This article is part of the series ‘How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time: The Six Steps to Academic Essay Writing’. One article in this series will be published on the Elite Editing blog each day this week. You can also access them through the Elite Editing website at http://www.eliteediting.com.au
Have you ever borrowed some books to start your research and realised you did not know where to begin?
Have you ever spent time reading a great deal of information that in the end was irrelevant to the essay or assignment you were working on?
Have you ever started to write your essay and realised you had too much information on one topic, and not enough information on another topic?
If you write a first draft of your essay plan before you begin your research, you will be organised, prepared and save time.
You must write the first draft of your essay plan before you start your research. This will give your research direction and ultimately make it easier for you to write your essay. Having a plan will let you know what you need to research and how much research you need on each topic or subject that you will be writing about.
You will base this first draft of your essay plan on your essay question, and your current knowledge of your subject. It will not happen very often that you are asked to write an essay on a topic you know nothing about, since you will already be studying the subject and will normally have had one or more lectures or tutorials on the topic.
It is acceptable if your essay plan is rough or vague at this point, or if you do not have a great deal of detail. You will develop your essay plan (expanding it and including more detail) and possibly even change it as you go through the research process.
What does a first draft of an essay plan look like?
The first draft of your essay plan will show you what main topics you will discuss in your essay, how the essay will be structured, and roughly how many words you will spend on each part.
If your essay question was ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’ and you had to write 1,500 words, then your essay plan might look like this:
Essay question: ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’
Essay length: 1,500 words
Introduction (150 words)
1) Thesis statement: Through an examination of the evidence, it is clear that Critical Thinking is highly relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse for a number of reasons.
2) Introduce main points or topics to be discussed: accuracy of diagnoses, patient outcomes, prevent and solve problems, communication
Topic 1: Accuracy of diagnoses (300 words)
Topic 2: Patient outcomes (300 words)
Topic 3: Prevent and solve problems (300 words)
Topic 4: Communication (300 words)
Conclusion (150 words)
1) Concluding statement: Thus, it can be seen that the concept of Critical Thinking is invaluable and highly relevant to Registered Nurses.
2) Sum up main points or topics that have been discussed: accuracy of diagnoses, patient outcomes, prevent and solve problems, communication
Introductions and conclusions
As you can see from the example essay plan above, an introduction and a conclusion will normally be approximately 10% of the word count of the entire essay. (This is a general guide and does not apply to essays longer than 5,000 words).
In order to be considered a true introduction your first paragraph must do two things: 1) answer the essay question in a clear statement (this is called your thesis statement) and 2) introduce the main points your essay will make to support your argument. You cannot discuss any major points or topics in your essay if you have not introduced them in your introduction. Also, you must discuss all your main points or topics in the order that you introduce them in your introduction. This helps to maintain the flow and structure of your essay.
Similarly, in order to be considered a true conclusion your last paragraph must do two things: 1) re-state the answer to the essay question and 2) sum up the main points your essay has made to support your argument. Remember, a conclusion cannot contain any new information.
Body of the essay and topic sentences
You can find out how many words you will write in the body of your essay by taking away the number you will spend on your introduction and conclusion from the total amount. How you divide the number of words in the body of your essay between your main topics will depend on how important each topic is to your argument. How long you spend writing about each topic should reflect the importance of each topic. If all of your topics were of equal importance, you would write roughly the same amount of words on each. If one topic was more important, you would write about it first and spend longer discussing it. If one topic was less important, you would write about it last and write fewer words on it.
Using topic sentences at the beginning of each new paragraph is essential for ensuring that your essay is well organised and well structured. It also ensures that the essay flows logically and reads well. A topic sentence must do two things: 1) introduce the new topic about to be discussed and 2) shows how this new topic helps to answer the essay question or support your argument in answering the essay question.
If your essay question was ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’ and you were about to discuss the topic ‘accuracy of diagnoses’, then your topic sentence might sound like this: ‘Another way in which Critical Thinking is highly relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse is in ensuring accuracy of diagnoses’. This sentence clearly demonstrates to the reader that you are about to discuss ‘accuracy of diagnoses’ and you are doing so because it is another way that Critical Thinking is relevant to Registered Nurses, which is what your essay is arguing.
The next article in this series is: ‘How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time: Step 3. Conduct the Research’.
This article (and the remainder in the series) has been written by Dr Lisa Lines, the Director and Head Editor of Elite Editing. If you require further assistance with essay writing or with the professional editing of your completed essay, please contact her through the Elite Editing website at http://www.eliteediting.com.au/contact-us.aspx.
For more information on our professional essay, assignment, thesis and dissertation editing service, please visit http://www.eliteediting.com.au/essay-editing.aspx.
To submit your essay assignment, thesis or dissertation for professional editing now, please visit http://www.eliteediting.com.au/submit.aspx.
So given you need to transform your 1,000 words into something easy on the eyes, you know you have to split it into paragraphs. How do you do that?
A Sentence Is an Idea, a Paragraph Is Closely Related Ideas
Whatever you’re discussing, you’ll discover a number of concepts which you presumably planned before you started writing. To make it all hang together nicely, you add a bit of space when you transition from one area of discussion to another. As with any rule, there are exceptions, but broadly speaking, essay writing and academic writing calls for paragraphs in the 100-200 word range.
Bear in mind that academic and essay writing usually means you’re writing for a fairly dedicated reader, but what about the huge chunk of the population who are frightened off by big chunks of text, even if they are only six or seven lines long (depending on font)?
