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How to Write a Perfect Academic Essay: A Guide to Style

Know What Kind of Essay You Are to Write. Although each kind of essay (argumentative, narrative, persuasive, expository, and so on) has specific style characteristics that strengthen the particular type of essay, some characteristics are relevant to all essay styles.

Every Word Should Support Your Thesis. Even if you constructed the most beautiful sentence that ever existed, cut it out if it isn’t relevant to your thesis.

The Tone Should Be Somewhat Formal. Try to sound as if you are talking, for example, giving a speech in a classroom. If your assigned essay is supposed to be a personal statement, not a research paper, then you can use the first person (I, we).

Use Active Voice. Make your statement in active, not passive, voice. For example, “Rihana loved the concert,” instead of, “The concert was loved by Rihana.”

Avoid Contractions. Your audience is primarily your professor, so you are writing in a formal setting. Therefore, avoid contractions such as can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, and I’ve.

Be clear. Writing that is hard to read or figure out alienates readers.

Humor is Tricky. If you are speaking to someone in person, you can wink or smile or use a different tone of voice that clues the other person to the fact that you are joking. However, all the “paralanguage” and “body language” you can pack into an in-person conversation is missing from the printed page. Sarcasm is especially difficult for some people to pick up on.

Use Fresh Language. Avoid a lot of phrases that are old and worn out.

Be Coherent and Orderly. Ask yourself whether your sentences flow in a logical fashion.

Avoid Over Sharing. Although you need to reveal events in your life that helped shape you into the person you are today, it is wise to avoid sharing anything negative about yourself, your family, or your community. Doing so can be a little unsettling for many readers. So, share, but take care about what you share.

Be Confident. Once you know what you want to say, be confident that you can say it with style, your own style. Confidence comes through in your writing.

Avoid Repetition. Make sure you do not repeat, unless there is a clear and evident reason for doing so. Repetition can be an excellent rhetorical devise, but it is better left to the professionals.

Check the Basics. Grammar, punctuation, sentence variety, word usage, and paragraph structure are always important.

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