What a thing of beauty is the well-written 500-word essay. In some ways, it is the perfect length to express a certain level of knowledge about a particular subject. It is long enough to allow the writer to show familiarity, and possibly expertise, regarding her chosen topic. But it is not a length that requires copious amounts of research. When sufficiently motivated, one can manage to research, write, and revise such an essay in an hour or two, given enough practice. Given the fact that students will write dozens, if not hundreds, of essays in their high school and college careers, it can be advantageous to become familiar with the mechanics, tools, and resources associated with essay writing.
The mechanics of a paper include such elements as accurate spelling, correct grammar, and proper formatting. The conscientious writer does not simply rely on spell check to make sure his paper does not contain misspellings. A thorough proofreading will catch mistakes that spell check misses. For instance, spell check might not know the difference between homophones such as “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” A careful review by the writer (or a friend) should catch these errors. Using correct grammar in all its forms – the parts of speech, subject-verb agreement, and punctuation – can ensure that brilliant writing is not overshadowed by careless or sloppy mechanics (Writing Mechanics).
The “look” of the paper is important as well. High school teachers and college professors alike appreciate readable papers with a consistent appearance. This means using the Times New Roman font, size 12, and double-spacing the body of the essay. The title should also be a size 12 font, center justified, with the first word, the last word, and other important words all capitalized. The default margin settings of one inch at the top, bottom, left, and right, give the paper a professional look.
While having a crisp, clean look is valuable, the substance of the paper is of the greatest importance. Supplementing one’s own personal knowledge with well-researched material is the key to a terrific essay. A 500-word essay is not going to require as much research as a six- or ten-page paper. The individual assignment and the topic will determine where to seek out information. But once the research is done, the bibliography (or Works Cited list) can be assembled quite easily using EasyBib (EasyBib). What used to be quite a laborious task – putting sources in the correct MLA format, then alphabetizing them all – is now a fairly automatic process using this handy website.
Some students are intimidated when given a writing assignment. Hopefully, the hints given in this essay will make it easier for students to get started on their own essays. Becoming fairly automatic about formatting a paper prevents too much time from being wasted “reinventing the wheel.” Using viable, trustworthy websites and resources for research will help writers supplement their own knowledge. Knowing how to organize these resources into a coherent bibliography will cap off the paper quite nicely. Using these “tricks of the trade” should help students concentrate on the composition of their papers, and not obsess on the minutiae.