Writing tips for improving your essays

5 Simple Writing Hacks

Writing Tips for Improving your Essays and Getting Better Grades.

Writing tips can be found all over the internet and you can easily get bogged down with too much information. So here are five simple writing tips to simplify things. Reading countless essays and proofreading students’ work can be stimulating and rewarding with the chance to read about interesting ideas with a fresh look on the world, but it can also be frustrating, with the same mistakes appearing again and again. In order to stop your lecturers banging their heads against the wall, here are some top writing tips for writing essays and getting better grades:

 1. Read your Essay Through

As writing tips go, this may seem like a simple thing, but you’ll be surprised at how many people don’t do this simple task. Reading your essay once you’ve finished writing it can help prevent many errors and can make a lot of difference. This could mean the difference between a 2:2 and a 2:1 or even a 2:1 and a first. It shows that you’ve taken care. It also highlights where you’ve repeated yourself and where a section just doesn’t make sense. There’s nothing like sloppy work to make a well-produced essay lose marks. 

Reading your essay once you’ve finished writing it can help prevent many errors and can make a lot of difference. This could mean the difference between a 2:2 and a 2:1 or even a 2:1 and a first.

2. Be Consistent

If you decide on using a particular referencing style or font, or anything in an essay, the rule is: be consistent. For example, decide on whether you are going to use single or double quote marks. However, this depends on the referencing style you have to use. There are over 3,000 referencing styles, so check which one you’re expected to use and stick to it.

3. Answer the Essay Question

A captivating, witty, erudite essay that shows the reader a depth of knowledge and a clear understanding of the topic is worthless, unless the question is answered. It’s no use waxing lyrical about the industrial revolution and the impact of the cotton industry just because you know about it, when the question asks about social media. It is also a good idea to read the marking criteria so you know what you’re going to be marked on.

4. Structure your Essay

It’s so easy to just start writing without thinking about where you’re going. This is like driving down a random road till you run out of fuel and end up completely lost with no time left to do anything about it. Structure your essay before you start and get feedback from your tutor or lecturer. The basic structure should have an introduction, the main body of the essay and a conclusion. The general rule for this is that the introduction should say what you’re going to say, the main body of the essay says what you want to say and the conclusion says what you’ve just said.

5. Use your Own Words in Essays

You need to use quotes in your essay to back up your argument, but don’t rely on them too heavily. Use quotes to back up your argument and explain what the quote means in your own words. If you don’t know what a quote means, you shouldn’t be using it. This also means that you shouldn’t start or end a paragraph with a quote. Quotes shouldn’t take the place of your argument, they should back up what you want to say.

These five tips are simple and straightforward, but putting them into practice can dramatically improve your grades and will help you present your work in the best possible way.

Doctor John offers high quality proofreading services for students and businesses, specialising in PhD thesis editing. For more information on PhD help, proofreading, content marketing and social media email info@doctor-john.net or ring on 0800 852 7258


Derrida On The “Truly Exceptional Moment” When Writing “Of Grammatology”

Derrida on Of Grammatology


Derrida describes the unique experience of writing the first two parts of ‘Of Grammatology’. He describes the responsibility and irresponsibility of writing the text as if the work was transcribed to him, without ascribing a religious sensibility. Derrida describes ‘Of Gramatology’ as ‘a truly exceptional moment in my work’.

PhD Time Management and the Pomodoro Technique: How to Take Control of Your Time

Time management

PhD Time Management and the Pomodoro Technique

How to Take Control of Your Time

Remember, time is a greedy player who wins without cheating, every round!


Getting PhD Work Done… or Cleaning the Kitchen

I felt elated when I won funding to spend three years focusing on a PhD on something I love. What could go wrong? I’ve got plenty of time. This is going to be a walk in the park, or so I thought. The reality was that it was one of the most challenging things I have done. The constant uphill struggle of sitting down at my desk or in a cafe with my computer seemed such an abhorrent thought. Suddenly the kitchen needed cleaning, washing needed to be put in the machine, clothes needed hanging, the cat needed shampooing, anything other than having to look at my work. It was only when I had mounting pressure that I sat down to write, reluctantly. The perfectionist in me spent hours revising the same paragraph or sentence and feeling a sense of achievement when at the end of a productive day, I ended up with three hundred words.

