How To Write an Essay

Writing an essay is no easy process. Even straight A students stare blankly at the computer screen, unsure how to begin and dreading the hours of work ahead of them. If your teacher has unfairly assigned a paper and you have no idea where to start, look no farther. These instructions will teach you how to write an essay, in eleven and a half simple steps. You should get going—the paper is due in one week.

Step 1: Choose your topic. This is one of the most important steps, but it is also the most difficult. Ideally, the topic you choose should at least vaguely relate to the prompt of the assigned essay. A safe way to decide on a topic would be to select something you are familiar with. Be careful: choosing the wrong topic can have disastrous consequences, such as making it harder to write, lower English grades, exploding food in the microwave, overall failure, and the world ending on the day your paper is due.

Step 2: Change the topic. The one you originally chose can never be good enough. Not only should your topic be something you know a lot about, it should also be distinctive, so your paper will stand out from others in your class. Finding the perfect line between these two goals may be like looking for the floor in a teenager's room, but it is (almost) humanly possible.

Step 3: Change topics again. The original topic is better because you are more familiar with it. By now, your paper is due in two days—you probably haven't written it yet because you were so indecisive. At this point, you should stop procrastinating, make a decision, and get to work.

Step 4: Outline your essay. Once you finally chose something to write about, organize your ideas. Many people skip this step, but, unless you want to continue searching for the floor without any sort of guideline (see instructions on "How to Locate the Floor in a Teenager's Room"), organize your ideas in some way. The outline doesn't have to include every detail of the essay, but it will help you structure it as you write.

Step 5: Write the introduction. Note: unlike the previous step, you can skip this one if you want; in any case, you'll probably end up rewriting it after you're done. Typically, the introduction gets the reader's attention and provides background information to introduce them to the topic. The thesis is often included in this part of an essay as well.

Step 5 ½: If you don't know what a thesis is, give up now. You are doomed to fail anyway.

Step 6: Develop the body paragraphs. This should not be too incredibly difficult, especially if you followed Step 4 correctly. Let the outline serve as a guide as you struggle through your paper. Don't worry about the exact wording of each sentence—this comes later. Be sure to stay focused on your ideas without getting off topic.

Step 7: Take a nap. Writing an essay can be exhausting. If you feel tired, allow yourself to take a short nap. After a brief rest, your mind will be more ready to write and your face covered with impressions from the computer keypad. If, however, you fail to wake up within half an hour, you have no chance of opening your eyes until the next morning. After your teacher refuses to accept your paper late, your grade will be ruined, your GPA will decrease, and any hopes of attending your dream college will be tragically gone. Or you could just set an alarm.

Step 8: Write the conclusion. You should try to give the readers something to think about, but there are many different ways to do this. Driving them insane by asking a question they can't answer is one method to concluding a paper. Summarizing the ideas presented in the rest of the paper or drawing a conclusion based on the details presented in the body paragraphs are other common ways to end an essay. Once you've done this, you have successfully completed an essay. Now for the hard part.

Step 9: Revise. Yes, this is the hard part. You've written your essay, but it isn't done. In fact, it's probably pretty terrible. Read through your paper with a critical eye and aim to correct flaws in the ideas and organization. If you haven't already done so, write (or rewrite) the introduction.

Step 10: Edit. Now that you have fixed the ideas behind your essay, you can look to revise individual sentences. Read very carefully through your paper to find any unnecessary phrases, especially those that restate ideas that you have stated already or that could be condensed into a shorter sentence by removing the unnecessary words in that sentence. Otherwise, your paper will be filled with many unneeded words and phrases, such as "that" and "very" that do not contribute to the overall essay and should be deleted in order to create a much more succinct paper. This step is very, very important unless you want to make your English teacher really, really mad, so make sure to get rid of any redundant sentences or those that restate the same ideas over and over and over again.

Step 11: Finish the essay. Although there may be no end to the revising process, you're probably running out of time. The morning the paper is due, read through the essay and make any last minute changes. A good rule to follow is: if you're considering deleting something, delete it.

All you must do now is turn in your essay. This is crucial. If you don't turn your paper in, you will have a smaller chance of receiving an A, although if you're reading this, you never had a high chance in the first place. Whatever happens, do not forget to print the final draft. After you have done this, you can finally lean back and relax, unless you're in AP Language, which means you probably have at least three more essays to write. Go back to Step 1 and repeat this entire process.