Professors and students who object the typical five-paragraph essay structure don’t necessarily have something against it. If you ask yourself if that’s the type of content you would read on a free day, you will hardly give a positive answer. Then why do students have to write that way?
The way people communicate has been drastically changed. The educational system has also evolved, but the principles of essay writing seem stuck in a distant era. If you are wondering how long an essay should be, five paragraphs is not always the right answer. The paper should be long enough to convince the reader that you are right, but short enough to allow them to read it without being bored by it.
There are two unconventional ways of improving the way you write and leaving the reader feeling smarter after spending time with your paper:
1. The visualizing test
Not many professors would approve of this method, but you can be certain that they will like the results. Imagine someone who doesn’t know much about the topic you have elaborated in the paper. It could be your grandmother or your friend who keeps missing classes. You let them read what you have written and then ask what the paper was about. Do you think you wrote clearly and detaily enough to get a good answer from them? If your paper passes this test, then it is good enough and long enough.
This may seem like a silly way of testing the effectiveness of your writing skills, but it is good enough to change the way you express yourself within the limits of academic language. You have surely been forced to read boring academic pieces that contained important facts, but were a pain to read. You don’t want to be that type of writer. If you write from inspiration and produce content you actually like, it will make a great difference in the impression it leaves to the reader.
If you are writing with the purpose to submit a paper because your professor demands it, you are approaching the process from the wrong angle. You should write with the aim to inspire, express your ideas or educate the reader. That’s why this simple visualization test can make a difference.
2. Say more in fewer words!
The process of editing is just as important as the writing itself. When inspiration gets writers carried away, they usually write more than necessary. This is especially true for students who want to leave an impression that they are smarter than others.
Editing is not all about correcting mechanical and grammar mistakes. That’s called proofreading. The process of editing is focused on the content and its quality. After you did the little test described above, do you think that the reader needs more explanations and citations that support your arguments? Or maybe he would be bored because your paper is too long and overly “intellectual”?
It is very important to simplify your writing style. Yes, your professor is smart and sometimes uses big words you don’t understand, but that doesn’t mean that you should do the same. What’s the type of content you would be happy to read? Why would you try to write something different than that?
A writer’s ego is difficult to tame through an editing process, but is something you have to do for the sake of producing better content. When people read Ernest Hemingway’s work, they are amazed with the powerful impressions his short sentences make. Stay away from excessive use of adjectives and use simple words that get straight to the point.
You spend a lot of time in essay writing. Make it work!
If you are committed to getting good grades and submitting all papers your professors require, a little practice won’t do you wrong. The two tactics described above will make the entire writing process easier for you, but will also lead you to a more impressive product.
If you don’t like essay writing, then you are doing something wrong. There are plenty of ways of making the assignment interesting; all you need is a little more flexibility and will to produce a piece worthy of reading.