An essay can best be defined as a piece of non-fictional writing that has a singular focus. Though not all essays are argumentative, they all aim to convince the reader of something — if nothing else, that you deserve a good grade.
The word “essay” itself is closely linked to the French word “essayer”, which incidentally means “to attempt”. As you do just that, you might wonder how you can speed things up a little. Especially if that deadline is fast approaching and you haven’t even started doing any research yet, it might seem impossible to write an essay quickly.
With the right tips, though, we promise — you can do it! Here’s how to punch out a very decent essay in (almost) no time at all!
How Fast Can You Write an Essay?
Most essays fall into one of four types — argumentative essays, narrative essays (in which the writer tells a story), expository essays (which demonstrative knowledge of a topic), and descriptive essays, which basically do exactly what “it says on the tin”.
The type of essay you have to write probably plays the largest role in determining how fast you can finish the assignment. Research essays may, for instance, take months to craft. You can knock a narrative essay out in under an hour, meanwhile, presuming that you already know what you want to say — which does require a certain amount of passion.
The required word count also plays into the time frame you will need to complete your essay. It’s only natural that a 1,000 word essay takes less time to write than a 5,000 or even 10,000 word essay.
If you haven’t heard of Parkinson’s law yet, however, we’re sure that you’re familiar with its general concept: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. That broadly means that if you have three months to write your essay, that’s how long it’ll take, while if you only have two hours, you’ll be able to complete it in that time, too.
What Is the Format of an Essay?
To make sure that your essay looks and reads like a polished piece of writing that you put effort into, it is important to make sure that it contains all the right elements. That means your essay will need to include a compelling introduction, a body of multiple paragraphs that get to the core of the topic, and a conclusion that leaves your readers feeling like the essay really is finished.
Here’s some shortcuts for people who need to pen a solid essay in record time.
Writing Your Intro
Figuring out how to start an essay is tricky for many people. If you’re short on time, you can’t dwell on this question for too long. Instead, you’ll have to turn to one of the tried-and-tested essay starters that will always work. Try:
- Starting your essay with a truly fascinating but little-known fact about the topic.
- Beginning with an anecdote.
- Starting with some relevant statistics.
- Immersing your readers in the topic by setting the scene.
- Starting with a relevant quote, but be careful not to dive into tropes or cliches.
- Keeping your readers on their toes for a few sentences by describing the topic but not stating what it is outright.
- In some cases, you can “break the fourth wall” and talk about your experience with writing the essay. If you’re nervous or not sure you can do a good job, consider saying that. This works well for personal essays.
Writing the Body of Your Essay
If you are comparing and contrasting, first describe one side, then the other, and then lay out the similarities and differences. If you’re writing an argumentative essay, start with the theme, or main idea, and delve more deeply as your essay progresses. If you’re writing an expository essay, again start with broader ideas and work your way up to relevant details. If you’re writing a narrative essay, make sure that it feels like a coherent story with a beginning and an end.
This is the meat of your essay, and the part you can’t really skimp on. Just do it. One foot in front of the other, keep going. Do not get side-tracked by interesting things that are semi-related, but don’t really fit the scope of the essay, and do not waste time worrying about whether you are doing a good job. Do make sure that your paragraphs flow nicely and logically.
Writing the Conclusion of Your Essay
To finish your essay off, you can, if you’re in a hurry, simply:
- Tie the ending back to the introduction, which instantly makes the essay feel more polished.
- End with a powerful quote.
- Ask a question — ideally a rhetorical question.
- Conclude with a strong punchline that sums up why your reader should agree with you, if you’re writing an argumentative essay.
- Conclude with a few sentences that explain why people should care about the topic you tackled, such as, for a history essay, why the material is relevant to today’s world or how the topic you discussed shaped the future.
14 Tips on How To Write an Essay Fast
So, you want to streamline your essay-writing process and wind up with a decent essay as quickly as possible? You’ll have to get organized. No matter how much time you have, you can condense or expand these steps.
- Allot a schedule for essay writing. Procrastination is the number one enemy if you want results quickly, along with his close cousin “writer’s block” (AKA: low self-confidence). Don’t allow these obstacles to have a place in your life. Make a schedule, and when it’s time to write, write. No matter how you feel.
- Fuel your brain. The hungry and deprived brain isn’t the most creative brain. Eat a healthy and balanced meal before you get writing, and have some snacks and drinks on hand if you need them. Coffee is an essential companion for many people.
- Create a good working environment. That means your workspace should be neat and organized, without distractions, and it should make you feel competent and empowered.
- Read and understand the question (if provided). If you’ve already been assigned a topic, you won’t face the challenge of picking one. Read the question carefully to understand exactly what you’re being asked to do. You might already have an idea about the angle you’ll be taking.
- Choose your topic carefully (if topic isn’t provided). If you haven’t been given a topic and you have very little time to write your essay, stick to a topic you either already know a lot about or one that you’re genuinely excited to learn more about and can easily find more info on.
- Brainstorm and create an outline. This will help you move from the initial chaos of not knowing what to do, because the possibilities are endless, to an ordered plan that you can just move through.
- Type your words. It’s got to be done. Do it.
- Write down your research notes in the same document. Researching as you go? No problem. Immediately incorporate your research into your essay as you write, making footnotes where needed.
- Rewrite useful ideas into your own words. Are you using materials written by others as inspiration? No problem. The essay still has to be yours, though, and that means you should never simply rewrite another essay, thesaurus in hand. Use your voice, and your ideas, but allow yourself to be inspired. That’s OK.
- Build your references as you go along. If it becomes clear that you’re still lacking info on a particular sub-topic, such as statistics, dates, and even big ideas, build references while you write, and add them right away. Always check your references are reputable, though!
- Be concise and choose quality over quantity. No, longer is not necessarily better. Trim your essay down to a point where every word has an impact, and all gratuitous padding has been removed. (Humor and interesting anecdotes serve a purpose, though.)
- Write like you’re conversing with the reader. Imagine a reader as you write, and address them directly; not by name, but in your thoughts. This creates a conversational tone that is easy to read.
- Do not draft and edit at the same time. Write first. Don’t get hung up on whether that one word is really the best one, but get your material onto the page. Edit when you’re done with your draft. Human brains really aren’t that great at multitasking.
- Save the introduction and conclusion for last. So, you know what to say, but you have no idea how to start and end the essay? Don’t wait until you have a good idea for the intro, and write the body first. If you already have a strong introduction idea, then go ahead and write it down.
How to Brainstorm and Create an Outline?
Gather all your ideas about the topic, and especially those you consider important or interesting, and try to make a mind map that shows how they can fit together into a larger whole. Then make an outline. Here’s how to do it. Here, we’re brainstorming for an essay about physical health as a neglected factor in happiness.
Happiness Is a Verb
Start with some statistics about the rise in unhappiness, and major causes.
- How happiness came to be synonymous with mental health
- Proven physical paths to greater happiness:
- Outdoor time
- Healthy diet
- Sleep quality
- Why we need to stop thinking of happiness as something that’s only in the mind… punchy conclusion about exercising your way to happiness.
How can you write essays faster in exams?
By building confidence in yourself as a writer, which requires practice.
Can you write an essay in 30 minutes?
You can, if you are already familiar with the topic and it’s a short essay. Don’t necessarily aim for this time frame, though.
How do you write a last-minute essay?
Do the best you can, relying on your previous writing experience. Tell yourself that you can do it, because you can, and then go forth and write.