3 Essay Writing Tips for High School Students


Writing an essay doesn’t have to be scary. With just three key tips, you’ll be well equipped to write an A-grade high school essay.

Those sentences above constitute what’s called the “thesis,” a term with which you’re undoubtedly familiar. What will follow in this article has to make good on that thesis – it has to elucidate, support and expand upon that central idea. That’s an essay!

But whereas this essay can go off-script a little, your high school essay needs to follow a fairly rigid formula: usually a 3 to 5-paragraph essay containing an introductory paragraph, supporting paragraph(s) and conclusion.

Essay Writing Tips

Whether you’re writing an essay for your online high school courses or as part of a final exam, here are three important tips to keep in mind.

1Follow David Lean’s “Rule of Three”

Never heard of David Lean? That’s fair. The prolific film director behind movies like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago isn’t known for his contributions to critical writing. But his “rule of three” on film making is easily applicable here. When creating for an audience, Lean advises:

  • Tell them what you’re going to do.
  • Do it.
  • Tell them you’ve done it.

This is a pretty succinct way of describing the writing process for an essay. In your introduction, make a clear statement of purpose: a thesis that you wish to explore. In the body paragraphs, explore that thesis. In the conclusion, restate the thesis and the ways in which it has been explored. Voila, an essay!

2Plan a Logical Structure

Think of essay writing as creating a freestanding, simply structured house of cards – one that won’t blow over at the slightest sign of scrutiny. You aren’t building the Taj Mahal. You’re building a simple, well-built structure.

The “logical structure” of an essay is the way in which the document is organized into a hierarchy. To use a very basic example, if your thesis is “apples are good”, you can structure your essay according to the ways in which an apple is good: why it’s delicious, what its health benefits are and why growing apples is good for local ecosystems. Those are your ancillary paragraphs, each working in its own way to support the main thesis that “apples are good”.

Treat each of those ancillary points like mini-theses, in need of proving. Why are apples tasty? In what ways are they healthy? And what makes an apple tree good for the local ecosystem.

3Support Your Arguments with Credible Examples and Sources

It’s not quite enough to follow the rule of three. It’s not quite enough to have a logical structure. You still have to be tethered to the truth, albeit a truth of your own design. Using the apple example above, it wouldn’t be enough to say, “everyone thinks apples are tasty”. Not only does that constitute conjecture, but the use of “everyone” is also a universal statement that can’t be true.

Instead, you can prove the sub-thesis that “apples are delicious” by directing the reader’s attention to credible sources: a study on the effect of fruit sugars on dopamine receptors, the biochemistry of apple aroma or to polls that show a favorable percentage of apple lovers among the general population. Those examples constitute authoritative sources of support.

Hopefully, this article has demystified the essay writing process for some, and proven that it only takes a few basic tips to really improve your essay writing skills.