How To Write A Essay Samples

General Essay Writing Tips


Despite the fact that, as Shakespeare said, "the pen is mightier than the sword," the pen itself is not enough to make an effective writer. In fact, though we may all like to think of ourselves as the next Shakespeare, inspiration alone is not the key to effective essay writing. You see, the conventions of English essays are more formulaic than you might think – and, in many ways, it can be as simple as counting to five.

The Five Paragraph Essay

Though more advanced academic papers are a category all their own, the basic high school or college essay has the following standardized, five paragraph structure:

Paragraph 1: Introduction
Paragraph 2: Body 1
Paragraph 3: Body 2
Paragraph 4: Body 3
Paragraph 5: Conclusion

Though it may seem formulaic – and, well, it is - the idea behind this structure is to make it easier for the reader to navigate the ideas put forth in an essay. You see, if your essay has the same structure as every other one, any reader should be able to quickly and easily find the information most relevant to them.

The Introduction

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The principle purpose of the introduction is to present your position (this is also known as the "thesis" or "argument") on the issue at hand but effective introductory paragraphs are so much more than that. Before you even get to this thesis statement, for example, the essay should begin with a "hook" that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to read on. Examples of effective hooks include relevant quotations ("no man is an island") or surprising statistics ("three out of four doctors report that…").

Only then, with the reader’s attention "hooked," should you move on to the thesis. The thesis should be a clear, one-sentence explanation of your position that leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind about which side you are on from the beginning of your essay.

Following the thesis, you should provide a mini-outline which previews the examples you will use to support your thesis in the rest of the essay. Not only does this tell the reader what to expect in the paragraphs to come but it also gives them a clearer understanding of what the essay is about.

Finally, designing the last sentence in this way has the added benefit of seamlessly moving the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper. In this way we can see that the basic introduction does not need to be much more than three or four sentences in length. If yours is much longer you might want to consider editing it down a bit!

Here, by way of example, is an introductory paragraph to an essay in response to the following question:

"Do we learn more from finding out that we have made mistakes or from our successful actions?"

"No man is an island" and, as such, he is constantly shaped and influenced by his experiences. People learn by doing and, accordingly, learn considerably more from their mistakes than their success. For proof of this, consider examples from both science and everyday experience.

DO – Pay Attention to Your Introductory Paragraph

Because this is the first paragraph of your essay it is your opportunity to give the reader the best first impression possible. The introductory paragraph not only gives the reader an idea of what you will talk about but also shows them how you will talk about it. Put a disproportionate amount of effort into this – more than the 20% a simple calculation would suggest – and you will be rewarded accordingly.

DO NOT – Use Passive Voice or I/My

Active voice, wherein the subjects direct actions rather than let the actions "happen to" them – "he scored a 97%" instead of "he was given a 97%" – is a much more powerful and attention-grabbing way to write. At the same time, unless it is a personal narrative, avoid personal pronouns like I, My, or Me. Try instead to be more general and you will have your reader hooked.

The Body Paragraphs

The middle paragraphs of the essay are collectively known as the body paragraphs and, as alluded to above, the main purpose of a body paragraph is to spell out in detail the examples that support your thesis.

For the first body paragraph you should use your strongest argument or most significant example unless some other more obvious beginning point (as in the case of chronological explanations) is required. The first sentence of this paragraph should be the topic sentence of the paragraph that directly relates to the examples listed in the mini-outline of introductory paragraph.

A one sentence body paragraph that simply cites the example of "George Washington" or "LeBron James" is not enough, however. No, following this an effective essay will follow up on this topic sentence by explaining to the reader, in detail, who or what an example is and, more importantly, why that example is relevant.

Even the most famous examples need context. For example, George Washington’s life was extremely complex – by using him as an example, do you intend to refer to his honesty, bravery, or maybe even his wooden teeth? The reader needs to know this and it is your job as the writer to paint the appropriate picture for them. To do this, it is a good idea to provide the reader with five or six relevant facts about the life (in general) or event (in particular) you believe most clearly illustrates your point.

Having done that, you then need to explain exactly why this example proves your thesis. The importance of this step cannot be understated (although it clearly can be underlined); this is, after all, the whole reason you are providing the example in the first place. Seal the deal by directly stating why this example is relevant.

