How to write an essay

Planning to write an essay?

It is easy to become intimidated, looking at a blank piece of paper or an empty Word document. Here is a quick guide to help you get started.

The ideas stage

When learning how to write an essay, the first thing is to decide what sort of essay you want to write. You should have a subject in mind, but there will be other considerations as well. How long will it be? If it is for a publisher or a school project then you will likely be given a word count, but if you are writing the essay privately then it is your decision to make. Also ask yourself if the essay will be straight or humorous – do not think that a jokey essay cannot be taken seriously, as humour is a great way of making a point: a look at the works of Jonathan Swift will demonstrate this.


The introductory paragraph is your opportunity to really hook your readership, and so should not be treated lightly. Do not waste it on waffle – state clearly what the subject of your essay will be. A basic way to do this is by asking a rhetorical question, which you will then answer in the main body. In longer, more academic pieces it is a good idea for the introduction to spell out exactly which points will be covered in the essay itself, thereby helping the reader to decide as to whether the essay is something which they will be interested in.

The main body

This is where you essentially have free reign. Having introduced your subject, you will now have the main body of the essay in which to argue it. Your specific approach to how to write an essay will depend in large part on your required word count. In longer essays it may be necessary to break the main body down into multiple sub-headings – in essence, this can be thought of as writing a set of small essays. For a shorter piece, meanwhile, two or three paragraphs will do.

The conclusion

The conclusion to the essay is where everything comes together, and is almost always one paragraph long; only in exceptional cases will any more be needed. Avoid introducing any new ideas – instead, summarise everything which has been argued (implicitly or explicitly) throughout the rest of the essay. Phrase it in a way which is concise and memorable – if you have chosen to take a humorous tone throughout your essay, then think of the conclusion as the punchline. They say that first impressions count, but the same is also true of last impressions: for your essay to be truly successful, it needs to have a strong conclusion.

Hopefully this article has given you the advice which you needed to learn how to write an essay. Keep at it, and your craft as an essay-writer will only get better.