If you have trouble with English, be as simple as possible. Prefer shorter sentences; make sure your word order is correct.
Be plain, not pretentious. Prefer simple clarity to impressive wordiness (e.g. oblige, not obligate; use, not utilize).
Tell the reader what you are going to say, say it, then say you have said it. Writers are tour guides.
Support every argument you make with evidence. Be as concrete as possible. Give specific examples.
Use transitional words and phrases (e.g. all the same, in spite of, nevertheless; for example, for instance; in addition, furthermore, moreover, etc.). Use first, second, and third, finally, etc., followed by a comma when listing points (e.g. There are three problems with this view. First, there is little evidence to support it. Second, . . .).
Treat your reader as educated but not a specialist. Explain carefully.
Define your terms. Some words--reality, for example--have many meanings. Make sure the reader understands what the word means for you in your paper.
Avoid informal contractions (e.g. you're, it's, don't) and slang.
In general, prefer active verbs to passive ones: they have more punch (e.g. prefer Queen Mary persecuted Protestants to Protestants were persecuted by Queen Mary).
Leave time for revision. Reading the paper aloud is especially helpful for catching awkward sentences.
Cut out unnecessary words (e.g. many, not a large number of; since, not due to the fact that; Henry VIII was cruel, not Henry VIII was a person who was cruel).
Watch out for common errors in grammar, spelling and usage (e.g. the dog chewed it's bone [wrong--use its]; and it's a friendly dog [correct]; Global warming can effect plant life [wrong--use affect]; and Global warming can have an effect on plant life [correct]).
Cite every opinion, idea or thought that is not your own.
Entertain. Rid your essay of dullness and you warm your reader's heart.
Most essays have the following structure. Check with your professor, however. Different instructors want different things.
I. Introduction (usually one or two paragraphs)
- Provide background and context to your paper.
- Provide a thesis statement (a one sentence statement of opinion that you will be defending) in the first paragraph.
- Briefly outline your main arguments in support of your thesis. Normally you need at least 3 or 4.
- First argument supporting your thesis (one substantial paragraph).
- Second argument supporting your thesis (one substantial paragraph).
- Third argument supporting your thesis (one substantial paragraph).
III. Conclusion (usually one paragraph)
- Summarize your main arguments (in this case 3).
- Restate your thesis (try to use different words).
- Discuss the significance and implications of what you've concluded.