Here is an example of a body paragraph to continue the essay begun above:

Take, by way of example, Thomas Edison. The famed American inventor rose to prominence in the late 19th century because of his successes, yes, but even he felt that these successes were the result of his many failures. He did not succeed in his work on one of his most famous inventions, the lightbulb, on his first try nor even on his hundred and first try. In fact, it took him more than 1,000 attempts to make the first incandescent bulb but, along the way, he learned quite a deal. As he himself said, "I did not fail a thousand times but instead succeeded in finding a thousand ways it would not work." Thus Edison demonstrated both in thought and action how instructive mistakes can be.

DO – Tie Things Together

The first sentence – the topic sentence - of your body paragraphs needs to have a lot individual pieces to be truly effective. Not only should it open with a transition that signals the change from one idea to the next but also it should (ideally) also have a common thread which ties all of the body paragraphs together. For example, if you used "first" in the first body paragraph then you should used "secondly" in the second or "on the one hand" and "on the other hand" accordingly.

DO NOT – Be Too General

Examples should be relevant to the thesis and so should the explanatory details you provide for them. It can be hard to summarize the full richness of a given example in just a few lines so make them count. If you are trying to explain why George Washington is a great example of a strong leader, for instance, his childhood adventure with the cherry tree (though interesting in another essay) should probably be skipped over.

A Word on Transitions

You may have noticed that, though the above paragraph aligns pretty closely with the provided outline, there is one large exception: the first few words. These words are example of a transitional phrase – others include "furthermore," "moreover," but also "by contrast" and "on the other hand" – and are the hallmark of good writing.

Transitional phrases are useful for showing the reader where one section ends and another begins. It may be helpful to see them as the written equivalent of the kinds of spoken cues used in formal speeches that signal the end of one set of ideas and the beginning of another. In essence, they lead the reader from one section of the paragraph of another.

To further illustrate this, consider the second body paragraph of our example essay:

In a similar way, we are all like Edison in our own way. Whenever we learn a new skill - be it riding a bike, driving a car, or cooking a cake - we learn from our mistakes. Few, if any, are ready to go from training wheels to a marathon in a single day but these early experiences (these so-called mistakes) can help us improve our performance over time. You cannot make a cake without breaking a few eggs and, likewise, we learn by doing and doing inevitably means making mistakes.

Hopefully this example not only provides another example of an effective body paragraph but also illustrates how transitional phrases can be used to distinguish between them.

The Conclusion

Although the conclusion paragraph comes at the end of your essay it should not be seen as an afterthought. As the final paragraph is represents your last chance to make your case and, as such, should follow an extremely rigid format.

One way to think of the conclusion is, paradoxically, as a second introduction because it does in fact contain many of the same features. While it does not need to be too long – four well-crafted sentence should be enough – it can make or break and essay.

Effective conclusions open with a concluding transition ("in conclusion," "in the end," etc.) and an allusion to the "hook" used in the introductory paragraph. After that you should immediately provide a restatement of your thesis statement.

This should be the fourth or fifth time you have repeated your thesis so while you should use a variety of word choice in the body paragraphs it is a acceptable idea to use some (but not all) of the original language you used in the introduction. This echoing effect not only reinforces your argument but also ties it nicely to the second key element of the conclusion: a brief (two or three words is enough) review of the three main points from the body of the paper.

Having done all of that, the final element – and final sentence in your essay – should be a "global statement" or "call to action" that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end.

In the end, then, one thing is clear: mistakes do far more to help us learn and improve than successes. As examples from both science and everyday experience can attest, if we treat each mistake not as a misstep but as a learning experience the possibilities for self-improvement are limitless.

DO – Be Powerful

The conclusion paragraph can be a difficult paragraph to write effectively but, as it is your last chance to convince or otherwise impress the reader, it is worth investing some time in. Take this opportunity to restate your thesis with confidence; if you present your argument as "obvious" then the reader might just do the same.

DO NOT – Copy the First Paragraph

Although you can reuse the same key words in the conclusion as you did in the introduction, try not to copy whole phrases word for word. Instead, try to use this last paragraph to really show your skills as a writer by being as artful in your rephrasing as possible.

Taken together, then, the overall structure of a five paragraph essay should look something like this:

Introduction Paragraph

  • An attention-grabbing "hook"
  • A thesis statement
  • A preview of the three subtopics you will discuss in the body paragraphs.

