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Main Essay Page


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My home page


  1. Research
  2. Proposal
  3. Compiling Notes
  4. Planning the Essay
  5. Writing
  6. Finishing
  7. Extras
  8. Examples

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes you qualified to tell me how to write?

For starters, I have published a novel. But if you need more reasons, here are several:

I won the award for the highest grade in my high school's creative writing class. I graduated with highest honours from a university journalism program. My lowest grade on university essay was a C+, and that was because I decided the question was flawed, so I reworded it into a more coherent and challenging question without consulting the prof first. He said he wanted to give me an F for failing to answer the question, but didn't because the quality of my writing was so good. All of my other essays scored 80% or higher. I won an award for the best short story in a class on anthropology and science fiction (which is available on my writing page). I worked for over two years as a tech journalist, during which I was paid to write and to edit copy. I would still be working there if I hadn't moved to the US.

In other words: I have lots of experience, plus ample positive feedback regarding my skills.


I found examples of informal writing (such as "I," hyperbole, etc.) in your documents. Shouldn't you practice what you preach?

Nothing I've posted on this website is a formal essay. Therefore, it is acceptable to use informal elements.


I've noticed that you've made spelling mistakes such as "colour," "humour," "analyse" and "plagiarise." Didn't you bother to spell check?

Yes, I spell checked each page. I also happen to use the Canadian dictionary, which includes 'u's in some words and in some cases (such as ize/ise) uses 's' instead of 'z.' The American dictionary omits many of the 'u's and uses 'z' most of the time. The British and Australian dictionaries use the 'u's and almost always use 's' instead of 'z.' Neither is incorrect.


I read advice somewhere else that conflicts with what you've said in these pages. How do I know who is right?

Chances are, neither is "right." Much of my advice comes down to style, and someone else's style may conflict. Rules of grammar and formal writing are usually not up for debate, but the methods of research and writing certainly are. I've written the methods that I found worked well for me. You'll have to experiment to find what works well for you.


I have to write a proposal. How do I do that?

Proposals vary depending on the assignment. Some are point form, some are mini-essays. You should ask your instructor for advice on what they're looking for in the proposal. I have a sample proposal here, but beware that it is a specific sample, and may not fit every case.


I need grammatical help! Where should I look?

See the links section on Grammar and Style. You may also wish to purchase a guide to grammar such as The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. The last time I checked, this little marvel of a guide was under US$10 at Amazon. It is also available in a free online version.


I'm having a lot of trouble wording a particular sentence/paragraph. What should I do?

First check with your instructor/professor/TA. I used to offer essay assistance by email, but between getting too many rude/demanding/ridiculous requests and my current family obligations, I regret that I am no longer offering personalized essay help.


I have a question about essay writing that I can't find an answer to on your pages or the pages you've linked to. Who do I ask?

You should check with your instructor, or see if your school has a writing assistance service. You should also seek further information from the links I've posted.


I followed all of your advice, but still got a bad mark. Why?

There could be many reasons for this. You may have written a brilliant essay, but failed to meet specific criteria in your project assignment, such as the inclusion of particular information or answering a certain question. You may have thought you were writing well, but in reality your prose was weak. Did you read it over to yourself and have someone else read it over and give comments?

Also, it's always possible that an instructor simply doesn't like what you've written. Essay grades are often highly subjective, and instructors are human beings with faults like bias and cluelessness. Your instructor isn't necessarily at fault for your bad grade, but unfair grades have been given in the past and will be given again in the future. I've known of university professors who by policy do not ever give As. In such cases, do the best you can, pass the course, and move on with your life.

If you really feel that you received a lower mark than you should have, then take it up with the instructor. Find out specifically why the mark is so low. If you feel the instructor is being unreasonable or unfair, it is your right to escalate to a department head or dean. Don't expect much sympathy from those folks, however, unless your essay is truly stellar.


I followed all of your advice, but my paper still sounds awkward and amateurish when I read it aloud to myself. Why? What can I do to change it?

A good way to improve your writing is to read the writing of others. If you have a friend who regularly gets good essay grades, ask if you can read over his or her essay after the grades have been received to see how yours compares. Ask them to read your essay and give constructive comments as to where they might see problems.

In general, students who do more reading tend to have better writing skills. Do you only read when you have to, or are you an avid reader? Read more magazines, newspapers, and books. What makes a good story and what makes a story hard to read? Consider these things as you read, and your writing may improve.

If you find that your writing simply can't seem to ever go well, perhaps you should enroll in a writing course or find a tutor. Check your school to find out what help is available. You'd be surprised at the amount of free help there is waiting for you on a university campus.

Some people are better writers than others, just as some people are better artists, better athletes, or better at anything. Not everyone can produce exquisite writing. I believe, however, that anyone of average intelligence can write decently if they're willing to work at it, learn the rules, and strive to do the best that they can do.


Last updated in February 2005.

Copyright © 2000-2005 Kimberly Chapman. All rights reserved.

This original work is available for distribution, provided the following: it is only distributed in this complete form, it contains my name and copyright, it is not altered during distribution without my consent, and it is not used to generate income for anyone without my consent. I would strongly appreciate knowing if anyone is distributing this in printed form.

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