The other day, someone asked me if I knew how to write an essay. I said, Of course I do! Then they asked me if I could write one for them and I said, Of course not! But maybe the truth was somewhere in between those two answers. Here are 10 easy steps to writing the perfect essay – without having to pay someone to write my paper for me!

1) Do your research

Before you even begin writing, make sure that you are familiar with all of your required material. You wouldn’t go into a final exam without studying, and neither should you sit down to write an essay until you know exactly what is required of you. You may be surprised at just how much reading (and not just class readings) is expected of students. In some instances, classes require students to read several hundred pages as preparation for an essay.

2) Create an outline

Outlines help streamline and organize your thoughts. This is true whether you’re writing a speech, an essay, or a how-to guide. Take ten minutes and sketch out some ideas before you start working on your actual essay. An outline can make all of the difference between a good paper and a great one. It takes just seconds to create one—and can be revised as many times as needed throughout the writing process.

3) Create body paragraphs

Now that you have an idea of what your thesis statement is, think about how you will prove your point in each body paragraph. In order to do so, take a few minutes and try and come up with one or two sentences for each of your body paragraphs. These should explain why you believe what you’re stating in each paragraph and how it relates back to your thesis statement.

4) Create conclusion

When a reader reads your essay, they should be able to easily summarize what you’ve written in one sentence. A conclusion is not only a summary of your essay but also serves as an opportunity for you to drive home your main points and restate why your topic is important. Include things like why it matters, how people can be affected, and what their responsibility will be if they don’t act.

5) Proofread

Nothing will detract from your credibility faster than an essay riddled with typos and grammatical errors. Don’t let that happen to you—or your readers. Be sure to proofread thoroughly before submitting a paper, whether online or on paper.

6) Use captivating language

It doesn’t matter how amazing your ideas are if nobody is reading them. Use strong, active language and be as descriptive as possible with your words. Also make sure to use lots of detail and stay away from clichés. The right words can help bring a dull topic to life; however, using too many clichés can make even an interesting idea seem stale and unoriginal.

7) Use good grammar

It’s one of those things we’re all supposed to know, but oftentimes don’t. Proofreading is not just a great idea when you’re submitting a paper or writing a post, but also when composing your thoughts on an essay. It might be helpful to reread what you’ve written and look out for mistakes such as spelling and grammar errors. The most important thing, however, is that your reader should not be able to tell whether or not your paper has been proofread.

8) Edit your work

It’s not just about proofreading your work. Before submitting an essay, ask a friend or colleague to read over your work and point out any errors they find. Use these people as an objective pair of eyes. Even if they don’t comment on grammar and spelling, their feedback will be incredibly useful as they can tell you if they understood what you were trying to convey in your work.

9) Don’t be discouraged by plagiarism software

The first step in avoiding plagiarism is to not be discouraged. As long as you use common sense, citations and your own words, there’s really no reason why anyone would accuse you of plagiarism (unless they’re just jealous that they couldn’t think of a better way).

10) Send it off and hope for the best!

Over-preparing is never a good idea. Sending off a perfect draft of your paper can lead to weeks of sitting around, checking Facebook and reading blogs, instead of actually doing something productive.

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