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Improving Essay Writing Skills: Simple Steps to Better Literary Essays

by John J. Gregg

An essay does not simply make a point, it argues a point. The thesis makes the point, and the rest of the essay supports it. Being an essaywriter, I can say that two important elements to consider when writing an essay are creating a good thesis and using appropriate quotations to prove the thesis.

A Good Thesis
A well-written essay begins with a good thesis statement. Remember, the reader of this essay has already read the book and has his or her observations. The thesis more than a simple observation. The thesis should also never retell the plot. The thesis is like a theory. For example:

- “Romeo and Juliet is a story of star-crossed lovers.” This is not a thesis. This is telling the plot and such a sentence is better left as the introductory sentence of the essay with no further explanation.
- “It was not only poison that killed Romeo and Juliet, but ruthless shunning and broken hearts.” Although this is an excellent observation, taking this sentence one step further would make it a good thesis.
- “Romeo and Juliet are better left dead for three reasons: had they married, their families would always remain in a feud, had they not married, they could never be satisfied in life, and had they eloped, they would be liable to be caught anyway.” A thesis does well with specific thematic elements or examples that support the theory presented. This one has no specific examples, but it does make a statement and gives three-pointed reasons to justify it. It does not simply observe, but comments on an observation. Many may disagree that Romeo and Juliet are better left dead, and that is why the writer of this essay must well support this thesis.
An important part of supporting a thesis is in the chosen quotations. An essay should always have appropriate quotations.

Good Quotations
If the thesis is a theory, it is the quotations and not the explanations of them that are the evidence to support the theory. The theory cannot be proven without evidence. Explanations to the quotations are needed; however, to link the quotation to the point made.
When it comes to the body of the essay, it helps to begin with the main point of that particular paragraph, then place a quotation. Remember to introduce quotations rather than simply quoting them. The explanation works well after the quotation to help prove the point.
When choosing quotations, think about the parts of the book that stand out the most and the parts that helped form the thesis. These parts are a good starting place to find appropriate quotations. Take the time to reread these parts to find excerpts that support the points made in the body of the essay.
When the thesis is well thought out and well written and the most appropriate quotations are chosen, the writing of the essay is much easier.

Common Literary Essay Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Essay writing can be a difficulty for many students who may have good ideas, but a hard time explaining them. Often a student’s English essay has particular common essay writing mistakes that prevent it from being a well-written essay. Consider these tips on three common mistakes in essay writing, involving word choice, quotation usage, and grammatical structure.

“This” In Explaining Quotations and Essay Concepts
In essay writing, students often begin a sentence with “This” and follow the word with an explanation to the previous sentence. Explaining statements in an essay is good and expected in a good essay. However, the word “this” is a descriptive word that fares much better when it has a noun to describe, as in, “This notion” or “This illustration” or “This statement.” By stating to what exactly “this” is referring, the sentence is clearer and the entire paragraph makes more sense.
In the case of repeating sentences beginning with “This” several times in a paragraph, it may also be best to reword some of them to still convey the intended meaning but to avoid too much repetition.

Proper Essay Quotations
English essays or literary essays need quotations and are much better essays with appropriate quotations. Not only should quotations be properly quoted, but also be properly introduced and explained. Often the proper way to quote quotations is directed by the teacher or professor, however, there is a general rule that can be followed that helps a quotation’s readability.
Quotations cannot simply be placed between sentences. Introduce a quotation by beginning the sentence with a phrase that gives a reason for the quotation. For example, if the essay is on one of Hemingway’s novels, a simple introduction could begin as “Hemingway writes,” and then the quotation between quotation marks, just after the comma. Then the sentence directly after the quotation explains how that quotation proves the point of the essay.
For longer quotations, introduce the quotation the same way, make it a new paragraph and single-spaced rather than double-spaced (essays are normally doubled spaced to improve readability). This construction will help separate the quotation from the rest of the text of the paragraph.

Misused Words in Essay Writing
Misused words in an essay not only include grammatically incorrect words but include words that are used in the place of more appropriate words. English students should be careful when it comes to particular words and their actual meaning. A dictionary is a valuable tool when it comes to using the correct words for the proper meaning of each sentence.
For example, in explaining a quotation, commonly used words include: depict, illustrate, describe and show. While these words may be synonyms of each other, they do not have the same meaning. When choosing words like these, be sure that the chosen word is the right one for the meaning of the sentence, looking possible words up in the dictionary in case of any uncertainty. Also, choosing the most appropriate words for the meaning of the sentence helps reduce “filler” – words that add word count, but not value to a sentence.
Be sure to take the time to proofread the essay before considering it finished. Consider also having someone else proofread the essay – someone who can help with any grammatical or writing errors.
Students, whether in high school, college, or university, may consider these literary essay writing tips as suggestions to help write better essays, to obtain good marks in school, to add to a writer’s portfolio, and to be proud of the work.
About the author: John J. Gregg is an experienced essay writer where he provides students with an opportunity to get high grades. Besides, He is fond of reading and playing the guitar. By the way, John dreams of traveling a lot and visiting as many countries as possible.

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