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How to improve your English essay and report writing

By Dr Norman

Good essay and report writing takes time, particularly when you have complex ideas to think about and express. That is why good writers often write their essays and reports in stages or steps. Using these same stages, you too can improve the quality of your writing and take it to an advanced level.

Let’s have a look at the most common stages of writing to see how you can use them to improve your English essay and report writing.

1.      Gather ideas

The first stage of writing usually involves gathering together ideas: thinking about what you are going to write. At this early stage, thoughts are often not well organised. Don’t worry. This stage is an opportunity to simply get your ideas down. Different people take different approaches to pulling their ideas together. Some people like to write their ideas down as dot points. Some like to draw diagrams and to make connections between ideas. Some like to simply write and see what comes out on paper.  

If you are writing an essay or report for university or the workplace, then you will probably have to do some research or investigation. This preliminary research and/or investigation forms an important part of this stage. Over time, as you gather more information from your research, investigations and discussions, comments and thoughts can be added to the dot points, diagrams and initial writings that you have made.

This important stage helps develop your ideas at the start of the process and can be used throughout the time you are writing. The process of gathering and refining ideas will improve your English essay and report writing by improving the quality of your content.

2.      Find an angle or approach

The next stage involves thinking about how you will approach your topic, or the ‘angle’ you will take. This approach or angle starts with your introduction. How you write your introduction is very important as it determines the direction that the rest of the essay or report will take. Logically following the direction set by the introduction can result in your essay or report taking one route or other. That is why some writers like to start with an introduction and see where it takes them. In this way, they are using the process of writing to further develop their thinking.

As you try an angle in your introduction, you might find that you don’t like the direction your writing is taking. When this happens, you may need to write a different introduction with a different angle so that you find one that works best for you.

3.      Write a full first draft

Once you have settled on an angle or approach, and have a sense of how you will start your essay or report, it is time to complete your first full draft with an introduction, body and conclusion. This is where you shape your writing into a logical structure. Some people like to use headings that follow on from their introduction as a way of working out what they will say. Like all things with writing, this process of writing your first full draft may result in all sorts of changes including more changes to the introduction!

4.      Improve your English essay and report writing by redrafting

It is very rare to be able to write an essay or report once and to get it just right. Good writers often make several drafts before they are satisfied. You can significantly improve your English essay and report writing by taking this same approach. Make several drafts, each time improving on the previous version.

I suggest that after you have written each draft, leave it for at least a few hours or even a day, and then come back and reread it. Do the ideas logically follow each other? Does the writing make sense? Are the sentences easy to read and understand? It is amazing how much you will be able to identify and rectify with this simple step.

5.      Improve your English essay and report writing with close editing

Once you are happy with what you have written, and you like the way that the writing flows and expresses your ideas, it is time to closely edit your work. Go through every sentence with a ‘fine toothcomb’. Remove superfluous words. Tighten your sentences. Like before, you may need to do this a number of times. Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar.  This is where the spelling and grammar checkers on your computer may be of help. Read your writing on the screen and then print it out. You will be surprised at how differently your essay or report reads when printed. This is another time to check for any errors, and to correct them.

Going through these 5 stages takes time, but it will improve your English essay and report writing, giving you better marks at university and better results in the workplace. To find more ways to improve your writing, also see the blog articles on how to improve your English writing and how to improve your grammar.

16th January 2017

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