Thursday 4 June 2015

How to Write a Reader-Friendly Essay

"Good writing is never merely about following a set of directions." (Rachel Scheller)

While it is important to learn the basic rules of writing an essay, once you have done this, it is important to break away from tradition and find a fresh approach, says blogger Rachel Scheller (  Read other people's work with an analytical eye.  When you spot something "electric on the page", go back and determine what made it so.  Try to mimic the technique in your writing.  For instance, a young James Baldwin was heavily influenced by fellow black writer Richard Wright.  He likely incorporated some of Wright's techniques in his early works.  However, Baldwin soon found his own voice and style.  

First drafts of essays tend to be writer-based.  In your second draft, don't just edit the structure, organization, spelling and grammar of your work.  Translate it into a reader friendly essay.  Imagine someone else wrote it and come at it with an objective eye.   

"Be prepared to let it take on a shape of its own if this will create a more accurate, clearer, better argued essay," explains Stephen McClaren in Essay Writing Made Easy.  Take out anything irrelevant, anything that doesn't advance your argument.  When you take it out, it should be obvious that it didn't belong in the essay to start with.  McClaren likens an essay with a sentence or paragraph that doesn't fit to a painting of Sydney Harbour with a structure that doesn't belong (say, perhaps, the Statue of Liberty).  

McClaren offers a checklist to follow when crafting your essay:

  • is it writer-based or reader-based?
  • is there a clear argument?
  • is this material relevant?
  • what further information is needed?
  • is this statement backed up with evidence?
  • is there an organizational principle ordering the points discussed?
  • is the wording clear? (try it out on someone else)
  • how can I express this more clearly?

This artist, Alan Streets, brought his own flair to the painting of the Sydney Harbour.  The signature pieces of the harbour are there:  the bridge, the opera house, the water.  However, he did not copy a photograph.  Bring the same flair to your essay.  

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. DP Border Maker