contests come with editing or feedback, which can really help you improve. Give it a shot.

13. Dive Into Nonfiction

Not all good writers write poetry, plays, scripts, and novels. Many of the most successful writers out there stick to nonfiction. They write memoirs, magazine articles, newspaper articles, blogs, personal essays, biographies, and advertisements. Give nonfiction a shot. Try describing the last five minutes of your day with startling clarity. Take the latest news report and write a two-paragraph description of the events as if you were there. Find the coolest person you know and write your next essay about his or her childhood. Write a two-word ad for the best pair of shoes in your closet. Try it – most of the good writers do!

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  • Creative Writing Prompts for High School Students
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  • How to Write a Great Book Report
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  • Writing an Opinion Essay
  • Make Your Paragraphs Flow to Improve Writing

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  • How to structure an essay: Templates and tips

How to Structure an Essay | Tips & Templates

Published on September 18, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction , a body , and a conclusion . But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body.

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Table of contents

The basics of essay structure, chronological structure, compare-and-contrast structure, problems-methods-solutions structure, signposting to clarify your structure, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay structure.

There are two main things to keep in mind when working on your essay structure: making sure to include the right information in each part, and deciding how you’ll organize the information within the body.

Parts of an essay

The three parts that make up all essays are described in the table below.

Order of information

You’ll also have to consider how to present information within the body. There are a few general principles that can guide you here.

The first is that your argument should move from the simplest claim to the most complex . The body of a good argumentative essay often begins with simple and widely accepted claims, and then moves towards more complex and contentious ones.

For example, you might begin by describing a generally accepted philosophical concept, and then apply it to a new topic. The grounding in the general concept will allow the reader to understand your unique application of it.

The second principle is that background information should appear towards the beginning of your essay . General background is presented in the introduction. If you have additional background to present, this information will usually come at the start of the body.

The third principle is that everything in your essay should be relevant to the thesis . Ask yourself whether each piece of information advances your argument or provides necessary background. And make sure that the text clearly expresses each piece of information’s relevance.

The sections below present several organizational templates for essays: the chronological approach, the compare-and-contrast approach, and the problems-methods-solutions approach.

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tips for writing a high school essay

The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go.

A chronological approach can be useful when your essay is about a series of events. Don’t rule out other approaches, though—even when the chronological approach is the obvious one, you might be able to bring out more with a different structure.

Explore the tabs below to see a general template and a specific example outline from an essay on the invention of the printing press.

  • Thesis statement
  • Discussion of event/period
  • Consequences
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement
  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages
  • Background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press
  • Thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation
  • High levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe
  • Literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites
  • Consequence: this discouraged political and religious change
  • Invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg
  • Implications of the new technology for book production
  • Consequence: Rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible
  • Trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention
  • Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation
  • Consequence: The large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics
  • Summarize the history described
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period

Essays with two or more main subjects are often structured around comparing and contrasting . For example, a literary analysis essay might compare two different texts, and an argumentative essay might compare the strengths of different arguments.

There are two main ways of structuring a compare-and-contrast essay: the alternating method, and the block method.

Alternating

In the alternating method, each paragraph compares your subjects in terms of a specific point of comparison. These points of comparison are therefore what defines each paragraph.

The tabs below show a general template for this structure, and a specific example for an essay comparing and contrasting distance learning with traditional classroom learning.

  • Synthesis of arguments
  • Topical relevance of distance learning in lockdown
  • Increasing prevalence of distance learning over the last decade
  • Thesis statement: While distance learning has certain advantages, it introduces multiple new accessibility issues that must be addressed for it to be as effective as classroom learning
  • Classroom learning: Ease of identifying difficulties and privately discussing them
  • Distance learning: Difficulty of noticing and unobtrusively helping
  • Classroom learning: Difficulties accessing the classroom (disability, distance travelled from home)
  • Distance learning: Difficulties with online work (lack of tech literacy, unreliable connection, distractions)
  • Classroom learning: Tends to encourage personal engagement among students and with teacher, more relaxed social environment
  • Distance learning: Greater ability to reach out to teacher privately
  • Sum up, emphasize that distance learning introduces more difficulties than it solves
  • Stress the importance of addressing issues with distance learning as it becomes increasingly common
  • Distance learning may prove to be the future, but it still has a long way to go

In the block method, each subject is covered all in one go, potentially across multiple paragraphs. For example, you might write two paragraphs about your first subject and then two about your second subject, making comparisons back to the first.

