Today I’m putting on my professor hat. In my college English comp class, we are heading toward the end of the semester and my students will be turning in their final paper soon. It seems like just yesterday these freshmen were writing their first 5 paragraph essay for me. They just grow up so quickly! Anyway, I thought I might give some tips to those students who might want a refresher.
1. Have a killer title. This is so important! A good title draws the reader in and will get you brownie points with your teacher. It shows a little initiative and creativity. Instead of “Essay on Wuthering Heights”, try something a bit more creative like “Insanity at the Heights: Catherine’s Personality Crisis” is a lot more interesting. Plus I always like to read about other people’s insanity. It makes me feel better about my issues.
2. Make sure your thesis is an argument. A common mistake new writers make is to make an announcement rather than an argument. For example, instead of writing “The women in Wuthering Heights are needy” (which is a true yet obvious statement),a better thesis would be “Catherine’s neediness in Wuthering Heights is characteristic of the typical female in the gothic for the following three reasons: (then list your reasons)”. See the difference? It’s a specific argument that also serves as a 3-part outline for the rest of your essay. Which leads to my next point…
3. Put your thesis statement as the last sentence of the paragraph, making sure that it lists three ideas for your three body paragraphs. “Catherine’s neediness in Wuthering Heights is characteristic of the gothic genre for the following reasons: she is entrapped/confined by an evil male character, she dies of a self-induced mental problem, and her affection for Heathcliff is considered inappropriate because he grew up with her as a brother.” Yes, this is a bit simplistic, but when writing a 5 paragraph essay, simplicity is desired.
4. Make sure all your paragraphs are about the same length and that they follow your thesis (outline). You don’t want a super long intro paragraph and tiny short body paragraphs. Consistency is key.
5. Have a great intro and conclusion. If you do it right, the conclusion is pretty much a restatement of the introduction; proof to the reader that you as the writer of the essay have kept your promises and proven your thesis. It also gives your essay a sense of finality.
Good luck on your essay! Let me know if you have any questions!