Essay Writing Tips

Before you write:

•Decide on the principle you will discuss in your essay.
•Think about the principles that were important to the Founders. What individuals or documents come to mind?
•Think about and analyze were this principle appears in the Constitution.
•Think about your personal response: brainstorm some ways you put the principle into practice in your own life.
•Browse through newspapers or watch the news — where do you see this principle in action today?

While you are writing:

•Stay focused and minimize distractions.
•Write however you feel most comfortable—using a pen and paper or a computer.
•Let your topic guide your structure. Consider an introduction, four supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion.
•Stay on track: if you find yourself getting off the topic, go back and revise.
•Remember all writing is re-writing.

After you write, ask yourself:

1. Have I answered the question?

-Is it clear what principle I am discussing?
-Have I discussed how the Constitution establishes the principle?
-Have I referenced a Founder and a document that explains what he/she thought about the principle?
-Have I explained fully how I can put the principle into practice?
-Have I said what I wanted to say?
-You may also want to review the contest rubric.

2. Is my essay well-written?

-Have I used paragraphs?
-Do all my paragraphs have a topic sentence?
-Do I fully develop one idea per paragraph?

3. Is my writing correct?

-Have I checked for spelling errors myself, without relying on spell-check?
-Have I checked for grammar errors without relying on a grammar checker?
-Have I checked my facts: dates, document titles, names, etc.?

Other ideas:

•Try reading your essay aloud to a family member. Does it sound like it flows easily? Can your audience member summarize your essay back to you in one or two sentences? (If they can’t, try going back and clarifying your ideas.)
•Try putting your essay down for a day or two and coming back to it and re-reading it. Do you notice anything you’d like to change or add?