Blog Authors & SEO: How to Navigate Ghostwriting

Business owners are busy people. They typically know they need to consistently blog, but they don’t have the time, energy, or the specialized skills to do that. On top of writing alone, you also have to worry about optimizing the content for search engines to prioritize.

At this point, you’re ready to hire writers (or you already have). But how should you navigate choosing to taking advantage of ghostwriting, versus keeping the writer’s name as the author? This blog will help you decide when to use your name or the author’s name to improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO).

Firstly, what is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps search engines, like Google, deliver the highest-quality content to the users. Google is looking for certain aspects of your website and content that makes it more valuable to users. A simple example is: If your website isn’t speedy, your SEO score will suffer.

SEO is a competition. Plenty of other businesses are writing similar content to yours. For example, think of a blog article topic. Next, look it up into Google. See how many results there are? The blogs that are showing up at the top are strategically optimized for SEO.

The competition for those first spots are fierce, but when you land them, you’ll get the most traffic. For example, that first five organic results (not an ad) get 67.60% of all clicks. That number steadily drops as you keep going through the results. Shockingly, 91% of all pages never get any organic traffic from Google.

When you’re creating content, you want people to find it (without you continuously promoting it on your channels). When people are clicking on and reading your blog posts, you build trust with your audience, credibility, and brand awareness.

Why the author’s name matters in SEO

Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm to determine whether posts will be seen by searchers, or not. One of the most important ranking factors is author reputation. It’s what’s known as E-A-T:

  • E: Expertise
  • A: Authoritativeness
  • T: Trustworthiness

EAT ensures Google is providing accurate, truthful, and useful information. Author credibility is especially important for pages that fall under the YMYL category. YMYL stands for “your money or your life.” This includes topics that impact the finances, health, safety, and happiness of readers. When you have content that falls under YMYL, having an expert author is especially important.

Even if your topics don’t fall under YMYL, it’s still important to have credible authors.

Here’s the key: Include an author that is credible, knowledgeable, and has experience writing about the topic of the blog post. Google should have evidence that the author has previously written about the topic. Does it matter if they really wrote it? No.

What is ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting helps when you don’t have time to write, but still want your blog to be active with posts under your name. With ghostwriting, you’ll pay a writer to complete the process for you, and you’ll put your own name on the article.

Ghostwriting isn’t a new phenomenon. Many writers create high-quality blog posts for other people who can’t or won’t write blog post themselves. In summary, ghostwriting is a piece of writing created by someone else. Many companies pay writers to produce content for their blogs, yet they still put their CEO’s name in the byline.

Keep in mind: Your writers may have a preference

Some writers require that their name is on the byline of the posts they write. Can you blame them? It’s the key to establishing their brand and credibility as a writer. Plus, they can use those articles easily in their portfolio. Also, it just gives them credit for their work, which is important to a lot of writers.

In contrast, other writers don’t care at all. In my case, many of my clients have me produce ghostwritten content. And that’s fine by me. (Then again, I’m producing my own blogs on my own website to establish credibility in Google. So more bylines aren’t a priority for me.)

I’ve also seen other cases where writers didn’t want to put their name in the byline. They wanted to take on the project, but not get the credit.

The bottom line is: Every writer is different. Make sure you’re clear about whether the content will be ghostwritten, and include a clear clause in your contracts. By communicating, you can find writers that are perfectly fine with your decision—whatever it is.

When to choose ghostwriting

Choose ghostwriting if you’re not prepared to find writers that already have bylines in the topics of your blog posts. If you’re going to hire a team of writers that aren’t subject matter experts (SEMs), then it’s better to put ALL the posts under one or a few main names on your blog. For example, the CEO or the content marketing manager. That will build your credibility within Google, and you can continue hiring out ghostwriters.

Ultimately, your SEO will benefit. Growing your credibility will take time, but it’s worth it.

Also, if you or your content marketing leads already have credibility within Google, then choose to publish content under your names.

When to choose keeping the real writer’s name

It’s simple: Choose the writer’s name if they are an expert in that topic (and Google knows it).

How to establish Google credibility

1. Continue to build content in relevant topics

Build high-quality content in the topics you want to be deemed as credible in. Make sure your name is on all the pieces you’re writing.

2. Have an author bio and page

Every author needs an bio. You can even create a more detailed page that the bio links out to. Make sure that your author bio details all your education, credentials, job history, and relevant links.