First Body Paragraph

  • Topic sentence which states the first subtopic and opens with a transition
  • Supporting details or examples
  • An explanation of how this example proves your thesis

Second Body Paragraph

  • Topic sentence which states the second subtopic and opens with a transition
  • Supporting details or examples
  • An explanation of how this example proves your thesis

Third Body Paragraph

  • Topic sentence which states the third subtopic and opens with a transition
  • Supporting details or examples
  • An explanation of how this example proves your thesis

Concluding Paragraph

  • Concluding Transition, Reverse "hook," and restatement of thesis.
  • Rephrasing main topic and subtopics.
  • Global statement or call to action.

More tips to make your essay shine

Planning Pays

Although it may seem like a waste of time – especially during exams where time is tight – it is almost always better to brainstorm a bit before beginning your essay. This should enable you to find the best supporting ideas – rather than simply the first ones that come to mind – and position them in your essay accordingly.

Your best supporting idea – the one that most strongly makes your case and, simultaneously, about which you have the most knowledge – should go first. Even the best-written essays can fail because of ineffectively placed arguments.

Aim for Variety

Sentences and vocabulary of varying complexity are one of the hallmarks of effective writing. When you are writing, try to avoid using the same words and phrases over and over again. You don’t have to be a walking thesaurus but a little variance can make the same idea sparkle.

If you are asked about "money," you could try "wealth" or "riches." At the same time, avoid beginning sentences the dull pattern of "subject + verb + direct object." Although examples of this are harder to give, consider our writing throughout this article as one big example of sentence structure variety.

Practice! Practice! Practice!

In the end, though, remember that good writing does not happen by accident. Although we have endeavored to explain everything that goes into effective essay writing in as clear and concise a way as possible, it is much easier in theory than it is in practice.

As a result, we recommend that you practice writing sample essays on various topics. Even if they are not masterpieces at first, a bit of regular practice will soon change that – and make you better prepared when it comes to the real thing.

Now that you’ve learned how to write an effective essay, check out our Sample Essays so you can see how they are done in practice.

Essay Writing Center

Related Content:

Sometimes writing—especially writing for standardized tests—can feel like something you "get" or "don't get." That's primarily because it's very difficult to explain and teach writing in a mechanical way, especially when you're up against time limits.

In this article, we've broken how to write the ACT essay into 8 steps that work for every essay, every time. Then, we show you exactly how to do it with an actual ACT essay example.

Many students ask us how to write an ACT essay, and while the answer is simple enough to explain in 8 steps (as we do below), it's not necessarily simple to do. As with any skill, the key to learning how to write an ACT essay is to study a good model (which we are going to cover in this article) and then practice, practice, practice.

 

Tackling ACT Writing, Step by Step

The ACT essay plan below has been modified from our ACT Essay Tips article to fit the new ACT Writing Test. The template includes 3 sections: planning, writing and revising. If you practice using this template to write ACT essays, you'll get much faster and (probably) more precise. Here's the sample prompt we'll be responding to:

Intelligent Machines

Many of the goods and services we depend on daily are now supplied by intelligent, automated machines rather than human beings. Robots build cars and other goods on assembly lines, where once there were human workers. Many of our phone conversations are now conducted not with people but with sophisticated technologies. We can now buy goods at a variety of stores without the help of a human cashier. Automation is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what is lost when we replace humans with machines? Given the accelerating variety and prevalence of intelligent machines, it is worth examining the implications and meaning of their presence in our lives.

Perspective One: What we lose with the replacement of people by machines is some part of our own humanity. Even our mundane daily encounters no longer require from us basic courtesy, respect, and tolerance for other people.

Perspective Two: Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.

Perspective Three: Intelligent machines challenge our long-standing ideas about what humans are or can be. This is good because it pushes both humans and machines toward new, unimagined possibilities.

Write a unified, coherent essay about the increasing presence of intelligent machines.

 

Stage 1: Planning

Time: 8-10 minutes

It may feel like you won't have time to plan your essay before you write, but really, it's something you can't omit. Trust us. Organizing your thoughts as you write will cost you way more time than if you take the time to plan out your essay before you begin writing.

 

Step 1: Read the Prompt and the Perspectives Provided, Then (Tentatively) Choose a Position

Because addressing the relationship between your perspective and at least one of the other three perspectives is an integral part of the essay task, you need to make sure you understand what each prompt is saying. The good news is that each perspective includes both a general assertion about intelligent machines as well as an opinion that places the topic in a broader context, saving you some work in coming up with your own, independent perspective.

