how to write an a+ essay

By Fort Hays State University on December, 6 2022

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“Anyone who says writing is easy isn’t doing it right.” – Amy Joy (Author of the Academie) 

If you find writing hard, congratulations! You have potential. Students who are fine with turning in a mediocre essay overlook what could be improved. If you care about your work, you turn it in unsatisfied. Since you are reading this, I’ll assume you are part of the latter group. Most students settle with B-grade papers, but you’re here for the big A+. I can appreciate that. While what makes an essay perfect comes down to personal preference, I have a few tips sure to improve the writing process. No matter your past grades, taking this advice will assure your next essay is less agonizing and more effective!  


Get to the Point 

Your whole essay teeters on your topic. Your theme needs to be intriguing and straightforward. Without these standards, you risk a boring and overwhelming essay experience.  

A topic may already be assigned. My tip for this is to make it your own. Find something that surprises you about the subject. Use that to turn the essay into a fun experience. Focus on writing with passion in mind rather than impressing your professor.   

If you have free reign to choose your topic, keep in mind the Peter Parker principle: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Narrow the subject of your essay to a single focus. Decide whether the purpose of the essay is to inform or persuade and avoid having too broad a topic. For example, write a paper on the wordplay used in Hamlet rather than the play in general. Your paper will feel much more organized and purposeful.  

Often your topic will be a “how” question. For example, “how did Shakespeare use wordplay to add humor to the play, Hamlet?” Once you have your topic, everything else in your essay should tie back to it, answering this question. 


Let It All Out 

“The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour (American novelist) 

The next step in the writing process is putting words on paper. Open a word document and dump everything you know on the page. This is the time to gather your research and plan the order it is introduced.  I find it is easier to flesh out everything then cut it and shape it into an essay rather than starting with a blank page and hoping for the perfect words to appear. There are several ways to go about this. 

Write five quick sentences. Believe it or not, only five sentences are vital to every essay. The first is your thesis statement. This is what you want the reader to take away from your paper. It is a claim that answers the “how” question that defines your topic. The next three sentences introduce each of your body paragraphs. They are the main points that back your claim. The fifth and final sentence is your closing statement. If your essay is informative, it should neatly wrap up what has been covered. If your essay is persuasive, it should call the reader to action. After you have these five sentences, fill in the paragraphs with your research. 

Create an outline or diagram. Traditionally, essays are divided into three sections: your introduction, the body (usually containing three main points), and your conclusion. Figure out what main points branch off from your topic. Group your research based on how and where it will be relevant in your paper. Think about what needs to be covered and put it in order. Once you have an outline, you can use it as a base for the actual essay or toss it in the bin. The main goal is to practice and organize your information.  

While structuring your essay, feel free to jump around. If you struggle with writing an introduction, jump to the meat of your essay. Return once you know what it is you are introducing. Let it all out, then make corrections. Remember the words of author Jodi Picoult: “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” 


Make it Work 

You have an outline (or even a first draft). An underachiever might turn their paper in here, but you are going for the gold. In that case, there are a few more steps to making your essay effective. 

Sources can make or break your essay. If you want to be taken seriously, keep Wikipedia out of your works cited. Your power of prose and persuasion falls on deaf ears without credible sources to back it. That being said, Wikipedia can give you a quick, comprehensive summary of a topic. It can also link you to other, more professional, sources. 

Be source heavy. Often, what you would like to say has already been said. Embrace quotes (this blog post sure does). Not only does it cut down the amount you have to write, but it also gives your paper credibility. While the point of writing is to give your take on a topic, generally source-heavy essays get a better reception. Just be sure to tuck the quotes away sparingly and give the author credit so the quotes support your essay rather than take it over. “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” – Albert Einstein. 

Rinse and Repeat. To make an essay more effective, simply rewrite it until it works. Cut anything that is not relevant to your main focus. Tie each paragraph together with transition sentences. Your whole essay should revolve around reinforcing your initial claim. Find a way to repeat your message without becoming repetitive. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb said, “Writing is the art of repeating oneself without anyone noticing.” This is key to keeping your essay clear and smooth.  


Keep in Style 

The style and format of your essay is something to consider throughout the writing process. Typically, your professor chooses the format they would like you to write in (such as APA or MLA). Different formats have different rules. If you are unsure about how your essay needs to be written, here is a handy guide for the most common formats: 

Along with proper formatting, there are unwritten rules to writing. Most professional essays should be written in the third person. I get away with addressing you and myself because this is a blog post. Also, avoid certain overused or unprofessional words. An essay ain’t the place for contractions. Google forbidden words in essays. Go down the lists and replace weak words using the word finder. 

If you are still struggling with how to tackle an assignment, reach out to the Writing Center, located in Forsyth Library. From understanding assignment guidelines to improving your essay’s structure, they can offer you the assistance you need. Follow this link for more information: 


My Call to Action 

If you were looking to cheat your way to an easy A, I am thankful you have stayed. While cutting corners and plagiarizing can get an essay done, it takes hard work to get it done right. My tips are mainly to be dedicated and organized. 

My final quote is by Lev Grossman: “Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.” In the end, nothing ensures an A+. Writing, like art, can be interpreted differently. One professor might give you an A while another a B. My advice is to follow the writing process: choosing your topic, writing it all out, and then making it effective. Eventually, you will find your own writing style and you will see improvement. Oh, and never close with 


Fort Hays State University


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