Writing tip of the week

by Harriet Castor

The prospect of writing an essay or assignment can feel overwhelming. This often makes it hard to get started, even when you’ve planned your argument. Some people find it helps to divide up the word count before starting to write. Here’s what I mean.

Say you’ve been given an essay that needs to be 2,000 words long.

You can take this total word count and divide it up as follows:

            10% for the introduction

            80% for the main body of the essay

            10% for the conclusion

10% of 2,000 words is 200 words. So, you know that your introduction and your conclusion are going to be roughly 200 words each.

That leaves 1,600 words for the main body of the essay. If you’ve got 5 different points to make in your argument, that would give you 300ish words for each point. If you’ve got 4 different points to make, that would give you 400 words for each point.

Does drafting 300 or 400 words sound more manageable than drafting 2,000? Yes? Then begin by making a rough draft of just one point in your argument.

There, you’ve started! Carry on taking one small chunk at a time. Building up an essay like this can help you stay focussed, stop you rambling, and make the whole task feel less like a mountain to climb.

For a confidential one-to-one session with me to work on your writing skills, email Harriet.Castor@uwe.ac.uk.

I’m at Frenchay on Wednesdays and St Matthias on Thursdays.

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