Dull writing can leave examiners yawning. These tips will brighten up your essays and make them exciting to read.


The drop intro 


Capture the reader’s attention with a drop intro. Look at the essay title and think of a strange or striking example. Discuss it for a few lines, then zoom back in and answer the question head-on.


You might start with an anecdote, a quote, a shocking fact, or a story in the news.


Imagine you’re writing an essay about the climate crisis. You’ve been asked to discuss whether renewable energy can fully replace fossil fuels in the next 50 years. 


It’s not exactly an inspiring question, and could yield some boring answers. Dodge the trap and dive straight in with some action: 


Climate protesters set out to “swarm” the capital in April 2019. Organisers staged simultaneous demonstrations across London, blocking roads and even gluing themselves to trains to make their cause known. 


In the last few years, the fight for action on the climate crisis has reached fever pitch.


Now comes your argument. You could say: “But it’s too little, too late,” or “keeping the pressure up is the only way we will meet our zero-carbon goals”. 


You can then build in material on renewable energy and fossil fuels. The trick is to get the reader excited first.


The key skill here is pulling back from your example and making sure you link it neatly to your argument – the line that normally comes first in an essay. It might help if you draft this part first, even though you’ll be saving it for your second paragraph.


It can be difficult to pull off, but a good drop intro shows you’re in control of your material.


From this point, it’s up to you — as long as you engage with the question and provide some strong examples, you’ll be on the right track.


The snap judgement


The best essays pack a punch. For humanities questions that ask how successful a decision was, or how a writer achieves an effect, a quick snap-take response can lift a good essay to new heights.


Imagine you are answering the question: “How does Shakespeare use language and structure to portray King Lear’s death?”


Somewhere in your response, tell us exactly what you think. You can be quite chatty. The line can take on the tone of a review, or a boxing match commentator sizing up the competitors:


"Shakespeare pulls out all the stops as Lear cries in disbelief at his daughter’s death. It’s a heart-wrenching scene, and Shakespeare makes sure the audience knows it.”


Don’t be afraid to answer the question bluntly. You can heap up your evidence later.


Each paragraph could do with a line or two like this. They will help guide your analysis and signpost your argument in an exciting way for the reader.


These lines give your points a crisp framework – and lend your essay some welly.