How to Write a Winning Essay (Part 1)


Why am I writing about How to Write a Winning Essay? If you look around on the internet, so many essay competitions are going on. Some competitions are annual while others are a once in lifetime opportunities.  And most of these essays, to say the least, pays huge reward to winners. But what if you’re not that good at writing essays?

Back in high school, I used to wonder why I usually got marked down for “Expressions” in my essays. I mean, I get good scores in “Mechanical Accuracy”, “Vocabulary”, and even “Lexis and Structures” but every single time it’s the “Expression” that’s the problem. Do you know how it feels to not know how to say what you wish to say? You should know that I didn’t get to know why throughout my high school days, but now I do. And I will be showing how to write a winning essay using what I have learned over the years.

This is a full guide to writing a winning essay. Hence, it is divided into four (4) parts, each part giving you a vivid and stepwise approach to becoming an expert essay writer. Are you a high schooler, an undergraduate, or a post-graduate student who’s interested in honing your skills and earning with your pen? Then this article is a must-read for you.

General Overview

As stated above, this article is going to be a long read, however, it’s going to be worth your time.

In this part one (1) of “How to Write a Winning Essay”. we would be looking at what a winning essay means and its importance. Followed by how to write a strong and convincing introduction and thesis statement. We would further look at what “prompt” means in an essay and how to identify one when you come across it. Now let’s take a deeper dive into the article.

A Winning Essay: Why is it Important?

I define a winning essay simply as a written masterpiece that is designed to win (it may be winning the heart of the reader or a competition). When you come across such an essay, you know in your heart of the heart that this is a masterpiece that can not be ignored.

A winning essay secures the attention of the reader from the beginning and makes them stay glued to it by baiting them all the way. So why is it important that you write a breathtaking essay?

Firstly, it demonstrates your ability to effectively communicate your ideas and thoughts clearly and concisely. This is an essential skill that is highly valued in various academic and professional settings. Remember my story? This is one of the reasons I so much respect people who have their way with words.

Secondly, as a student who got to win an essay competition, it gives you an edge as you now have opportunities to further your academic or professional pursuits. Winning an essay could come with rewards such as scholarship opportunities, internships, or even job offers, etc, For Example, the Dafe Akpedeye Essay for Law Undergraduates with a winning price of 500k or the Amartya Sen Essay with about $8,000 up for grabs. This, especially for indigent students, is a big win and a ray of hope.

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Thirdly, writing an essay that wins can boost your confidence and help you build a strong writing portfolio. This can be beneficial in future academic and professional pursuits where strong writing skills are required. You could sponsor your whole career just by writing a beautiful essay.

Lastly, writing a winning essay can provide a sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment. The process of researching, planning, writing, and editing an essay requires time and effort. Completing this process and winning an essay competition can be a source of pride and motivation for future endeavors. As you see your dedication and hard work pay off, this could help you be more determined and face another aspect of your life with such positivity.

Essay Introduction: The Attention-Grabbing Techniques

In most essay competitions, there are usually more applicants to be graded by the facilitators. This leaves little to no room for dwelling on time-wasting articles. So if, in the slightest, you want your article to give you the win it deserves, you need to have an attention-grabbing introduction. This attention-grabbing introduction is critical for engaging your reader and encouraging them to read on. It’s the bait on the hook of your article.

How to write a winning essay
How to write a winning essay

So how do you ensure your reader doesn’t take their eyes off your article at the first glance? Below are some techniques that you can use to grab your reader’s attention:

  1. Start With a Quote: To set the tone of your argument and get your reader’s attention hooked, use an interesting quote that is also relevant to your essay topic.
  2. Use an Anecdote: An anecdote is a short and interesting story that relates to your essay topic. The story may be about a real person or incident and it could also be made up. What matters is how you present it. Using an anecdote can help to create a personal connection with your reader and encourage them to keep reading.
  3. Pose a Question: Being curious is a great skill and inspiring others to do the same is an asset. Asking a rhetorical question can help to engage your reader and encourage them to think about your essay topic. The question should be relevant to your essay and should be designed to spark the reader’s curiosity.
  4. Use a Startling Statistic: Using a surprising statistic which, of course, is verifiable can help to capture your reader’s attention and demonstrate the importance of your essay topic.
  5. Describe a Scenario: Describing a scenario or a hypothetical situation that relates to your essay topic can help to engage your reader and it can also help them think more deeply about the topic of discussion.
  6. Make a Bold Statement: It seems bold of me to tell you this right? Yes, making a bold statement that challenges common assumptions or beliefs can help to capture your reader’s attention and encourage them to keep reading.

Remember that while an attention-grabbing introduction is important, it is also important to make sure that your introduction is relevant to your essay topic and sets the tone for your argument. Avoid using attention-grabbing techniques that are unrelated to your topic or that do not support your thesis statement. Don’t worry, I don’t expect you to understand what a thesis statement means in an essay for now, but you will eventually.