Journalists and Commercial Writers Keep Their Paragraphs Short
“White space” is a wonderful illusion that tells your reader what you have to say is pretty easy to take in. I’ve seen some news articles in which each paragraph is only one sentence long. I feel that’s taking it to extremes, and it can have the opposite effect of making your writing look disjointed. I like to see at least three or four lines to a paragraph, and as an indication, my longest paragraph so far is just 74 words long.
You can assume commercial writing and news reports will have paragraphs approximately half as long as the ones you’d see in academic or essay writing. In this case, we’re looking at ten to twenty paragraphs per 1,000 words instead of five to ten.
Dialogues Have a New Paragraph for Every New Speaker
One context in which a paragraph can be as short as five characters is direct speech involving two or more speakers.
Count ’em: two characters for the word, and three for the punctuation marks. To begin with, you’d introduce or refer to your speakers, but once the conversation is flowing nicely, you can start skipping them at times.
“No!” exclaimed Mary.
“Yes!” John couldn’t help being amused at Mary’s surprise.
“You don’t really mean it, do you?”
“Of course I mean it, silly!”
It’s a lot less cumbersome to skip a mention of the speaker than to add “said Mary” and “John said” after every direct quote. So theoretically, you can have a paragraph consisting of one word plus punctuation marks. 1,000 words in direct speech would therefore mean you’d write way more than the five or ten paragraphs our initial guideline suggested.
How Many Paragraphs in 1,000 Words?
Here’s a basic summary.
- Probably not less than 5 paragraphs.
- For easy reading, probably no less than 10.
- For direct speech, one for every time you change speaker (however many times that is).
Does It Matter?
Not necessarily, but bear in mind that even teachers who are paid to read students’ writing get tired eyes. The easier it is to read and understand what you have written, the more likely your teacher is to notice those clever details you included. There’s also a distinct possibility they won’t start hating you while they read your work. Yes, they’re supposed to be unbiased, but everyone is human!
When writing in other contexts: an article, a blog, or a book, keeping paragraphs short helps to hold your reader’s attention. Yes, there are famous writers who just wrote without much attention to paragraphs, or even punctuation, but their work isn’t an easy read, and no matter how educated we may be, “easy” is invariably the preferred option.
To take easy reading to the next level, try using sub-headers every paragraph to three paragraphs. This is applicable to blogs and web pages, and to a certain extent, in academic writing. When you hit a web page for info, what do you do? I look at the header, and then I scan the sub-heads to get an idea of the writer’s approach to the subject. If it looks like fluff, I kill the page and move on. But if the sub-headers are interesting, and seem to tell me there’s something worth learning, I’ll read the whole piece.
Whatever You Do, Use Paragraphs
Using paragraphs well (with or without sub-heads) makes your work more accessible to your reader, and, to a certain extent, it shows you’ve ordered your thoughts and are discussing one point at a time. If you can’t organize your work into paragraphs consisting of related thoughts, you may be jumping around too much. Check it out and try again.
How Many Paragraphs is…
The following list is an approximation for those who are writing essays with the standard 100 – 200 words per paragraph and 50 to 100 words for blog or article easy reading. The actual number of paragraphs will depend on numerous factors and this is nothing more than a general rough estimate. Below are estimated words to paragraphs conversions:
- 250 words is 1 to 3 paragraphs for essays, 3 to 5 paragraphs for easy writing
- 500 words is 3 to 5 paragraphs for essays, 5 to 10 paragraphs for easy writing
- 750 words is 4 to 8 paragraphs for essays, 8 to 15 paragraphs for easy writing
- 1000 words is 5 to 10 paragraphs for essays, 10 to 20 paragraphs for easy writing
- 1500 words is 8 to 15 paragraphs for essays, 15 to 30 paragraphs for easy writing
- 2000 words is 10 to 20 paragraphs for essays, 20 to 40 paragraphs for easy writing
- 2500 words is 13 to 25 paragraphs for essays, 25 to 50 paragraphs for easy writing
- 3000 words is 15 to 30 paragraphs for essays, 30 to 60 paragraphs for easy writing
- 4000 words is 20 to 40 paragraphs for essays, 40 to 80 paragraphs for easy writing
- 5000 words is 25 to 50 paragraphs for essays, 50 to 100 paragraphs for easy writing
Below are estimated paragraphs to words conversions:
- 1 paragraph is 100 – 200 words for essays, 50 – 100 words for easy writing
- 2 paragraphs is 200 – 400 words for essays, 100 – 200 words for easy writing
- 3 paragraphs is 300 – 600 words for essays, 150 – 300 words for easy writing
- 4 paragraphs is 400 – 800 words for essays, 200 – 400 words for easy writing
- 5 paragraphs is 500 – 1,000 words for essays, 250 – 500 words for easy writing
- 6 paragraphs is 600 – 1,200 words for essays, 300 – 600 words for easy writing
- 7 paragraphs is 700 – 1,400 words for essays, 350 – 700 words for easy writing
- 8 paragraphs is 800 – 1,600 words for essays, 400 – 800 words for easy writing
- 9 paragraphs is 900 – 1,800 words for essays, 450 – 900 words for easy writing
- 10 paragraphs is 1,000 – 2,000 words for essays, 500 – 1,000 words for easy writing
- 15 paragraphs is 1,500 – 3,000 words for essays, 750 – 1,500 words for easy writing
- 20 paragraphs is 2,000 – 4,000 words for essays, 1,000 – 2,000 words for easy writing
- 25 paragraphs is 2,500 – 5,000 words for essays, 1,250 – 2,500 words for easy writing
- 50 paragraphs is 5,000 – 10,000 words for essays, 2,500 – 5,000 words for easy writing
- 100 paragraphs is 10,000 – 20,000 words for essays, 5,000 – 10,000 words for easy writing