SEO matters, and so does who wrote the article—especially if you’re writing about topics that impact the reader’s money or life.

5 Habits of Highly Effective Writers

How do you become a better writer? How can you write more, or even better? Well, most people think it’s all about talent. You either have it or you don’t. But that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

Stephen King once said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt.” What he means by that is that if you are disciplined enough, then you can become a great writer. However, it’s not a light task. Anyone who knows anything about writing, knows that sitting down and putting your ideas into words isn’t an easy task. In fact, it can be so difficult that there is a name for the condition of being unable to write: “Writer’s block.”

If you want to become a better writer, then you need to develop habits that will help you achieve your goals. Thankfully, these habits aren’t difficult to learn or difficult to implement. This list of habits will help you create a writing routine that ensures you’re taking your writing career to the next level.

5 habits of highly effective writers

1. Give yourself permission to be a beginner

As a beginning writer—and as a beginning anything else, for that matter—there’s a possibility you will struggle with writing. You might get discouraged and think about quitting. But it’s important to give yourself permission to be bad at something in order to learn how to be good at it.

This was the habit I struggled with most when I first started writing, and it’s still the habit I struggle with most now that I’m an experienced writer: Giving yourself permission to suck at something is hard! As a beginner, you can forget about trying to be perfect or even great right away. It’s not possible, no matter what anyone tells you.

The freedom you have as a beginner can also help free your mind when it comes time to write each day. If you’re trying too hard to write professionally right off the bat, or if you’re stressing out over producing perfect, publishable prose already, then it will put pressure on your ability to create valuable writing. Remember, you can always edit later.

2. Create blocks of time in your schedule for writing

There’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to writing well, but what’s most important is that you take the time to practice. Chances are, you have so many other things competing for your attention, that there will be times when you won’t be able to find time in your day for writing. That being said, we can still use our schedules as an anchor point, and use it as a way to help us make sure we’re doing everything we need.

For example, if I want to write, I make sure to only start whenever I’m motivated. If I am unmotivated in the morning, I’ll wait until the afternoon to start writing. The morning may be dedicated to an early walk to clear my head.

Aldjusting my schedule to working when I’m motivated is a perk of being self-employed, but even when I had a full-time job in marketing, my manager agreed with this philosophy. She said if I ever couldn’t find inspiration, that I should just go work out or take a walk (we worked at a fitness facility).

Plus, when I do start working, I make sure I don’t keep my phone on me when I know I’m about to dive into heavy creation work. When I’m done (or get far enough), I’ll go scroll on TikTok and Instagram as much as I want.

You need time to JUST write. If you need a few breaks, allow them, but plan them strategically. Avoid hopping on your phone during your creative block of time.

3. Streamline your processes

Another habit of effective writers is that they streamline their processes. The best way to do this is with a checklist of sorts that includes all the steps you need to complete in order to finish the piece of writing. Make sure it’s realistic, but thorough—there’s no point in making it if it doesn’t actually help you get it done. Some steps to consider including are: research, drafting, editing, proofreading, and publishing (if applicable).

Don’t be afraid to lean into tools and automation. For example, you can buy high-quality editing tools that will also check your work for plagerism.

4. Embrace feedback

Nobody likes getting criticism. If you can’t take feedback from others, then it’s going to be tough for you as a writer—you’ll always get notes from clients or editors, and if you can’t deal with that, then your writing career is going to have a very short life span.

Getting feedback from someone else can help you see what needs changing and what needs fleshing out in your work. It can also help you see which parts are working well! Just remember that it’s important to take the feedback seriously, and not just ignore it because you don’t agree with it. The whole point is for someone else to be able to see what needs changing or improving upon.

Instead of taking feedback as a personal attack on your skills as a writer, think about it as an opportunity to learn something new! That will make the process much more enjoyable and less of a chore.

5. Stay organized

Organized writers are able to stay on top of their workloads and keep track of their assignments and deadlines. Don’t be afraid to keep detailed records. Learn how to make good use of a calendar, reminder app, or other organizational tool that works best for you!

Take five minutes in the morning (or evening) to go over your schedule, and make sure you know what you need to be doing, where you need to be, and when. This will help you be on time for all the important events that matter to your writing career. Plus, it’ll help you finish projects on time.

Takeaway: If you keep committed and focused, you can make writing into an effective habit

Now that we’ve covered the habits of effective writers, let’s examine how you can develop these traits and make writing a part of your life.

