Essay Writing Skills

The Necessary Basics:

Use of clear, simple, sentences
Accurate and appropriate punctuation
Spelling: British English; the spellchecker error of correctly spelt wrong words
Writing confidently: In defined, flowing, paragraphs
In an overall structure of Introduction - body - conclusion
Referencing: only what was read, and used, and consistently

The Academic Writing Convention:

What Distinguishes Academic Writing:

The content is evidence and argument
Argument depends on evidence (sources)
Critique is direct and close: Criticism is particular and informed at each stage
Evaluation is broad and an overview yet justified by the sourcing: Weighing up follows on from critique
Subjective opinions must be limited even within the evaluating
Personal preference is the least interesting matter

Academic Literacy

Complete sentences required
Neutrality style: Myths of objectivity and disinterestedness examined
Avoid first person: Avoid "the author states" as a cheap alternative
Use economy in writing: Avoid redundancy of adjectives and adverbs No pleonastic phrases
Metaphors are risky
Connections should be direct and concrete
Use simplicity in word choice (complexity looks after itself)
Avoid punctuation that facilitates contraction
Avoid exclamation marks

More Recent Conventions:

Care with too many sub-clauses in brackets: reduce
Minimise punctuation: comma, full stop, semi-colon and colon
If two sentences out of one ease reading, use two
Italicised foreign phrases introduce fog - so do not
Use simple consistent referencing that keeps the flow
Avoid footnotes: If it is important, place it in the text
If is is not important, don't use it

High Quality Conventions

Tell a story: don't give away the whole ending in the introduction
Paragraphs should link in the story: move them around for effectiveness
The narrative follows the method: Inductive: build it to a summit from evidence to conclusion
Deductive: go from the hypothesis to the evidence
Titles: the fewer the better Keep titles to when there are major breaks and changes, and when the narrative needs a new start

Online Exercises

Below are two boxes. These can be sent to me with work done. There are two ways to use the boxes. One is to follow the exercises as laid out. However, there is another way. Enter some notes of your own work in the first box. Enter some prose essay work into the second box. Press send. Comments will be sent by email.

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The following is a passage that needs work. It seems literate, but it is a mess. Some sentences are awkward. There is too much inappropriate informality combined with formality. A lot of waste exists and there is redundancy in phrasing: much can be cut completely and other parts rephrased without loss of meaning. There are spelling mistakes and typing errors. The bibliography is inconsistent. See if it can be made simpler with the meaning of the passage made clearer.

This is a different exercise. Here is a set of notes that will become an essay. It is possible to convert these notes into a narrative of prose English. Have a go. The origin is from a real (not perfect) essay: at

When one or both boxes have been worked in, send the result by clicking on the Send the Work button below.