While it is possible to come up with a fourth point of view on the topic, I don't recommend it, as the added time you'll have to spend coming up with your own point of view could be better spend developing your comparison of your perspective to at least one of the other perspectives. If your perspective is a "blending" of multiple perspectives, then that's also fine, as long as you make sure you compare your blended perspective to each of the perspectives it combines; otherwise, you won't fulfill the "analyze the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective" part of the task. Bottom line: choose the perspective you think you can support the best.

For this sample ACT essay, I'm going to tentatively choose to argue Perspective Three (that intelligent machines challenge long-standing ideas about humanity, which in turn pushes humans and machines toward new, previously unimaginable possibilities), simply because that happens to be the position I think I'll be able to support the best.

 

Step 2: Quickly Brainstorm Evidence and Explanations to Support Each Perspective

Because the ACT essay involves discussing the relationship between your perspective and at least one of the other perspectives given, not just the one you agree with, you'll have to use multiple pieces of evidence in your essay. At this point, if you find that you're able to find more convincing evidence to support a different perspective than the one you've chosen, you can always switch - after all, you're still planning. Also, you don't have to write in complete sentences, or phrase things as elegantly as you will in the actual essay, so don't worry about that.

 

Sources for evidence

Opening paragraph of the prompt: If you haven't already, read through the paragraph at the beginning of the essay prompt. You can appropriate some or all of the examples in it to use in your own essay. 

Personal Experience: you can tell any story (real or not) about you or someone else you know (or make up) that supports any one of your points.

Statistics: again, these can be real or made up. You could invent a research study that looked at recordings of phone calls and found >80% of people end up cursing while using automated phone menus (to support perspective one), make up statistics that show automated cashiers are able to process 3x as many check-outs as human cashiers (to support perspective 2), or come up with any other kind of statistics that support one of the perspectives.

Specifics from Sources: use knowledge of events from history or current events to support your points. If you're not certain of the details, it's all right - the essay graders won't deduct points for factually inaccurate information. For this essay, you could use the invention of the printing press (and its effects) as an example of how mechanization can lead to "unimagined possibilities."

 

Here's the evidence I came up with for my essay:

Perspective One: What we lose with the replacement of people by machines is some part of our own humanity. Even our mundane daily encounters no longer require from us basic courtesy, respect, and tolerance for other people.

Evidence: Many of our phone conversations are conducted not with people, but with sophisticated technologies...that don't necessarily work at 100%

Explanation: People get so frustrated with the technology that when they press "0" to speak with a real human they are often rude and discourteous

 

Perspective Two: Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.

Evidence: Robots build cars on assembly lines

Explanation: Lower cost, decreases risk of injury to human workers

 

Perspective Three: Intelligent machines challenge our long-standing ideas about what humans are or can be. This is good because it pushes both humans and machines toward new, unimagined possibilities.

Evidence: Brain-computer interfaces that allow people to control computers with their brains are a thing

Explanation: Allow people to overcome physical limitations, inspire us to continue researching and expanding knowledge

 

 

Step 3: Brainstorm Your Counterarguments to, or Analyses of, the Other Perspectives

There's no one right way to respond to the perspectives the ACT gives you. Some of it depends on what point of view you take. For instance, if I agreed with Perspective One, which takes a negative view of the effects of intelligent machines, I might want to discuss both of the other two perspectives (which both take positive views of intelligent machines) in one paragraph, and then disagree with them in the next paragraph as I present my support for Perspective One.

 

Since I am arguing for Perspective Three (machines challenge our ideas about what humans are or can be, which pushes us and machines toward new possibilities), I am going to argue against Perspective One and Perspective Two separately, because I have strong evidence for my analyses of each perspective. Because the essay only requires you to analyze the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective, if I had lots of evidence to use in my comparison of my perspective and Perspective One, but nothing to say about Perspective Two, I could also decide not to discuss that perspective at all. In this case, I was able to thing of solid arguments for and against both of the other perspectives, so I chose to analyze both of them and their relationship to my perspective below. Again, these are not necessarily worded in their final form.

 

Perspective One: What we lose with the replacement of people by machines is some part of our own humanity. Even our mundane daily encounters no longer require from us basic courtesy, respect, and tolerance for other people.

