Essay Question Writing

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If pancakes for breakfast are enough to power people who chop down and lug heavy trees around for a living, then they are sufficient for the average American student.

See how the first and last sentences echo each other, while the middle two sentences provide an example?

Similarly, you want to front load your essay with the most important points because the person marking the paper is probably looking for key words and phrases; they won’t read the whole thing.

You’ve probably read an essay where the arguments ran in circles and the same handful of ideas were repeated over and over again, except with different words. The thing is, on a timed test that’s marked by a TA who has to grade a hundred more, this method doesn’t go over well.

If you’re a normal person and not a weirdo like me, then you probably hate essay questions on exams.

I mean, exams are already a huge source of anxiety…essays, too?

Generally, however, the decreasing-importance pattern is my default option.

This is because decreasing-importance pattern follows the way journalists write: they start with the most important piece of news to get their reader’s attention so in case the reader doesn’t read to the bottom, they still get the gist of things.

If you followed Rule 3 closely, you shouldn’t see any gaping holes or questionable arguments, but it’s nice to have a sanity check.

Note: In a written essay, it usually takes too long to fix faulty argumentation because you’ll have to cross things out and rewrite them, while computers will let you cut and paste paragraphs and sentences.


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