Essay Writing for the English Major

Simple Tips on Creating Good Literary Essays

For the English Major just starting out, or well into university or college, these ideas can help improve essay writing skills and make the achievement worth the effort.

Once an English Major in university or college, essay writing is different from what was taught in high school. The English Major is required to write numerous literary essays like a real essay writer throughout their years in university. These essays tend to be worth large portions of the final course grade. Many English Majors can make good use of a few tips on essay structure and writing style.

Essay Structure

The structure taught for essays in high school is a good one to follow when writing a high school paper. But in a university literature course, the general structure – introduction, three body paragraphs, conclusion, and one quotation for each body paragraph – need not be so rigid. Nor does the thesis need to fit into one sentence. In university, there is the freedom to sway from this structure as long as the essay is well written and effectively proves the thesis. Do not let the structure of the essay restrict the flow of the writing and the ideas presented in the essay.

Writing Tips

When writing an essay, remember that good grammar and writing style make the essay a better read and help the points prove the thesis. The body of the essay can still have three main points, but these points can be made in as many paragraphs as needed. Professors may give expected lengths for essays but are usually less set on maintaining that rule than a high school teacher might be. A professor will look more at how well-written and explored the essay is than how long it is.

Consider these writing style tips for better-written essays:

  • As aforementioned, the thesis need not fit into one sentence. The thesis can be a few sentences and sometimes it is easier to create a good thesis with two or three sentences that work together as a complete thought. Be advised, the thesis should always be a complete thought. The points and the quotations that prove the thesis are complementary thoughts.
  • Good quotations are important for the success of the essay. As the body of the essay can be as many paragraphs as needed, the quotations can be as many as needed as well. However, they should be appropriate for the essay writers and the points they made. It is better to have fewer and more appropriate quotations than many quotations that are not strong enough to support the thesis. Trust that the parts of the book that helped form the thesis in the first place will be good places to find decent quotations. However, do not be afraid to explore beyond these parts.
  • When explaining quotations, use pointed explanations. By reducing “filler” and maximizing on “substance,” every sentence can have more meaning. “Filler” is usually generalizations, obvious observations and plot explanations. As learned in high school, the reader of the essay has read the book, or two books, or poems, etcetera, and does not need plot explanation.

Depending on the situation, some students may consider adding essays to a personal portfolio, and it is better if they are excellently written essays. Considering these suggestions can help an English Major make more of his or her essays and be proud of the achievement.


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