Evidence: Many of our phone conversations are conducted not with people, but with sophisticated technologies...that don't necessarily work at 100%

Explanation: People get so frustrated with the technology that when they press "0" to speak with a real human they are often rude and discourteous

Counterargument/analysis: The benefits outweigh the costs, because providing people with the option to submit prescriptions or ask about store hours through an automated menu frees up customer service reps to answer real questions. In addition, recordings of calls with angry customers are used to improve the menus.

 

Perspective Two: Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.

Evidence: Robots build cars on assembly lines

Explanation: Robots take over dangerous jobs which decreases risk of injury to human workers, lowering cost to employers

Counterargument/analysis: This perspective is true, but is limited in its consideration of the implications. Robots can not only do things instead of humans, but can actually work with humans, as in precise surgery, to a better result than either humans or machines alone.

 

Step 4: Organize Your Essay

Now that you have the main points of your essay, it's time to organize them in a way that makes sense. Make sure to include your introduction (with your thesis statement containing your point of view, or at least a rough sense of your thesis statement) and conclusion in this organization. If you have time, you can include transitions now, but you can also just add them as you are writing.

 

Introduction

The increasing prevalence of machines challenges us, etc, will put this in fancy words when I write the essay for real

 

Body Paragraph 1

  • Perspective One argues that replacing humans with machine leads us to lose part of our own humanity, because even our mundane daily encounters no longer require from us basic courtesy, respect, and tolerance for other people.
  • I have witnessed this in my own life through watching my mother interact with some of those "sophisticated" automated phone systems. She sometimes gets so frustrated with the technology refusing to do what she wants that, by the time the menu allows her to speak to a real human, my mother is no longer courteous or respectful.
  • Despite this frustration, I think the benefits outweigh the costs, because providing people with the option to submit prescriptions or ask about store hours through an automated menu frees up customer service reps to answer real questions. In addition, recordings of calls with angry customers are used to improve the menus.

 

Body Paragraph 2

  • In contrast to Perspective One, Perspective Two argues that the main utility of machines is in their ability to perform repetitive tasks more precisely and efficiently than humans.
  • In auto plants around the world, robots build cars on assembly lines, performing their jobs with high precision and at lower overall cost to employers, who can make a one time purchase rather than having to pay a human a yearly salary (and worry about liability issues)
  • This perspective is fine as far as it goes, but is limited in its consideration of the implications. Robots can not only do things instead of humans, but can actually work with humans, as in precise surgery, to a better result than either humans or machines alone.

 

Body Paragraph 3

  • The true impact of intelligent machines in our lives is that they challenge us to re-think our preconceived notions of what people can do or become in the future.
  • An example of this is brain-computer interfaces that allow people to control computers with their brains.
  • With BCIs, people can overcome physical limitations.. In addition, BCIs have capture the interest of people from all different backgrounds and are being applied to non-scientific fields to create new, previously unimagined inventions and ways to interact with the world.

 

Conclusion sentence

In conclusion, rather than taking away from our humanity, intelligent machines help us to move forward as a species to new heights.

 

By the end of this step, you should try to have about 30 minutes left so you have enough time to write. If you don't, just keep in mind that you might have to skimp on some of your explanations/counterarguments for the perspective(s) you compare to your own.

 

Stage 2: Writing

Time: 25-28 minutes

Once you've structured your argument, it's time to write it all down!

 

Step 5: Introduction Paragraph & Thesis

Write your introduction. If you can think of an interesting first sentence that brings your thesis into a larger discussion, start with that. (If writing the introduction stumps you, just leave 10-15 lines blank at the beginning of the paper and come back to it.)

From the simplest system of pulleys and ropes in ancient Greece to the most complex supercomputer in the world today, machines have had (and continue to have) a profound influence on the development of humanity.

Make sure you clearly state your thesis. For a 3+/6 essay, this should include your perspective on the issue and how it relates to at least one of the other perspectives presented in the prompt.

While some argue that machines have a negative impact on us, the increasing prevalence of intelligent machines in the world challenges us to change long held beliefs about our limitations and to continue forward to new and even more advanced possibilities.

 

Step 6:  Body Paragraphs

When you start your first body paragraph, try to think of a first sentence that refers back to the first paragraph. Ideally, you'll start every paragraph by referring back to your thesis to create a unified argument.

