Have you ever gotten an essay back and just groaned inside because of all the avoidable mistakes you made?
I’ve been in the exact same boat. And I’m here to help you by giving you this strategy I’ve gained from experience.
Here are the 8 steps you must take before you submit an essay! And yes, all of them are crucial!
Follow this simple checklist before you submit an essay to avoid losing points for easily avoidable errors and ensure you get the highest grade possible!
Let’s get into it…
Step 1. Check your essay format
Depending on your teacher, you’ll be required to format your essay in a certain way. The most common is MLA.
Usually, you’ll be required to write in Times New Roman font, size 12, and double-space the entire essay. 1-inch margins on the sides, and a centered, unbolded title. Create indents on the first line of each paragraph and don’t leave an extra line of space between each.
Check with your teacher to make sure you know the right format for your essay!
This is something really simple — you don’t want to lose points off your final grade for using the wrong format for your essay.
Step 2. Check your spelling
This is another step that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Spellcheck is an essential step in writing, yet many students still forget to do it!
Google Docs has a built-in spellcheck tool that you can rely on. Additionally, Grammarly (which I will talk more about below) offers a spellcheck feature. I recommend using both to catch any errors that may slip through the cracks of one spellchecking tool.
Step 3. Check your grammar
Again, you should be doing this already.
There are multiple ways of doing this, and I recommend 2 specifically.
1. Use Grammarly
Not much explanation is needed here, right?
You can paste your essay into Grammarly and change it based on its tips, or download the free Grammarly Chrome extension and edit your essay right on Google Docs.
It’s easy to use and very helpful in writing! Grammarly can detect even the smallest errors with commas, semicolons, word choice, etc. There’s a paid version of Grammarly, but I have found the free version to be perfectly sufficient for editing your essays.
It’s perfect for us lazy people who don’t want to read the entire essay out loud… aka the 2nd method.
2. Read the entire essay out loud
It’s much easier to recognize grammar or flow errors when you read the essay out loud.
Whenever you think, “It just sounds weird,” something is probably wrong.
Of course, there is a hack to this method. Paste your essay into Google Translate and listen to it there!
Note: Google Translate probably can’t take your entire essay at one time due to a character maximum, so break it up into paragraphs.
Step 4. Check your syntax
Basically, it’s the formal stuff. These things might not be able to be detected by Grammarly or your brain, so make sure to go over them.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Commas and periods go inside quotations unless you’re going to provide parenthetical citations right after.
- Subject-verb-object agreement. Make sure they’re phrased so that the verb modifies or refers to the right subject.
- Run-on sentences or unnecessary commas. Phrases and clauses, everybody!
- Parallel structure in sentences with multiple verbs.
These are common syntax issues to watch out for as you’re proofreading your essay.
Step 5. Check your structure
By structure, I mean the skeleton of your essay. This is what the structure of a typical essay for school will look like:
If you’re analyzing a book, make sure you have the title and author here. Make sure your thesis has a couple of clear branches.
Make sure you have the topic sentence, enough pieces of evidence, and good reasoning in each paragraph.
Remember to never end a body paragraph with a piece of evidence! Always have reasoning after your quotes.
And based on your teacher’s requirements, provide a small, 1-sentence conclusion at the end of each paragraph.
Restate your thesis, but make it relate to the real world/the reader; connect your arguments to a larger picture.
Step 6. Get rid of RIP Words
RIP Words are the words and phrases that should not EVER appear in a formal essay. If you see them, get rid of them and replace them with something else.
Here are a couple of common ones and possible replacements you can use:
- I/we/our → one/one’s
- Should/could/might/may → will/is
- Pretty/very/kind of → find a synonym
- All slang → find a real word
These are all big no-nos when it comes to writing an essay for school, and your teacher will be pleased not to find these words in your writing.
Step 7. Replace “said” with something else
If you’re writing an analytical essay, quotes are a must. And when you’re writing a lead-in for a quote, “said” might be your first choice. Make it your last choice, instead!
There are many verbs out there that could convey more emotion and imagery than “said” ever could. Here are a few:
Claimed, explained, informed, insisted, complained, lamented, gushed, acknowledged, announced, demanded, scoffed, spat, grumbled, stuttered.
Try one of these synonyms for maximum impact in your writing!
Step 8. Peer edit
Find a friend or classmate who has the same essay assignment (or not) and peer edit each other’s papers!
Your friend may be able to find logic holes or syntax errors you skimmed past, and you might be able to find a new vocabulary to use in your own writing. But stay away from plagiarizing!
This can be a great way to get a second set of eyes on your work. Sometimes a friend or classmate will find errors that you had totally glossed over yourself.
Remember, good writing comes with practice! So before you label yourself “bad at essays” after not getting an ideal score, give it another go!
These simple steps will help you write better essays in no time.