  • Know what you want to write about: Reflect on the things that interest you, and think about what kind of content would fit with those interests.
  • Be prepared to write: Create a writing schedule or at least know when you will write, making sure it is realistic. Set up a time and place that works for you and stick with it!
  • Get focused: When it comes time to actually write, focus only on writing—don’t get distracted by other things like emails or social media notifications popping up in your periphery (either turn them off or close all tabs except the one where you’re typing).
  • Keep going: Don’t give up after the first few weeks; if being an effective writer is something you really want to be, persevere! Don’t worry if your posts aren’t perfect right away; just keep going until it becomes second nature!

Anyone can be a writer. You just have to start writing.

Incorporate better habits

Writing is hard, and getting better at it is even harder. That said, we’re willing to bet that you can improve your writing by incorporating these habits into your workflow. Each one of these habits has helped countless writers reach new levels of success. By getting into the habit of doing them, you’ll be able to produce better content across the board.

You might not be able to make real progress over night, but if you give yourself the chance to improve as a writer gradually over time, you’ll get there. And hopefully, this list will inspire some of you to start writing more often and with more success. Writing is a skill that needs to be practiced and honed over time.

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What’s the Difference Between Content Writing and Copywriting?

What’s the difference between content writing and copywriting? It’s a good question. In many cases, the two go hand-in-hand. Because they do have some similarities, they are often confused.

When you’re hiring for a writer, it’s important to know what type of writer you’re looking for. There are writers who excel at creating content, while others focus on creating copy that converts.

Let’s take a look at some of the differences between content writing and copywriting.

The difference between content writing and copywriting is in the intent.

Content writing and copywriting both have purpose and place in the world, but they serve different needs for businesses. They both are are written to get someone to take action, and both have their place in marketing. but think of content writing as long-term relationships that lead to sales.

Content writing builds brands

Content writing creates long-term relationships that lead to sales. Content is written with the intent of entertaining or educating, not necessarily sell. It’s more about creating content that helps your audience trust you.

Content writing is written to build your brand. It’s written to help people find your business and get to know your company. The content is written to entertain or educate. For example, think about the American Council on Exercise (ACE). They write blog posts to inform anyone about exercise science and personal training. This content is written to establish their credibility and help answer their audience’s questions.

Copywriting sells

Content writing often does not come without copywriting. At the end of the ACE blog posts, they have a CTA to buy a course of theirs. That’s called a “hard sell.” They’re explicitly telling us to buy their products. This is copywriting, because the purpose is to be persuasive, convince you to take action, and buy.

Copywriting is written to sell. It’s called a “hard sell” in the marketing industry. It’s written explicitly persuade someone to buy a product or service from you.

Content writing can come without copywriting

However, not all content writing has to come with a CTA or selling moment. A lot of content is written purely to inform, inspire, and build a brand. These blogs that are purely for building a brand don’t come with a “hard sell,” or any CTA.

Content writing and copywriting are often interconnected

Some of these blogs do come with a “soft sell.” For example, a company blog might say, “Interested in our content? Sign up to receive our newsletter.” That’s a soft sell because they’re not asking you to buy anything, but they are asking you to allow them to build a relationship with you via e-mail. This is still considered copywriting, but it can come off as a similar tone to content writing because you’re still just trying to be a good resource for them (and get them thinking of your brand).

If you’re hiring a content writer, always make sure they know what type of CTA you want. Chances are, they can easily write copy, if they know what action you want your readers to take.

Incorporating copywriting in soft ways

Companies have to make these decisions by identifying their top priorities. Do you want to grow your email list, or get demo sign-ups? Let your content creators know what your goal is with each piece of content.

Personally, I believe that copywriting has to make sense in context with where you put it. It has to make perfect sense. When a piece of content doesn’t relate to its CTA, it feels off to consumers. Plus, copywriting should come off gently (in my opinion). For example, “Try our free demo,” rather than “Buy our product.”

People are so used to getting sold to all the time. I think the beauty is when marketers are able to market in such a subtle way that people don’t even know they’re being marketed to.

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Public Speaking & Presentations: A Quick Crash Course

I truly cannot imagine being a student giving presentations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Giving presentations in front of a classroom of students is already stress-inducing, but with the anxiety of our current situation and the struggle to find motivation because school is virtual? No way.

