Tips for Writing Short Essays

Tips for Writing Short Essays
Student Learning Services
Tips for Writing Short Essays
Short essays usually involve answering a question related to course content and could be
anywhere from 200 words to 750 words long, depending on the professor’s guidelines. The most
challenging part of writing a short essay is the length, as you need to select the most important
information to cover.
1. What are you asked to do?
• Consider the question you have to answer/discuss.
• See if it can be broken into parts; make sure to cover each part in your answer.
2. Brainstorm the arguments and points you feel would best answer the question.
3. Choose the two or three strongest points; develop a supporting point/example/reference for
4. Create an outline to structure these points and link them to the supporting information.
5. Write a draft:
• Get straight to the point.
• Introduce your thesis (main argument): incorporate the language of the question to frame
your thesis.
• Include a sentence that previews the points you will discuss.
• Keep it short.
• Be specific.
• Provide minimal contextual detail.
• Stay on topic.
• Deal with points in the same order as they are listed in your preview sentence.
• Use a clear topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph to introduce and summarize the
paragraph’s point.
• Ensure that the key words in the topic sentence echo the words used in your preview
sentence so that the reader can see where and how your argument is progressing.
• Use sentences, not bulleted points.
• Chose quotations carefully—only use them if they really back up your points, and do not
quote too much (5-10% of paper at most).
• Avoid using block quotations for an essay of this length.
• Always document your sources, even if they came from class readings.
• Briefly sum up your argument and relate it to your thesis.
6. Revise and edit your draft:
• Be direct and concise; remove wordiness and repetition; make every word count.
• Stick to your topic: if there is an idea in your paper that doesn’t serve to answer the question
or strengthen your points, remove it.
• Check grammar and punctuation by reading the draft aloud.
• Ensure you have documented all sources fully and correctly.
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