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Steps to Write an Essay

Introducing Mrs. Bright's fool proof instructions to
plan and write a happenin', awesome, way-cool, kicking essay.

PLANNING

1. Figure out the prompt

  • Underline the one sentence that tells you what to do.
  • Figure out who your audience is.

2.  Brainstorm

  • List all the possible answers to the question you can think of, OR
  • Draw a picture, OR
  • Do a bubble map.

3.  Write a truism. **Optional**

  • Figure out what your brainstorming list / topic has to do with life.
  • Write a philosophical statement that is true for everyone all the time.
  • Add qualifiers if you need to (most, some, in America, etc.)
  • You can use a quote, a popular euphemism, or even something your grandma used to say.
  • If you get stuck on this step, skip it.  It knocks your essay up a level on the fabulous scale, but it is not a necessity.

4-7.  Draw three boxes side by side. 

  • If you are writing for the 10th grade writing test, label the boxes at the top as SEEN, READ, and DONE.  Otherwise, label them according to the requirements of your prompt.
  • Use your brainstorming list to think of specific examples you could use in your paper. 
  • Organize your ideas in your boxes.  Each box will become a body paragraph in your paper.

8.  Labels

  • Under each box, write a label - a couple of words that explains how your example answers the question.

9.  Thesis

  • This is a one-sentence summary of your entire paper.
  • Combine your labels in your summary.  If you are stuck, simply list them.  If you are shooting for excellence, simply tell what they have in common.

Smile.  You are now ready to write.

INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH

10. Lead

  • Get your audience's attention.
  • Use a snapshot, and interesting bit of research, an original question, or an extra seen/read/done.
  • As you finish your lead, make sure it connects to your truism / thesis.

11.  Copy your truism if you have one. 

12.  Explain it briefly if necessary.

13.  Copy your thesis.

BODY PARAGRAPHS

14.  Choose one box and use its label to write a topic sentence.

  • Your topic sentence should answer the sentence you underlined in step one.
  • If you really want to get fancy, use your label to write a mini-truism.

15.  Add a transition to the 2nd and 3rd body paragraph.

  • Add a transition statement instead of a plain topic sentence to the second and third paragraph.  In other words, use the label of the paragraph you just finished and the label of the next paragraph you are writing in one sentence.
  • Sample transition in a paper about the effects of dropping out of school using the labels low salary and boredom:  Not only will students who drop out find themselves bored stiff, they will also be stuck with only low-paying job opportunities.

16.  Give your example from the same box.  Only tell what is relevant to the prompt.

17.  Explain how your example answers the prompt's question.

  • This is the most important part of the paragraph.
  • Pretend your audience is as dumb as a box of rocks and won't understand why in the world you just told them your example unless you break it down clearly.

18.  Repeat steps 12-14 twice.

  • Each box will be a body paragraph.
  • Add a transition statement instead of a plain topic sentence to the second and third paragraph.  In other words, use the label of the paragraph you just finished and the label of the next paragraph you are writing in one sentence.
  • Sample transition in a paper about the effects of dropping out of school using the labels low salary and boredom:  Not only will students who drop out find themselves bored stiff, they will also be stuck with only low-paying job opportunities.

CONCLUSION

19.  Return to the lead

  • Recycle the creative idea you used in your lead.
  • Work in your labels one more time.  This restates your thesis.

20.  "I wonder" statement

  • End with something original that your topic makes you wonder about.
  • If no first person pronouns are allowed, use phrases like perhaps, hopefully, what would happen if, maybe, etc.
  • You may do steps 19 and 20 in reverse order if you wish.

REVISION

21.  Check your steps.
22.  Add / revise for sentence pattern variety and correctness.
23.  Add / revise for interrupting cows and sensory details (brushstrokes).
24.  Check for grammar and spelling mistakes.
25.  Recopy/type if hand written.
26.  Do a victory dance and, if you have one, eat a cookie.

Disclaimer:  These steps were were written and devised by a professional who uses her pencil like a large, double-edged sword.  User assumes all responsibility and risk for trying these steps at home.  Caution is advised.

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