Writing Strong Introduction: The Elements

If you are still reading, it only tells me one thing: you’re truly intentional about learning to wand your magical pen and producing a masterpiece.  With the attention-grabbing technique described above in mind, it is now time to write your introduction.  A strong introduction is critical for setting the tone of your essay and capturing the reader’s attention. So, what elements should your introduction contain to be strong?

  1. Hook: A hook is a sentence or two that grabs the reader’s attention and encourages them to keep reading. It can be a quote, an anecdote, a surprising fact, or a rhetorical question that relates to your essay topic. Just as described in the techniques above.
  2. Background Information: Provide some background information about your topic to help the reader understand the context of your essay. This information should be relevant to your thesis statement and should be presented clearly and concisely. Don’t assume that your reader is all-knowing. Be reminded that your essay is meant to pass a message, an argument, or a different viewpoint, hence, make the context clear from the beginning.
  3. Thesis Statement: We will talk about the thesis statement under the next subheading. But for now, you need to know that your thesis statement is the most important element of your introduction. It should be clear and concise and should summarize the main argument or point of view that you will be making in your essay. Make sure that your thesis statement is specific and focused, and that it answers the prompt or question that you are addressing.
  4. Blueprint:  Just like I did above under the general overview, a blueprint is a sentence or two that outlines the main points that you will be discussing in your essay. This gives the reader an idea of what to expect in the body of the essay and helps them to follow your argument more easily.
  5. Tone: The tone to use is determined by the audience of your essay. The tone of your introduction should be appropriate for your audience and your topic. You may want to use a formal tone for academic essays or a more casual tone for personal essays.
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If you can painstakingly go through the above and incorporate them into your introduction, I can assure you of creating a very strong and engaging opening that sets the tone for the rest of your essay.

Remember to keep your introduction brief and to the point, and avoid going into too much detail about your topic. Your goal is to grab the reader’s attention and give them a clear idea of what to expect in the rest of your essay.

Thesis Statement in Essay Writing: What is it?

A thesis statement is a sentence or two that summarizes the main point or argument of an essay. It is typically included in the introduction of the essay and serves as a roadmap for the reader, outlining the main ideas and arguments that will be presented in the essay.

The thesis statement is important because it helps to focus the essay and provides a clear direction for the writer. It should be specific, concise, and clearly state the writer’s position on the topic. The thesis statement should also be supported by evidence and examples throughout the essay.

A strong thesis statement should be debatable and inspire discussion and debate. It should not be too general or too specific, and it should be able to be developed throughout the essay. A well-written thesis statement is essential for a successful essay and helps the reader to understand the writer’s main argument and purpose.

Essay Prompt: What You Should Know

Having a clear and solid understanding of the prompt in an essay can not be overemphasized. Without this knowledge, all you will ever pen down for that particular essay will be out of context regardless of how beautifully written they are.

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The prompt is the question or topic that you are being asked to write about. It provides the framework for your essay and sets the expectations for what you need to include.

To understand the prompt, it’s important to carefully read and analyze it. Look for keywords or phrases that indicate what you need to do. For example, if the prompt asks you to “compare and contrast”, you know that you need to discuss similarities and differences between two or more things.

You should also consider the context of the prompt;

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the purpose of the essay?
  • Is there a specific format or style that you need to follow?

Once you understand the prompt, you can begin to plan your essay. This includes brainstorming ideas, conducting research, and organizing your thoughts. It’s important to make sure that your essay addresses all aspects of the prompt and stays focused on the topic.

Failing to understand the prompt can result in a poorly written essay that does not address the topic or meet the expectations of the assignment.  But if you take the time to carefully analyze the prompt, this will help you to write a well-structured and thoughtful essay.

Identifying an Essay Prompt: The Keywords

To have a clear understanding of the prompt in an essay, you must first be able to identify it. Some common keywords to look out for are:

  1. Analyze: This is a keyword that indicates that you need to break down the topic into smaller parts and examine each part in detail.
  2. Compare/Contrast: These indicate that you need to discuss the similarities and/or differences between two or more things.
  3. Define: Here, you need to provide a clear and concise explanation of a term or concept.
  4. Evaluate: This is telling you to make a judgment about the topic and provide reasons for your opinion.
  5. Explain: Provide a detailed description or account of the topic.
  6. Discuss: Give a balanced and thoughtful examination of the topic, including both positive and negative aspects.
  7. Illustrate: You need to give examples that support your argument or point of view here.
  8. Outline: This is basically to give a structured overview of the main points or ideas of the essay.
  9. Summarize: This means providing a brief overview of the key points or ideas of the essay.

Identifying these keywords can help you to understand what is being asked of you and guide your writing process.

This is the first part of the “How to Write a Winning Essay” series. If you liked it, then you would even like the part 2 better, where I wrote on How to Conduct Essay Research.

I hope you learned something new? Please let me know what you think in the comment box and don’t forget to share the article with your friends. Thanks

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