Hints for Successful Essays

1.  Plan your essay before writing.  Make notes and organize them in the order in which you wish material to appear in your essay.  It is not necessary to follow formal outlining format, but you will be glad that your thoughts are organized and in writing when you write your essay.

2.  All historiographical writing is third person past tense.  Avoid the use of "I," "We," "My", etc. unless you are expressly directed to write in first person. Avoid the temptation to write in present tense to add dramatic effect.  It will only weaken your essay, perhaps fatally.

3. Make sure your thesis is clear, detailed, and well defined. It should appear within the opening paragraph of your essay, soon after the introduction.  It is not necessary to confine your thesis to one sentence.  A complex thesis may comprise several sentences, or even a complete paragraph.

4.  Be true to the form: Introduction, Body, Conclusion.  A formal essay is not the proper time for creativity.  Poems, letters, etc. are not acceptable formats.

5.  State your position and believe it.  Be assertive.  Don't say "I think that,", "I believe," "It would appear that," etc

6.  Remember that you are writing for an educated audience who is already familiar with the facts of history.  Your task is to express an opinion, not to educate.  Do not restate the obvious.

7.  Avoid flowery phrases, clichès, sarcasm, humorous or off-color remarks. You are writing a formal essay for a professional audience.  Write accordingly.

8. Avoid contractions ("don't"), slang phrases, etc. Keep your essay formal.

9. Always illustrate a point using examples and details. Do not be vague.

10.  Balance your argument. If all points are of equal importance, give them equal treatment.

11.  Don't editorialize, sermonize, use hyperbole, or euphemism, or try for dramatic effect.  Your reader wishes to see your opinion, not the emotional appeal of your argument.

12.  When possible, read your essay aloud.  If you fall asleep while reading it, your essay needs more work.  This will also allow you to find awkward sentences, make grammatical corrections, etc.