The tabs again show a general template, followed by another essay on distance learning, this time with the body structured in blocks.

  • Point 1 (compare)
  • Point 2 (compare)
  • Point 3 (compare)
  • Point 4 (compare)
  • Advantages: Flexibility, accessibility
  • Disadvantages: Discomfort, challenges for those with poor internet or tech literacy
  • Advantages: Potential for teacher to discuss issues with a student in a separate private call
  • Disadvantages: Difficulty of identifying struggling students and aiding them unobtrusively, lack of personal interaction among students
  • Advantages: More accessible to those with low tech literacy, equality of all sharing one learning environment
  • Disadvantages: Students must live close enough to attend, commutes may vary, classrooms not always accessible for disabled students
  • Advantages: Ease of picking up on signs a student is struggling, more personal interaction among students
  • Disadvantages: May be harder for students to approach teacher privately in person to raise issues

An essay that concerns a specific problem (practical or theoretical) may be structured according to the problems-methods-solutions approach.

This is just what it sounds like: You define the problem, characterize a method or theory that may solve it, and finally analyze the problem, using this method or theory to arrive at a solution. If the problem is theoretical, the solution might be the analysis you present in the essay itself; otherwise, you might just present a proposed solution.

The tabs below show a template for this structure and an example outline for an essay about the problem of fake news.

  • Introduce the problem
  • Provide background
  • Describe your approach to solving it
  • Define the problem precisely
  • Describe why it’s important
  • Indicate previous approaches to the problem
  • Present your new approach, and why it’s better
  • Apply the new method or theory to the problem
  • Indicate the solution you arrive at by doing so
  • Assess (potential or actual) effectiveness of solution
  • Describe the implications
  • Problem: The growth of “fake news” online
  • Prevalence of polarized/conspiracy-focused news sources online
  • Thesis statement: Rather than attempting to stamp out online fake news through social media moderation, an effective approach to combating it must work with educational institutions to improve media literacy
  • Definition: Deliberate disinformation designed to spread virally online
  • Popularization of the term, growth of the phenomenon
  • Previous approaches: Labeling and moderation on social media platforms
  • Critique: This approach feeds conspiracies; the real solution is to improve media literacy so users can better identify fake news
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on media literacy education in schools
  • This allows people to assess news sources independently, rather than just being told which ones to trust
  • This is a long-term solution but could be highly effective
  • It would require significant organization and investment, but would equip people to judge news sources more effectively
  • Rather than trying to contain the spread of fake news, we must teach the next generation not to fall for it

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Signposting means guiding the reader through your essay with language that describes or hints at the structure of what follows.  It can help you clarify your structure for yourself as well as helping your reader follow your ideas.

The essay overview

In longer essays whose body is split into multiple named sections, the introduction often ends with an overview of the rest of the essay. This gives a brief description of the main idea or argument of each section.

The overview allows the reader to immediately understand what will be covered in the essay and in what order. Though it describes what  comes later in the text, it is generally written in the present tense . The following example is from a literary analysis essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

Transitions

Transition words and phrases are used throughout all good essays to link together different ideas. They help guide the reader through your text, and an essay that uses them effectively will be much easier to follow.

Various different relationships can be expressed by transition words, as shown in this example.

Because Hitler failed to respond to the British ultimatum, France and the UK declared war on Germany. Although it was an outcome the Allies had hoped to avoid, they were prepared to back up their ultimatum in order to combat the existential threat posed by the Third Reich.

Transition sentences may be included to transition between different paragraphs or sections of an essay. A good transition sentence moves the reader on to the next topic while indicating how it relates to the previous one.

… Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.

However , considering the issue of personal interaction among students presents a different picture.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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  • Appeal to authority fallacy
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The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

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    1. Hook the readers with a relevant fact, quote, or question for the first sentence. An attention getter draws readers into your essay. Use a shocking statistic or a hypothetical question to get the reader thinking on your subject. Make sure not to use an attention getter unrelated to the topic of your essay.

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    Body #2: Students should instead focus on internal fulfillment when writing an essay. Body #3: Not only will focusing on internal fulfillment allow students to have more fun, it will also result in better essays. Conclusion: Writing an essay doesn't have to be simply a way to earn a good grade.

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    An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates. In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills. Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence ...

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    Keep a journal. Report on things happening in your life/around school/ around your home. Try to solve daily problems with quick, one-paragraph solutions. Get started on some really unique creative writing prompts. Practice. You'll get better. 3. Open Up a Can of Worms. Don't be afraid to get a little risky.

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