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Murthy: Top 10 ways to write a better essay

Courtesy of Stephen Sartori

Don't just sit down, write, and turn an essay in before rewriting a bit.

Students are downing the last few weeks of the semester. But now that our favorite track “Blue Skies” ft. Blazing Sun has been released, we can come out of hibernation and look exquisite in our summer clothes. The opportunities are endless now that The Quad is a friendly shade of green again. In fact, I’m there right now, pretending to be artsy in my summer attire when I’m actually just squinting flirtatiously at the sun and penning this.

In all seriousness, the weather can’t give a better welcome to the home stretch of the semester, and there’s an infectious motivation to finish all final assignments and write some banging essays. In that endeavor, Pulp skipped daintily out of the sun to pay a visit to William Marple, a graduate student in the English department. Marple works at the Syracuse University Writing Center, and he passed along tips to make sunbathing and writing a joint venture.

1. Start yesterday

If you look closely, this is basically time-travel saving your grades. From afar, I’m just trying to make writing an essay sound cooler. Starting and finishing a draft as early as you can gives you enough time to come back and see things you didn’t before.

2. Start with an outline

That is, first identify certain points you want to make clear. For instance, Hitler was a historic pimple, these points show how his behavioral patterns were consistent with that of a ruthless moron and in conclusion, we should all avoid his name at tea parties. Definite nein-nein.

3. Bye, fear of change

Let all your thoughts take form in writing so you can assess them thoroughly, but don’t be afraid to change it up while writing and reworking. If the ‘Cuse winter was brave enough to change, so are you.

4. Use the libraries

Now is a good time to be astounded by Bird Library’s towering floors you never noticed before because Pages Café was the only thing in your line of sight. You can check books and resources out that can often one-up your textbooks.

5. Purdue OWL

This is about the fifth or 72nd time that Purdue Owl has been recommended to me. If you’re unwilling to leave the warmth for the eeriness of Carnegie Library or your TA’s office, use this website to learn what rhetorical analysis is and why you need MLA instead of APA.

6. Trust no web

This sounds like big talk from a person who paid $50 to repair a phony virus, but don’t trust unverified websites to keep up with the complexities and fluidities of the English language.

7. Quote to explanation ratio

“Have a 1:3 ratio of quotes to your own words,” Marple said. Use your sentences to explain the quote, instead of just throwing it in there. Justify their presence. Note how I just did it.

8. Write the thesis last

Sometimes you don’t know what you’re saying until you’ve let it all out. This process has proven effective while embarrassing oneself irreparably in a public situation, but is just as successful when you write an essay. Connect the paragraphs to understand your final argument.

9. Use the Writing Center

An entire half of a building was constructed just to tend to your fears of being exposed as an essay rookie. Stop by to bounce ideas off them, get them critiqued and find help at all stages of the process.

10. Finished is better than perfect

Don’t light yourself on fire trying to perfectly highlight and contour four different essays. Get it done, and know where to stop with the “no rest for the wicked” propaganda.

If you can sum up effectively in or two sentences what your essay is about, consider your job done. Now grab your shades and steal some sun to celebrate some grade-A effort and hard work.


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