How to write an essay

Tips, points of attention & step-by-step plan

In an essay, you take a position. Using arguments and refutations as support, you assert why you think that position is correct. This is how you try to convince the reader that you are right. Once you have a clear thesis and argument, the next question will pop up: how do you write an essay? These tips will help you with that.

1. Start with a writing plan

Don't write at random. An essay is short, so it is important to know in advance what you want to say. Make sure you know what your point of view is, what arguments you want to make, what counterarguments you name and what your rebuttals to them are.

Also, think about the order of the arguments. These should be organized logically in the text. A writing scheme will help you work in a structured way later on and will prevent you from scrambling around to fix your work afterwards.

2. Follow the 'How to write an essay' roadmap.

To help you answer the question "How do you write an essay?," we have a handy step-by-step essay writing guide. In it, you'll read about exactly how to properly approach writing an essay. From the writing plan, to the conclusion, and to the last final check. Follow this step-by-step plan to avoid forgetting important elements of your essay.

By the way, an argumentative essay is not the only type of essay. Want to know what other types of essays there are? Then read our article on types of essays. Also, take a look at sample essays for inspiration.

3. Delve into the structure of an essay

It is not the case that every essay has the exact same structure. Sometimes you discuss all the arguments in favour of the thesis first, and then the counterarguments. Other times, you discuss these arguments interchangeably.

However, the structure is generally the same. This means that an essay should always have a catchy introduction ending with your point of view. This is followed by the arguments (for and against your thesis) and refutations of the counterarguments. Finally, you present the conclusion.

Check out our explanation of the common structure for an argumentative essay. There you will read how to properly structure an essay.

4. Make sure your argument is strong

A good essay depends on a strong argument.

On the one hand, this involves presenting arguments for your position. You support those arguments with evidence. This could be, for example, previous studies, your own research, statistics or logical reasoning.

On the other hand, you present counter arguments and then refute them. By doing so, you highlight your point of view from several sides and address possible objections the reader may have. Additionally, you explain the counterarguments in detail and support your refutations with evidence.

5. Use the correct writing style: informal and professional

Want to know exactly how to write an essay? Find out on our website what an appropriate essay writing style is. The ideal writing style for an essay is different from a thesis. An essay may be written more informally. While doing so, keep it professional.

In general, you can stick to an academic writing style, except that you may sometimes be a bit more light-hearted in your wording. Furthermore, it is not a problem to write using ‘I’ in the essay. Actually, this can be quite common.

Tip: always check with your teacher what writing style they expect you to use in your essay. Some teachers favour an informal writing style more than others do.

6. Pay specific attention to the opening and closing sentences

Part of a light-hearted writing style also includes a catchy opening sentence and a solid ending. So, think carefully about the sentences you start and end your text with.

For example, use a question, quote or controversial point of view as an opening sentence. For the conclusion, you can use a question to the reader or offer a glimpse into the future, among other things.

7. End with a powerful conclusion

In the conclusion of the essay, you summarise your position and the arguments you made. You don't need to repeat the arguments at length. Keep it short, and don't give any new information either. The reader should now be able to see how your arguments flow logically together to prove that your position is correct. Draw your conclusion by tying things together, and end with a strong concluding sentence. 

8. Include all sources in the bibliography

You often support the arguments in an essay with scientific evidence. As with any paper you write during your studies, it is important to properly cite sources.

Include sources in your bibliography and use correct source citations in the running text. To do so, follow the referencing style used by your course. For most programmes, this is the APA style; legal programmes use the Guideline for Legal Authors.

Tip: Did you know that you can have sources automatically generated in these two styles?

You can do this by using our APA generator and the Guidance for Legal Authors generator. Try it for yourself! It saves you a lot of work. 

9. Keep the standard length

If you are wondering how to write an essay, you are probably also asking yourself, “how long should an essay be?” On average, an essay is about three to nine pages. The exact length depends on the requirements set by your professor or course. Often, the professor will give you a maximum word count. Stick to that when you write your essay.

For essays up to five pages, subheads are not common. Is your essay six pages or more? Then you may be able to use headings. However, the guidelines from your course always take priority.

Feedback on your essay?

After reading this article, you will have the answer to the question 'How to write an essay'. In practice, writing an essay can be quite challenging. Do you like having an extra pair of eyes looking over your writing style, language and spelling, and common thread? Then have your text checked by an AthenaCheck editor. They will dot the 'i's and cross the ‘t’s’ for you.