But what if I told you: there’s a really easy formula to giving presentations. You can use the same formula for any presentation you give. Knowing how to give presentations will save you so much time and effort. You will never struggle to give a presentation again, and you will sound confident and secure every time you present in front of anyone about anything.

I know I sound overly confident, right? You’re probably wondering how you could ever feel confident giving a presentation, but I promise you, I’m going to be letting you in on all the insider secrets about public speaking.

How do I know this information? While I took a public speaking class in high school, I don’t remember much from it. Where I really learned this information was when I took a class in which I was being trained in how to tutor students at the WORD Studio. The WORD Studio is the communications center at St. Lawrence University. WORD stands for writing, oral, research, and design.

Most of us in the class were already confident in writing, but we weren’t so sure about public speaking. I really didn’t know how to do it well, and I voiced my concerns to my professor when she told us we would be helping tutees with presentations.

“Wait,” I interjected, not even bothering to raise my hand. “I can’t help people with that.”

But she promised we would learn. Not only would we learn, but we would be sick of it by the time we were second-year tutors. I didn’t believe her, but I should have.

We were given a presentation by the professor in charge of the public speaking department at our school. It really helped, but I still couldn’t memorize the information. The material was nothing I had seen before. When we started out as tutors, we had a piece of paper with a long checklist that helped guide us in tutoring for presentations. Eventually, it got to the point where I never had to look at the paper. At this point, I could recite this information in my sleep.

Now that we’ve established my credentials in why you should follow my public speaking advice, let’s get on with it.

Before we get started, I want to tell you: No one is listening besides your teacher. It takes a lot of brain power to analyze the words you are saying. Listening to presentations and providing feedback was always a lot harder for me than reading papers. Thats because the paragraphs on the page provide a visual guide for the reader. Listening to speeches is a lot more challenging (I’ll teach you how to make it easier), but most students will zone out entirely.

Let’s start with introductions.

Introductions are easier than you think. They need to have these 5 components in order: each a sentence (or two if you have to). Keep it pretty short!

  1. Hook. Find the most interesting fact you can possibly find about your topic. Be honest with yourself. Is it actually interesting? It’s called a “hook” because you want to hook the attention of your listeners. Do some digging before you settle on your hook, because if you don’t nail your hook, your audience will stop listening quickly. Feel free to add some personality into your hook.
  2. Introduce the topic. The hook will relate to your topic, but this is where you more explicitly say, “I’m talking about X today.”
  3. Relate the topic to the audience. Again, it takes a lot of energy and commitment to listen to someone speak intellectually. It’s hard! This is where you explain why your listeners should care about your topic. Relating the information to your audience makes them much more likely to actively listen to your presentation. Another way to achieve this part is to ask the audience a question or get them engaged in some way (a quiz or some type of activity), but if you go this route, make sure it’s not cheesy and shallow. Make the effort to truly connect to your audience.
  4. Relate the topic to yourself. After you’ve related the topic to your audience, go personal. No, this isn’t like an essay where you can’t talk about yourself. The more personal you get, the better. Be honest and vulnerable, but keep it short!
  5. Give your listeners a roadmap. Often this means explicitly saying, “I will be talking about X, Y, and Z today.” Give a brief description of your body “paragraphs” (even though you’re not writing, let’s think of each section as a paragraph like an essay). You always want to write and say your roadmap in the order that you will be speaking them in. Sometimes students make a PowerPoint slide solely dedicated to the roadmap; I never usually did this or suggested it, but it can be a nice touch.

Let’s dig into the body paragraphs.

Just like the introduction, there are definitely tricks to formatting your body paragraphs and guiding the listener. Thinking of the sections of your speech as body paragraphs can make it easier for you to understand as well. First tip: make each body paragraph of your speech roughly the same in duration.

You can practice by actually speaking out loud and timing yourself. It’s too confusing to have one body paragraph that is super short, and then the next point you make takes up the majority of your speech. If one is way too short, do more research. If one is way too long, figure out how to condense your information.

Another super important tip: signal to your readers when you switch body paragraphs. Signal phrases include:

  • “Next, I will discuss X.”
  • “Secondly…”
  • For the last body paragraph: “Finally…”

You can even just take a longer pause and switch the slide. Perhaps the titles of your slide are labeled clearly and even numbered.

