When you’re in high school and college, essay writing will inevitably be on your plate at some point or another. If you’re lucky, this will mean writing one essay per semester — and if you’re not lucky, it could mean writing 10 or more essays each semester! But no matter how many essays you have to write, there are always ways to make the process more enjoyable and rewarding in the end. I was a writer throughout high school and college, and these 7 tips helped me to be the best essay writer possible — so I know they can help you too!

1) Know the Instructions

When you’re writing an essay for college, it can be very helpful to know your professor’s specific instructions. How many pages? Must be typed or handwritten? Do you need footnotes or in-text citations? Knowing these things before you start drafting will save you time and help ensure that your essay will earn a grade higher than C. Here are a few links that may help: How to Write a College Level Paper, The Formatting and Style Guide and Sample Final Project – Late Essay.

2) Find Great Sources

One of your most important jobs as a writer is to find quality sources. In your field, you’ll learn what good means: good writers, great ideas, and helpful research tools. When you start writing essays (or even now), think about where to find great sources. It might be online or it might be in a book or library—but it’s up to you to get creative and put yourself in a position where original ideas will appear on their own terms. Don’t worry too much about that as a beginner—instead, focus on finding solid essay prompts and fresh source material that stimulates new thoughts and new ways of looking at topics within your area of expertise.

3) Cite References Correctly

Using incorrect citations, particularly in a formal essay, is a surefire way to hurt your grade. Incorrect citations can be confusing or even distracting to your reader. References also add credibility to your essay. If you’re researching other people’s work, cite it correctly and give credit where credit is due! It will show that you are willing to put in extra effort when necessary and will make any editor more likely to take your writing seriously.

4) Set up an Outline

Once you’ve completed your research, it’s time to organize it. Your outline should explain exactly what your essay will cover and how you’ll connect each point to make an effective argument. Take a look at your list of sources, and write down their main points and how they relate to one another. Write down a rough idea of which points are going in which paragraphs or sections, so that if someone else were to read through your essay they would understand how everything fits together. Though most schools don’t require an outline, outlining will help keep you organized as you write each paragraph.

5) Organize Paragraphs

Whether you’re writing an essay, a term paper, or a research paper, one of your greatest challenges will be to organize your material into paragraphs that flow smoothly. This can be a challenge because it requires that you put yourself in your reader’s shoes: not just write down information but put all that information together in a way that connects with your reader. The first paragraph is crucial because if readers aren’t hooked by it they won’t bother reading any further. You should begin with an engaging statement that prompts readers to ask questions like who? what? where? when? why? how? and then work backwards from there to answer those questions for them.

6) Use Powerful Transitions

Knowing when to use transitional words and phrases is key for crafting essays that flow. When you’re writing about a topic, try to think of how different parts of your essay relate to each other and incorporate transitions accordingly. If one idea follows another naturally, then there’s no need for a transition—you can just get on with it. If two ideas come from very different sources or serve completely different purposes, however, then using a transition will help readers see how they are linked. There are dozens of transitional words and phrases available, but these are some of the most commonly used: furthermore, moreover, nevertheless, despite (in contrast), on top of that, and so on.

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