Writing Help

What Makes a Good Essay?


Other writing guides usually fail to emphasize a simple point: a great piece of writing is a meaningful activity between the writer and the reader. An essay is not simply a beautiful piece of finished prose. It is an ordered set of paragraphs that does something for the reader. A great essay is an action with a purpose.

Sometimes the choice is not yours: you might be required to show a single reader that you understand one thing in particular. But most of the time, even when you have strict guidelines to follow, you have a lot of choices. The main actions you can take are

(1) to instruct or teach the reader something;

(2) to delight the reader, or to give the reader something to appreciate or enjoy;

(3) to move the reader, which means to inspire the reader to feel a certain way or to go out and do something.

A good essay accomplishes one or more of these goals. A bad essay, even when it has a perfect structure, excellent spelling, and impeccable grammar, does not accomplish any of these goals. Great essays often but not always accomplish all three.

The advice in these pages is unique to GradeSaver. Here is where you will learn how to write a good essay. Every page reminds you to do something for the reader.

If you need to come up with an essay topic for a particular assignment, don't worry. Advice is here. And even if you don't really want to do something for the reader, you can find a topic that you like enough to share.

Cite this page