Why do you have to be so overt about switching body paragraphs? Put simply: when you start a new paragraph on the page, it’s like you’re directly telling the reader, “Hey, I’m moving on to a different topic now.” Seeing the information split up into paragraphs helps the reader follow along.

We don’t get the luxury of visual organization when we listen to speeches. That’s why you need to be extremely clear along the way for your listeners to stay on track with you. Your words (and also your PowerPoint, if you have one) act as your guidelines.

The length of your body paragraphs as well as the amount of paragraphs you include depends on the length of your speech. Giving a 20-minute speech is a lot different than a 5-minute speech. That’s why you need to practice out loud to see how long your speech will be.

Always remember: never go over the amount of minutes you have. It makes you seem unprepared and unable to concisely communicate your information.

The number one rule: practice out loud multiple times.

We’re already at the conclusion!

  1. Reiterate roadmap. “Today, I told you about X, Y, and Z.”
  2. The meat of your conclusion: the importance. Treat your conclusion similarly to an essay conclusion (detailed in Introductions and Conclusions). Put briefly: state the importance of your conclusion. What should your listeners take away from your speech? Prove why you didn’t waste precious minutes of their lives. No matter how boring the information seems to you, find the importance in your topic somewhere.
  3. This is the hardest part, but find a smooth way to wrap it up. A relevant quote is often perfect right here. Or leave the listener with your final, most important thought. To signal that you are close to finishing, you can start to talk more slowly and let your voice gradually fade out.

Extra Tips

  • Introduce yourself. The only exception to this is if there are very few people in your class and you know you all know each other. Make it less awkward and just say, “In case you forgot, I’m Katie.”
  • Your PowerPoint slides need to be clean and elegant. Never put too many words on the screen (write on notecards if you need them, but try to go off memory with a few notes). Make sure your slides are easily readable. Include pictures. Make it aesthetically pleasing. Be consistent (same font, around the same font size, color theme).
  • Include your personality in your presentations. My one professor always commented how he enjoyed my light-hearted presence (my fear makes me funny, I guess). Plan out some jokes or try to think of places where you can insert your personality and make your speech more memorable. Being funny also helps you give the illusion that you are confident. If no one laughs, don’t worry, they probably weren’t listening, which should comfort you.
  • Don’t forget to cite your sources. Cite verbally, in-text on your slides, and at the end of your PowerPoint. If you don’t have slides, you might want to print off a Works Cited or email it to your teacher. Speeches still have the same rules as essays when it comes to plagiarism. Plus, you want to establish credibility and make it clear you know what you’re talking about.
  • Practice, practice, practice. By yourself. Maybe to your dog. Repeatedly. In front of a mirror. Do what you have to. Try to memorize it loosely: not the individual words and sentences, but the bigger picture and the more important facts. Write short notes to yourself that will trigger your memory of more in-depth information.
  • Especially with presenting on Zoom, write yourself an outline filled with short notes. Never try to write a full script and read it off because we want you sounding confident and conversational, not like a robot.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Plan a few pauses. Let yourself breathe.
  • Pace yourself. Don’t rush. If you go slower, you don’t have to plan as much to present. Plus, you sound so much better to your audience.

So now you know all the public speaking secrets. You don’t have to ramble on forever making a fool out of yourself. You can have a clear plan and tips to follow, making you much more confident and secure in giving presentations.

Good luck, and happy public speaking!

Essay Outlines Made Easy: How to Write Them

If you’re anything like me, your body shudders when a teacher tells you to write an outline. It feels even worse than writing the essay itself. Why are outlines even necessary?

If your teacher is asking for a outline, it means she or he wants to save you from major future headaches. If they see any organizational or logistical issues within your outline, or if they are not satisfied with your thesis statement, they can tell you early on before you put all the effort into writing the paragraphs.

Plus, if you spend a lot of time on your outlines, you don’t have to spend as much time on your essays later. When I was pretty confident that my essay was going well, I would write full sentences on my outline; that way I was basically writing a first draft, too. Writing my final draft, it was easy to copy and paste from my outline. I barely had to try at all by the end of my writing process.

Outlines are hard. But if you put all the work in upfront, the final draft is so easy. Let’s make the outline process easier, shall we?

My English professor, Mark Sturges, gave us the perfect format to create an outline for a literary analysis essay. His outline is driven by the functionality of each sentence. What purpose does it serve in your argument? In Mark’s outline, for the introduction, you identify the function, hook, importance, and transition.

