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Structure, Style, Argument 

– an Undergrad Guide to Essay Planning

Jump to: Structure | Style | Argument

How to write academic essays with style

There is no one true way to deliver a piece of critical writing, whatever those £20 essay-writing books may tell you.


After all, style is where the magic comes from.

But there are rules, and just because, for example, you've enrolled in an arts or humanities course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be as sharp in your analysis as a geneticist with her DNA sequences or a nuclear physicist with his hadron collider. 

Essay-writing style 1 – Make every sentence matter


It's all too easy to get caught up in the stress of essay-writing and to forget the big picture of why you're writing it in the first place. 


Try to think more in terms of what the real world calls 'branding': this essay of yours is also your product.


It's a shop-front for you to lay out your accrued knowledge and personal insights in an attractive and marketable way.


Picture that stack of marking your essay will be sitting in when it's done. It's the textbook definition of a crowded marketplace. So tick all those boxes in the marker's criteria, by all means, but try to differentiate your product in the process. 

Be distinctive in your approach (within the limits of your overall structure), and create a fresh and memorable execution of the essay model. This is what good style is all about, and the product you put on show should be as D-I-P-I as you can make it.


Essay-writing style 2 – Be D-I-P-I


Not dippy, D-I-P-I. It stands for:


  • Distinctive, not derivative

  • Incisive, not comprehensive

  • Powerful, not airy-fairy

  • Insightful, not forgettable.


By blending the boundaries of good structure (the logic) with the freedoms opened up by good style (the magic), you'll lay the foundations for the most important component of your essay-writing: your argument.

Next: Essay-writing argument

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