Use sophisticated vocabulary, grammar and punctuation throughout and make sure that you use them properly. Using a range of words is effective because it can help to express your understanding and if you use the same words over and over again it can sound like you're repeating yourself. You may find yourself using a comma or a full stop that could be replaced with a semi-colon (;).
Analyse the language in depth. Make comments and by doing this you can identify techniques (e.g. metaphors, similes, hyperbole, imagery) that the writer uses and discuss the effect that it has: '[..] the sound bite at the start that begins 'perhaps the most generally ....' breaks the smooth, flowing of the prose. This emphasizes the negativity of the comment and startles readers because it is unexpected. Despite this, it is a good technique to keep readers engaged.' This is good because it shows that the student understand how the language and techniques are effective.
P.E.E.L. is something that I personally used in my English essays. This means to makes a point; back up the point with evidence (a quote); explain what this means and then make some further comments on the language/techniques within that quote e.g. 'The use of the hyperbole '[example of hyperbole]' is actually quite interesting; it helps to emphasize the portrayal of the protagonist's experience as [...]'
G.A.P.L.I.S.T refers to genre, audience, purpose, language, information, style and tone. Although it may be good to remember it as a whole, you may only really need to hold on to the thought of the genre, audience, language, style and tone. When it comes to the audience you may want to focus on how certain techniques may appeal to the audience. When it comes to tone, you may want to look at the techniques and language used that helps to determine the way that the author feels towards a certain subject.
Refer to the question after you've finished a point and when you are ready to move on to the next paragraph. It is important to refer back to the original question throughout where ever it may be possible.
How to Write a Good Essay
Why do people write essays? What do you need to do?
An essay is essentially an argument – you have to convince someone, using evidence, of your point of view. Your argument will be prompted by your personal take on the essay question. Before you even think about starting writing, you need to...
- Make sure you know exactly what your point of view is.
- Make sure you know the text really well.
If you are unsure about either (or both) of these things, it will show through in your writing.
Whatever you do, never ever write In this essay, I am going to write about What youll write about is obvious from the title. Instead, introduce your argument. The reader wants to know straight away what your take on the essay question is.
The wrong way: In this essay I am going to write about the theme of ambition in the play Macbeth by Shakespeare.
The right way:I am going to argue that Shakespeare uses the relationship between the characters Lord and Lady Macbeth to illustrate the theme of ambition.
The opening paragraph should include a summary of your argument. It should be clear from reading the first paragraph where you stand on the essay question. Try to make sure there is one sentence in the introduction that absolutely sums up what you are trying to say.
The Main Body
This is where most of your evidence and exploration of the text will come. The main body is essentially a series of points that flow into each other. To flow from one point to another, use interesting connectives that show the relationship of one point to the next. For example:
On the other hand,
It follows that
Dont just use these connectives – there are dozens more – although, but, despite, likewise, therefore, in sum, in conclusion, yet, also, whilst, indeed, thus, importantly etc.
Making points – PEE (Point/Example/Explanation)
PEE is a classic framework to structure your points. First you make a point, then you use a quote to back it up, then talk in more detail about the point you are making and how it relates to your argument. The PEE chain is a rough guide – you dont have to stick to it rigidly. In fact, your essay might become a bit repetitive if it you do. However, many people find it useful as a general method to work with.
Using the PEE chain
Point – First, you make a point.
It could be said that Lady Macbeth plays the biggest role in shaping Macbeths character, by encouraging him to be deceitful.
Example – Evidence from the text (can be a quote, or a reference to an event or character in the text).
In Act I Scene V, she advises Macbeth to look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent undert.
Explain – This is the part of the chain that will really score you high marks. The trick is to have lots of depth, that show that you have really thought about the point you are making. Higher grades require originality and a personal response to the text.
This tells a lot about Lady Macbeths character: she gains what she needs by deception and manipulation. She frequently encourages Macbeth to change his nature and his character so that he can be fit to accomplish the dark deeds ahead of him. This makes me think that Macbeth is not naturally dishonest, but is corrupted by his wifes ambition, eventually realising that false face must hide what the false heart doth know. His inability to murder and kill for gain suggests that he is not the main culprit. His wife, on the other hand, has no such trouble, often wishing that she was in Macbeths place.
Quotations are one of the most important parts of an essay. They are an opportunity for you to prove your point by using words straight from the horses mouth. Avoid starting a paragraph with a quotation – instead, use them after you have just made a point to back up what youve just said.
What makes a good quotation? It varies but usually it should
- Be relevant to the point you are making, and supporting your argument. A quotation should only be used if it proves your point in some way.
- Be rich, i.e. there should be lots for you to talk about. Remember your umbrella quotations – there should be at least several individual words and phrases (raindrops) that you can talk about.
How many quotations is a good amount? As many as you feel you need to use. The important thing is not to go overboard and use lots of unnecessary quotes. Its all about quality, not quantity.
You should summarise your argument by linking all the points you have made together, but dont simply make it a long, dull repetition of what youve already said. This is an opportunity to for you to mention new ideas that you get once all the points youve raised are considered together. Remember, this is the last thing that will be read, so it is worth making sure it is clear, concise and really supports your view. Some people like to make the last sentence a quotation that sums up their argument, but if you are going to do this you need to choose it very carefully.
Some general tips:
- Dont waffle
Before you write anything, ask yourself – how will this help to prove my point? If you cant answer that question, you probably dont need to write it.
- Dont retell the story
Assume that whoever is reading your essay (teachers, examiners etc.) is familiar with the text and does not need the story of the text told to them. If you need to refer to a part of the text, you can do this with only slight reference to the events in that scene – just enough to remind the reader which part you are talking about.
The wrong way to do it: In Act I Scene III, Macbeth meets with three witches who tell him that he will be king. The witches disappear without letting Macbeth question them about what they have said. Although he is not comfortable with their words, he is tempted by the thought of being king. This links to the theme of ambition because we can see how early on in the play he is affected by a lust for power.
The right way: When Macbeth first meets with the three witches in Act I Scene III, we begin to see Macbeth already tempted by the promise of titles and glory. His reaction to their prophecy makes us think that even at this stage in the play he is discontented with his current position.
- Dont flatter the author
Whoever is marking your work wont give you extra marks for making it seem like you think the text is brilliant. If you want to say that something is good or works well, use nice neutral words like effective.
Wrong way:It is the relationship between Lord and Lady Macbeth which is what makes it such an excellent play.
Right way:The relationship between Lord and Lady Macbeth is highly effective device to show how ambition can corrupt people.
- Dont confuse the views of characters with the authors view
Characters in a text often say things that are the opposite of what the authors own opinions are. Be careful not to use quotations from characters as solid evidence for the authors own personal view.