For the body paragraphs, you fill your outline with content (especially relevant quotes) and always identify the importance of the paragraph. Also, clearly illustrate your paragraph’s connection to your thesis statement. You can also focus on topic sentences (the first sentence of your paragraph: how do you show your reader what your paragraph is about?) and transition sentences (to smoothen the flow from one paragraph to another).

For the conclusion, focus mainly on reiterating your thesis statement in a new way, and illustrating the importance of your essay. Why should anyone care? What do you contribute to the conversation?

Examples

Outline: Introduction

Final: Introduction

“You’re not married to your outline,” Mark would always say. In my final draft, my introduction looked a little different, but it still makes the same argument that my outline made.

Hook: In “The Philosophy of Composition,” Edgar Allan Poe writes, “That pleasure which is at once most intense, the most elevating, and the most pure, is, I believe, found in the contemplation of the beautiful” (704). 

Transition: Many critics read “The Philosophy of Composition” as satirical, however, in context with the rest of the Romantic aesthetic movement, Poe’s philosophic theories reflect his consideration of and respect for the ideas of many other famous thinkers of his time, such as Shelley, Coleridge, Hölderlin, Mallarmé, and Kant.

Increasing specificity relating to thesis: Poe was in conversation with these Romantic philosophers from a variety of countries, all of which theorized about art, poetry, the beautiful, and aesthetic theory. In his introduction of Poe in The Norton Anthology, Levine writes, “the pursuit of the beautiful in works of art motivated Poe’s writing until the very end” (608). 

Thesis: Therefore, Poe’s poetry and tales are much more than creepy stories, but rather embodiments of Poe’s ideal of the beautiful. Poe’s creative attempts at pursuing beauty and his philosophical aesthetic essays reveal that Poe was educated about and in conversation with the aesthetic philosophers of the Romantic Movement. Poe’s ideal of the beautiful aligns with Romantic aesthetic philosophy in that it idealizes unified juxtapositions.

Reminder: your thesis statement can be more than one sentence. In this particular essay of mine, my thesis statement ran more sentences than usual, but that’s completely fine.

Outline: Conclusion

Final: Conclusion

Thesis reiterated: While many critics believe that Poe was uninvolved in the Romantic Movement, Poe was clearly directly involved with Romantic aesthetic theories. 

Transition away from thesis, into broader terms: Poe, in context with the broader scope of Romanticism, clearly exemplified the Romantic ideals of unifying contrast throughout his creative works and philosophical essays.

Importance of essay (understanding Poe differently): Many critics interpret Poe’s “The Philosophy of Composition” as satirical—how could a poet be advocating for the use of mathematics in poetry?—but Poe’s obsession with unifying juxtapositions reveals that Poe’s pursuit of the beautiful was most successful when he combined the contrasting fields of rational science and mathematics with artistic creativity. Similarly, Poe’s scientific, observational tales combine the rationality of science with irrational violence and out-worldly events. Poe clearly practices what he preaches in his pursuit of the beautiful in his use of mathematics, science, and rationality in combination with his creative expression.

Conclusion sentence (leaving readers with something to think about): It is time critics start recognizing Poe’s involvement in the Romantic aesthetic movement, which reveals the genuine nature of his philosophical aesthetic essays, as well as the calculation and philosophical theories he illustrated throughout his creative works.

Next Time You Write

I encourage you to consider how helpful and relevant outlines are when writing essays. Even if your teacher doesn’t ask you to write one, outlines help you clearly stay on track while writing, so that you never venture too far off course. Write an outline using Mark’s template, watch your grades skyrocket, and notice how much time and how many headaches you save.

Remember: an outline provides a roadmap for you while you write, but it’s always okay to take a slightly different route.

Happy writing!

How to Construct the Perfect Thesis Statement

Every student is a little fearful of thesis statements. They seem really daunting, don’t they? Thesis statements are the foundation upon which your entire essay rests. Mess your thesis statement up, and there isn’t much hope for the rest of your essay. Get your thesis on the right track early, and you have a great chance of earning a high grade on your essay.

Thesis statements might seem scary, but let’s think about them in terms of a simple check list. Your thesis statement must have these 3 attributes:

  1. Arguable
  2. Researchable
  3. Specific

Arguable

Researchable

Specific

Example

My final essay for African Literature was entitled: “Expanding Feminism: Avoid Being the Western Feminist.” My title clearly summarizes my thesis statement: “By reading and analyzing Ferdinand Oyono’s Houseboy, Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter, and Sinidiwe Magona’s Mother to Mother, feminists from Western countries can work to expand their horizons by analyzing the ways in which gender roles and feminism are expressed in African societies.”