One common argument against the increased presence of machines in our day-to-day lives (seen in Perspective One) is that machines leach away at our basic humanity.

Then address the argument opposing yours (in this case, Perspective One). Explain the evidence that supports this perspective in 3-5 sentences.

I found this to be true in my own life as a result of witnessing many a phone conversation between my mother and an automated telephone menu. For whatever reason, she consistently has issues with the menus that try to verify her date of birth. The automated system never understands what she says (possibly because of her accent), and asks her to input the numbers via her keypad; of course, my mom's smartphone is so smart that the screen turns off while she is on a call, making it impossible for her to follow the automated phone system's instructions. By the time the system gives up and routes her to speak to a "human representative," my mother is often so frustrated that she is far from courteous and respectful to that person.

Then, make sure to explain your counterargument to this perspective, tying it back to your thesis.

Despite my mother's understandable frustration with automated phone systems, however, overall the benefits outweigh the costs. Providing people with the option to submit prescriptions or ask about store hours through an automated menu frees up customer service representatives to answer questions machines are incapable of addressing. In addition, the recordings of angry phone calls (where customers are not courteous, respectful, or tolerant of other humans) are used to improve the phone menus to make them more user-friendly. Thus, the momentary disrespect toward other humans caused by machines is more than compensated for by the positive effects of those same machines.

 

Body Paragraph 2

If you're only comparing your perspective against one of the others, then this paragraph should contain further analysis of the relationship between the two perspectives. If you're comparing your perspective against both of the other perspectives (as I did in this essay), then this is where you introduce your thoughts on the second perspective.

Another school of thought, exemplified by Perspective Two, argues that the main utility of machines is their ability to perform repetitive tasks more precisely and more efficiently than humans, which leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.

Address the argument of this second perspective (in this case, Perspective Two). Explain the evidence that supports this perspective in 3-5 sentences.

In auto plants around the world, robots build cars on assembly lines. Instead of having to pay a human employee a yearly salary, invest time in training that employee, and worry about liability should that employee be injured, manufacturing plants can now make a one-time purchase of an intelligent machine that will perform that same job at higher levels of precision. This leads to a more prosperous world for the manufacturers, as they are able to invest less money to get a better product.

Then, make sure to explain how this perspective relates back to your perspective.

This perspective is fine as far as it goes, but is limited in its consideration of the implications. Robots can not only work in place of humans, but can also work cooperatively with humans to a greater results than either could have hoped for alone. This can be seen in highly complex and delicate surgeries, where a surgeon controls robotic microtools to perform operations that even ten years ago would have been unimaginable and impossible.

 

Body Paragraph 3

Introduce your main perspective, linking it back to the counterarguments you've made against at least one of the other perspectives.

I agree with Perspective Three that the true impact of intelligent machines in our lives is that they challenge us to re-think our preconceived notions of what people can do or become in the future.

Present one final example in support of your perspective.

A final example of this is brain-computer interfaces, or BCIs. Humans are able to manipulate computers with their brains via electrodes that are either implanted in their brains or attached (temporarily) to their heads. With these intelligent machines, formerly paralyzed people who had no hope of communicating with others are able to transcend their physical limitations by concentrating to form words out of keyboards on the computer screens. In addition, BCIs have captured the interest of people from all different backgrounds and are being applied to non-scientific fields like music to create new, previously unimagined instruments that react to people's thoughts, adding a new dimension to an ancient art form. Truly, intelligent machines are providing the impetus not just for greater efficiency, but for greater accomplishments.

 

Step 7: Conclusion

Check your time. Try to have 5-6 minutes left at this point.

Come up with a quick sentence that restates your thesis to wrap up the essay.

In conclusion, rather than taking away from our humanity, intelligent machines actually help us to move forward as a species to achieve new, previously unimagined possibilities.

 

Stage 3: Revising

Time: 2-4 minutes

 

Step 8: Reread & Revise

Let's look at our complete ACT essay example:

[1]     From the simplest system of pulleys and ropes in ancient Greece to the most complex supercomputer in the world today, machines have had (and continue to have) a profound influence on the development of humanity. While some argue that machines have a negative impact on us, the increasing prevalence of intelligent machines in the world challenge us to change long held beliefs about our limitations and to continue forward to new and even more advanced possibilities.

