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Composition: Developing Effective Essays

If you have tried out the strategies on this site for developing paragraphs, you are well on your way to creating effective essays as well. Here we will organize paragraphs into various kinds of essays--those that explain, compare, analyze, classify, and argue. Our goal is to create informative and persuasive compositions that keep our readers interested.
  1. Essays and Assignments (39)
  2. Topic Suggestions (18)

400 Writing Topics
Coming up with a good topic can be one of the hardest parts of composing a paragraph or essay. These 400 topic suggestions should make that job a little easier.

Tips for Taking Essay Exams
These tips you should help you to manage exam pressures and compose a strong essay.

How to Begin an Essay: 13 Engaging Strategies With Examples
A good introduction lets readers know what your essay is about and encourages them to keep reading. Here are 13 opening strategies accompanied by examples from a wide range of professional writers.

"Whack at Your Reader at Once": Eight Great Opening Lines
Here are some great opening lines from essays that have appeared in recent volumes of "The Best American Essays."

Hookers vs. Chasers: How Not to Begin an Essay
Here are 10 examples of "chasers"--boring or baffling opening lines that you'll want to avoid when composing your own essays.

How to Write Faster (and Better)
The challenge of quickly writing a rough draft is one that journalist Donald M. Murray addressed in his book "Read to Write." Here, in abbreviated form, are Murray's six "tricks of the trade" to help you stay on track and complete that first draft.

Practice in Paragraphing
This exercise will give you practice in paragraphing--organizing sentences into unified paragraphs in a coherent essay.

Evaluating Classification Plans
A classification plan is a simple outline that you can use to begin to develop and organize a classification paragraph or essay. This exercise will help you determine the kinds of items that belong in an effective classification plan.

Sample Topic Number One for the SAT Writing Test
One way to prepare for the writing portion of the SAT is to practice composing essays on topics similar to those that appear on the actual test. Sample topic number one concerns social-networking sites.

Revision Checklist
This checklist should serve as a guide when it comes time to revise your writing.

Sample Topic Number Two for the SAT Writing Test
Sample topic number two for the SAT essay concerns the legalization of drugs.

Sample Topic Number Three for the SAT Writing Test
Sample topic number three for the SAT essay concerns a proposal to offer "cash for clunkers"--a government program to buy and scrap polluting vehicles.

Sample Topic Number Four for the SAT Writing Test
Sample SAT topic number four concerns a proposed law requiring an identifying marker on the license plates of cars driven by teenagers in the first year of their provisional licenses.

Sample Topic Number Five for the SAT Writing Test
Sample SAT topic number five concerns the effectiveness of courses in sexuality education in schools.

Sample Topic Number Six for the SAT Writing Test
Sample SAT topic number six concerns children's attention to physical appearances.

Self-Evaluation of Essays
Writing a brief self-evaluation each time you have completed a writing project will make you more aware of your strengths as a writer and help you to see more clearly what skills you need to work on.

Donald Murray's Revision Checklist
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Donald Murray offers his own revision checklist as an example for novice writers.

Ten Quick Tips to Improve Your Writing
Whether we're composing a blog or a business letter, an email or an essay, our goal should be to respond clearly and directly to the needs and interests of our readers. These ten tips should help us to improve our writing whenever we set out to inform or persuade.

Sister Miriam Joseph's Brief Guide to Composition
These passages from "A Brief Guide to Composition" suggest the flavor of Sister Miriam Joseph's classic text, "The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric." Though her advice on style can be found in other books on the subject, nowhere else is that advice delivered so succinctly.

"Quote . . . Misquote": The Challenge of Verifying Quotations
If we're going to borrow somebody else's words, we should try to make sure that those words are authentic and accurately referenced.

Three Good Reasons Not to Buy an Online Essay
Stop right there. You're not going to do it. You're not going to cheat. You're not going to buy an essay or a term paper online. And here's why.

How to Discover, Explore, and Focus an Essay Topic: 50 Questions
One of the most productive ways to narrow your topic for an essay, speech, or research paper is to ask a series of questions. If you have trouble coming up with questions of your own, these 50 questions should help you get started.

Teaching Writing As a Collaborative Activity
Today's question for writers and teachers: How can writing be taught effectively as a collaborative activity? To help launch the discussion, here are a few points to consider.

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