Most students, by the time they finish high school, have been assigned to write an essay. Knowing some basic essay-writing skills ensures that your essays are informative, interesting and correctly structured. Regardless of the topic of the essay, writing good introductions and conclusions, understanding paragraph structure, forming a clear good thesis and using transition words are all basic skills that will make your essay effective.
Introductions and Conclusions
Your introduction should contain at least three carefully worded sentences. Begin with a "hook"--an interesting statement or question--to draw your reader's attention into the essay. Readers are more likely to read your essay when it starts with "Romeo was a fool to fall in love with Juliet" instead of "Shakespeare wrote the play Romeo and Juliet." After the "hook," write your thesis statement and then lead your readers into the essay by briefly mentioning what you will talk about next. If your essay concerns a piece of writing, be sure to mention the title and author's name of the work you will be discussing. The introduction should also briefly define the argument you will defend in the essay. The conclusion to an essay, according to the Grammar Guide, should finish off your essay with a brief summary of what you talked about, and should then contain one or more of the following: a question to get your readers thinking about what you wrote, a quotation that is meaningful to your topic, imagery to leave your reader with a vivid picture in his mind, a call to action, a warning or a suggestion to readers of the consequences of not agreeing with the essay's focus.
Each body paragraph of the essay should add to the information you already wrote. In the introduction, for example, if you listed two reasons or arguments for your thesis, you should have at least two body paragraphs, one for each reason. A body paragraph's structure is important so the reader will know what she is going to read and glean some information about your argument. Begin with a topic sentence, which states what the paragraph will be about. Discuss your argument or support of the thesis by using explanation, statistics, anecdotes and/or examples. End the paragraph with a concluding sentence that both wraps up the paragraph's content and tells the reader what to expect next.
A well-written thesis statement is key to the entire essay's success. Placed in the introduction, the thesis statement tells the reader succinctly what your position is regarding the topic of the essay. For example, if your essay's topic is alternative fuels, the thesis statement should clearly state whether you will discuss reasons to research the use of alternative fuel or whether we're doing just fine with oil. The Online Writing Lab suggests some steps for generating a good thesis. Write a specific statement that only states what you're going to discuss in your essay. Be ready to support that statement with evidence. Place the thesis statement at or near the end of the introductory paragraph of the essay. Be flexible and know that you may need to change your thesis slightly as you write your paper. Your argument may change slightly and the thesis should reflect this.
Readers need to know what they are going to encounter next or they may become confused while reading your essay. Transition words and phrases signal the reader that you are either changing the topic, elaborating on it or perhaps offering a contradictory view. Transitions bridge the gap between sentences and paragraph smoothly so your essay flows well. If you are going to continue the same line of argument, use words such as moreover, hence, in addition, because, and further. If you are changing topics, use words like instead, however, on the other hand, and on the contrary. These words signal the reader that you're continuing or changing a line of thought.