What helped me with writing and studying was how to manage my time and seeing the thesis as nothing more than a very long essay. I remember attending my first post-graduate meeting, when we were all enthusiastically unphased and being told nuggets of wisdom. “Don’t be so precious”, Kate McGowan, the head of the Graduate School told us as we looked up at her with wonderment and innocence, “this isn’t your magnum opus, good enough is fine”. This made sense, but it was only three years in did it start to mean anything.

Taking Control of Your Time

Time management techniques were also important. They helped me be far more productive than just sitting down for hours on end and coming up for air, exhausted and wanting to die, resulting in the rest of the day in the recovery position or face down in a darkened room. Instead, I broke my hour up into 45 minute sessions with a 15 minute break with longer for lunch. I wrote down the start and finish times for each session and could manage to complete seven or eight sessions per day. This worked well for me and I found I could get more done in a day and I had a sense of achievement after ticking off each successful session.

This worked well for me and I found I could get more done in a day and I had a sense of achievement after ticking off each successful session.

Pomodoro, the Helpful Tomato

This is similar to the Pomodoro Technique, pioneered by Francesco Cirillo and first published in 1992. The time management technique takes its name from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer used by Cirillo when he was a student. It is simple and effective and I wish I had known about it when I was studying. It can help you to become far more productive than sitting down and punishing yourself by not having adequate breaks. Each working session is broken up into 25 minute sessions or a pomodoro, followed by a 3-5 minute break. After four pomodoros a longer break is taken, from 15-30 minutes.

6 Basic Steps to Time Management

There are six basic steps to implementing the technique:

  1. Find out how much effort an activity requires.
  2. Protect your pomodoro from internal and external interruptions
  3. Make an accurate estimation on how many pomodoros you need for a specific task
  4. Use the technique not just to work on your task, but also to recap and review
  5. Set your timetable according to your tasks and the time you have available
  6. Find your own personal objectives

Sticking to the rules can be challenging at first, but I’ve found it’s worth persevering with. The first pomodoro should be organisational and the last one reviewing what you have achieved. This means setting out an ‘activity sheet’, a ‘to do today sheet’ and a ‘records sheet’. All the activities you need to do are written in the activity sheet with the number of pomodoros estimated to complete the task and then transferred to the to do today sheet and marked with an X after each pomodoro is completed. The rule is that a pomodoro in indivisible and if a task takes longer than 5-7 pomodoros, it needs to be broken down into smaller achievable tasks. The rules seem rather strict. If a pomodoro is unavoidably broken and you are interrupted, that pomodoro is void and cannot be ticked off, whereas if an activity is finished before the pomodoro rings then there is time to recap and review what you have been doing until the end of the session.

Internal and External Interruptions

Internal and external interruptions are also accounted for by the inform, negotiate and call strategy. This inverts the dependency on internal interruptions and makes the interruptions depend on the pomodoros they are slotted into. If you’re in the middle of a pomodoro and you suddenly remember you have to do something, make a quick note and add it to the list of things to do (most things can wait for 25 minutes) and if someone rings or interrupts a pomodoro, simply inform them that you’re working, negotiate a time to call back or speak to that person and make sure you call. As Cirillo writes, ‘we’re no longer dependent on interruptions, interruptions depend on us’. A pomodoro is set aside to respond to calls and deal with unforseen situations.


The Rules of Time Management

The following is taken from Cirillo’s book The Pomodoro Technique. The rules are as follows:

  • A pomodoro consists of 25 minutes plus a 5 minute break.
  • After every four pomodoros comes a 15-30 minute break.
  • The pomodoro is indivisible. There are no half or quarter pomodoros.
  • If a pomodoro begins, it has to ring:
    • If a pomodoro is interrupted definitively – i.e. the interruption isn’t handled – it’s considered void, never begun, and it can’t be recorded with an X
    • If an activity is completed once a pomodoro has already begun, continue reviewing
      the same activity until the pomodoro rings
  • Protect the pomodoro. Inform effectively, negotiate quickly to reschedule the interruption, call back the person who interrupted you as agreed.
  • If it lasts more than 5-7 pomodoros, break it down. Complex activities should be divided into several activities.
  • If it lasts less than one pomodoro, add it up. Simple tasks can be combined.
  • Results are achieved pomodoro after pomodoro.
  • The next pomodoro will go better.