[2]     One common argument against the increased presence of machines in our day-to-day lives (seen in Perspective One) is that machines leach away at our basic humanity. I found this to be true in my own life as a result of witnessing many a phone conversation between my mother and an automated telephone menu. For whatever reason, she consistently has issues with the menus that try to verify her date of birth. The automated system never understands what she says (possibly because of her accent), and asks her to input the numbers via her keypad; of course, my mom's smartphone is so smart that the screen turns off while she is on a call, making it impossible for her to follow the automated phone system's instructions. By the time the system gives up and routes her to speak to a "human representative," my mother is often so frustrated that she is far from courteous and respectful to that person. Despite my mother's understandable frustration with automated phone systems, however, overall the benefits outweigh the costs. Providing people with the option to submit prescriptions or ask about store hours through an automated menu frees up customer service representatives to answer questions machines are incapable of addressing. In addition, the recordings of angry phone calls (where customers are not courteous, respectful, or tolerant of other humans) are used to improve the phone menus to make them more user-friendly. Thus, the momentary disrespect toward other humans caused by machines is more than compensated for by the positive effects of those same machines.

[3]     Another school of thought, exemplified by Perspective Two, argues that the main utility of machines is their ability to perform repetitive tasks more precisely and more efficiently than humans, which leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone. In auto plants around the world, robots build cars on assembly lines. Instead of having to pay a human employee a yearly salary, invest time in training that employee, and worry about liability should that employee be injured, manufacturing plants can now make a one-time purchase of an intelligent machine that will perform that same job at higher levels of precision. This leads to a more prosperous world for the manufacturers, as they are able to invest less money to get a better product. This perspective is fine as far as it goes, but is limited in its consideration of the implications. Robots can not only work in place of humans, but can also work cooperatively with humans to a greater results than either could have hoped for alone. This can be seen in highly complex and delicate surgeries, where a surgeon controls robotic microtools to perform operations that even ten years ago would have been unimaginable and impossible.

[4]     I agree with Perspective Three that the true impact of intelligent machines in our lives is that they challenge us to re-think our preconceived notions of what people can do or become in the future. A final example of this is brain-computer interfaces, or BCIs. Humans are able to manipulate computers with their brains via electrodes that are either implanted in their brains or attached (temporarily) to their heads. With these intelligent machines, formerly paralyzed people who had no hope of communicating with others are able to transcend their physical limitations by concentrating to form words out of keyboards on the computer screens. In addition, BCIs have captured the interest of people from all different backgrounds and are being applied to non-scientific fields like music to create new, previously unimagined instruments that react to people's thoughts, adding a new dimension to an ancient art form. Truly, intelligent machines are providing the impetus not just for greater efficiency, but for greater accomplishments.

[5]     In conclusion, rather than taking away from our humanity, intelligent machines actually help us to move forward as a species to achieve new, previously unimagined possibilities.

In these last 2-4 minutes, you want to read over your essay and trying to pick up a point or two by revising. In this time, you can do a number of things.

You can, of course, correct mistakes:

Paragraph 1, Sentence 2: [subject/verb agreement; change is bolded]

The increasing prevalence of intelligent machines in the world challenges us to change long held beliefs about our limitations and to continue forward to new and even more advanced possibilities.

You can replace dull or problematic words or phrasing with fancier words or clearer turns of phrase:

Paragraph 2, last sentence

Thus, the momentary disrespect toward other humans caused by machines is more than compensated for by the positive effects of those same machines.

We can change it to:

Thus, any momentary disrespect my mom might show to a customer service representative (as a result of frustration with the automated system) is more than compensated for by the positive effects of those same machines.

There you go! Now you know how to write a good ACT essay.

If any part of this was confusing, re-read that section. Then try to do it yourself with a sample ACT essay prompt.

 

How Do I Do This Myself?

Practice planning your essays in 8-10 minutes before you start writing. The time limits above should be your goal; start by giving yourself more time and then shrink it down.

You can use the list from our ACT essay prompts blog post or any list of ACT-like questions and start with the planning stage. Don't forget to check out our full analysis of the ACT Writing Rubric, with strategies and explanations that can guide you in your essay planning!

Our blog post about ACT essay tips has more in-depth information about the details of planning and arguing in the ACT essay.

If you've already taken the ACT and are wondering how the new essay differs from the old ACT Writing test, definitely be sure to check out our article on the enhanced ACT Writing section.

 

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