There are different types of essays. If you are writing an academic essay, there are numerous things to pay attention to as well as follow a prescribed format.
However, since it isn’t specified here, I will discuss a general essay. Writing a near perfect essay (for there’s always room for improvement) involves paying attention to the following:
1. Make sure you paraphrase the topic i.e. write/explain in your own words in the introductory paragraph. Why is this important? When you repeat the title of the topic given to you (which is a common practice), it does not demonstrate that you have understood the topic. In a way you are parroting what is given to you instead of utilizing the opportunity to demonstrate original thought. So, how will you paraphrase? Break down your topic into a simple statement. For instance, if the topic is “Are alternative sources of energy the future?”, explain what you understand by ‘alternative sources of energy’. When you break down keywords and explain them, the topic becomes clearer to you as well as the reader.
2. Always write in paragraphs. I cannot stress this point enough. Most of us through school and college become accustomed to a special kind of ‘note-making’ which involves summarizing the points and writing in pointers. However, an essay is a formal write-up and therefore, requires you to express your thoughts in an organized, sequential, para-graphical form. What this means is you begin with introduction and state a clear objective/opinion/direction of your essay. Post introduction, you expand on the points you want to discuss and cite examples alongside. If you make a point without exemplifying, it is incomplete and if you cite examples without making a point, it is directionless. Each paragraph has a sub-point or supporting point which adds to the main point discussed in the introduction. Taking the same example, if you are writing on alternative sources of energy, then you can cover solar, wind, hydro power etc..in subsequent paragraphs but they will all add to the main topic which is alternative energy.
3. Identify a scope. Discussions can be endless but essay writing requires you to produce a write-up within a stipulated time-frame and length. Identify your scope and decide the points you will discuss. Leave out extra discussion. A well-rounded essay is always succinct, to-the-point and rife with substance.
4. Content. To write on anything, you need to know something about it. However, there are topics which you may be unfamiliar with. How will you solve this? Ideally, you should educate yourself with current news and topics of social relevance. These are the most common. After gathering information, analyse the data. Think from different perspectives. More often than not, it is very hard to take a black and white stand on any issue. To resolve this, always write an analytical essay rather than a judgmental one. Declaring opinions can be easy but analysing brings out the best content. In case, you are unfamiliar with a topic, keep it simple. The worst thing in an essay is a reflection of high-strung vocabulary with poor content. Break down the topic and think and write as well as you can.
5. Grammar. A good grammar takes you a long way. Write simply. Write clearly. And, write correctly. Pay attention to grammar usage and improve your language. If you use poor grammar, no matter the content, your essay becomes questionable. So pay special attention to correct usage of tenses, subject-verb agreement, prepositions and punctuation. Refer Wren and Martin or Oxford grammar guide for improvement.
6. Your last paragraph is always a summary. Avoid repeating what you wrote in the introduction. Many a times, I notice that students tend to repeat their stance again in concluding paragraph using “and therefore/thus….” This is a repetition, not looked at benignly by the checker as it is a mark of a mediocre writer. While you don’t have to introduce any new point in the conclusion, stay clear of redundancy. Summarize your discussion by paraphrasing briefly and make any recommendations you deem necessary.
This in essence is all you need to keep in mind while writing an essay. I must stress on the importance of reading. This helps overall improvement of language including writing ability.