This is merely an quick overview of one time management system. Far more information and detail can be found in Cirillo’s short book, which goes into much more depth and explains the reasons for using this technique as he writes,

A timetable delineates the separation between work time and free time; the latter is best defined as time set aside for non-goal oriented or unplanned activities. This leisure time is fuel for our minds. Without it, creativity, interest, and curiosity are lost, and we run ourselves down until our energy is depleted. Without gas, the engine won’t run.

So give it a go. You never know, you might be more productive and have more free time.

This blog post was created using the pomodoro technique.

For more information on time management and the Pomodoro Technique try the following links.



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Walter Benjamin’s Techniques for Writers and Critics – Writing tips

Walter Benjamin


The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses

  1. Anyone intending to embark on a major work should be lenient with himself and, having completed a stint, deny himself nothing that will not prejudice the next.
  2. Talk about what you have written, by all means, but do not read from it while the work is in progress. Every gratification procured in this way will slacken your tempo. If this regime is followed, the growing desire to communicate will become in the end a motor for completion.
  3. In your working conditions avoid everyday mediocrity. Semi-relaxation, to a background of insipid sounds, is degrading. On the other hand, accompaniment by an etude or a cacophony of voices can become as significant for work as the perceptible silence of the night. If the latter sharpens the inner ear, the former acts as a touchstone for a diction ample enough to bury even the most wayward sounds.
  4. Avoid haphazard writing materials. A pedantic adherence to certain papers, pens, inks is beneficial. No luxury, but an abundance of these utensils is indispensable.
  5. Let no thought pass incognito, and keep your notebook as strictly as the authorities keep their register of aliens.
  6. Keep your pen aloof from inspiration, which it will then attract with magnetic power. The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself. Speech conquers thought, but writing commands it.
  7. Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Literary honour requires that one break off only at an appointed moment (a mealtime, a meeting) or at the end of the work.
  8. Fill the lacunae of inspiration by tidily copying out what is already written. Intuition will awaken in the process.
  9. Nulla dies sine linea [‘No day without a line’] — but there may well be weeks.
  10. Consider no work perfect over which you have not once sat from evening to broad daylight.
  11. Do not write the conclusion of a work in your familiar study. You would not find the necessary courage there.
  12. Stages of composition: idea — style — writing. The value of the fair copy is that in producing it you confine attention to calligraphy. The idea kills inspiration, style fetters the idea, writing pays off style.
  13. The work is the death mask of its conception.

The Critic’s Technique in Thirteen Theses

  1. The critic is the strategist in the literary battle.
  2. He who cannot take sides should keep silent.
  3. The critic has nothing in common with the interpreter of past cultural epochs.
  4. Criticism must talk the language of artists. For the terms of the cenacle are slogans. And only in slogans is the battle-cry heard.
  5. “Objectivity” must always be sacrificed to partisanship, if the cause fought for merits this.
  6. Criticism is a moral question. If Goethe misjudged Holderlin and Kleist, Beethoven and Jean Paul, his morality and not his artistic discernment was at fault.
  7. For the critic his colleagues are the higher authority. Not the public. Still less posterity.
  8. Posterity forgets or acclaims. Only the critic judges in face of the author.
  9. Polemics mean to destroy a book in a few of its sentences. The less it has been studies the better. Only he who can destroy can criticize.
  10. Genuine polemics approach a book as lovingly as a cannibal spices a baby.
  11. Artistic enthusiasm is alien to the critic. In his hand the art©work is the shining sword in the battle of the minds.
  12. The art of the critic in a nutshell: to coin slogans without betraying ideas. The slogans of an inadequate criticism peddle ideas to fashion.
  13. The public must always be proved wrong, yet always feel represented by the critic.

The  above was taken from One-Way Street under a section titled “Post No Bills” in his 1928 treatise One-Way Street, found in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings.

Thank you to http://www.brainpickings.org and Maria Popova for the writing tips and inspiration and putting me on to this mine of wonderful ideas.