#1 Rule: Always examine your teacher’s essay guidelines first. In this thesis, I used three novels because that I was following exactly the prompt that my professor had given us for the essay. I would highlight and annotate the essay guidelines. Usually the professor will specify how many works you are analyzing (at most, usually 1 or 2 texts or films).

What Makes a Good Thesis Statement?

Let’s analyze my thesis from my final essay in African Literature. Remember, we’re analyzing the thesis in my final draft. Your first drafts of your thesis won’t always be great; that’s why you have to keep trying. Your thesis can tweak and change throughout the drafting processes, but you should try to get your thesis as complete as possible before writing anything further. Writing the thesis well before your first outline and rough draft saves you so much time and energy later on in the writing process. If you spend a lot of time on your thesis statement, you most likely won’t have to delete much of your first draft.

Say it again with me: arguable, researchable, and specific.

This thesis statement is arguable: other critics could interpret how gender and feminism are represented within the novels differently than I did. Plus, my focus on Western feminism and intersectionality is liberal by nature. I am sure many people could argue with me on these topics. Gender analysis in combination with race and ethnicity analysis is often where I find my strongest arguments. Know your own favorite lenses.

This thesis is researchable: I included 4 secondary sources and a lot of quotes from each novel to support my thesis statement. I did relevant, helpful research on these topics, and I used the secondary sources to make my argument stronger. My thesis wasn’t just opinion.

This thesis is also specific: it clearly outlines the novels and authors within my essay in the order in which they appear in my essay (acting as my roadmap). It also specifies which lenses my paper analyzes the novels through (gender along with race and ethnicity analysis).

Most importantly, my thesis leaves the reader with a clear idea of what my body paragraphs will argue. In these types of essays, you never want to surprise your reader. Show them the map, and hold their hand along the way. It’s all about making all the information in your essay easier for your reader to digest.

My professor always told us that if you can’t tell where your essay is going after reading the introduction, rewrite your introduction.

Extra Thesis Statement Tips

  • Write a draft of your thesis statement after completing research, but before writing anything else.
  • If you spend a long time on your thesis before you write your essay, you save a lot more time later on.
  • Your thesis statement can always be two sentences. Better two sentences, rather than one that is too long and confusing.
  • Every sentence within your essay should serve to prove your thesis statement. Never stray too far from your thesis statement, and always try to weave it into the conclusion sentences in your body paragraphs.
  • You’ll be repeating your thesis statement a good amount of times throughout your essay. Better write a variety of versions of your thesis to reiterate it in different words.

Next Time You Write

Make sure you write your thesis statement before you start typing any words in your outline or essay. Critically look at your thesis, and be honest with yourself: is your sentence arguable, researchable, and specific? Making sure it is will save you time and effort later in the writing process, and it will earn you a high grade.

Introductions and Conclusions: They’re just Triangles

Note: this how-to guide only applies to essays that are scholarly and formal. For example, think English, sociology, environmental, humanities, history, gender studies…the list goes on. But there will be essays that require you take a different approach to introductions and conclusions.

Tips from and English major and writing tutor.

I know not everyone loves English and writing. That’s why I’m here to help. I will be writing a series short blog posts to simplify essays so that you know exactly how to ace your next paper. Today, we’re talking about my favorite paragraphs—the most important, the ones that will make or break your paper—the introduction and conclusion.

Yeah. Probably your least favorite to write. I will admit, they are the hardest to nail, but it’s imperative that your introduction and conclusion are strong, or else it won’t matter how good your body paragraphs are. Once you perfect your introduction and conclusions, you will leave your teachers remembering your essay long after they finish grading it.

Remember the triangles.

A “formula” for thinking about essays has been helpful for myself and my tutees.

I think the easiest way to think about introductions and conclusions is to look at them as triangles. Triangles visually represent how general or specific the information should be within each section of the paragraphs. Let me show you what I mean:

The triangles represent specificity. The introduction is a triangle flipped upside-down because it starts of more generally, and then the paragraph gets much more specific by the last sentence in the intro: the thesis. The specificity is illustrated by the point in the triangle.

I have a blog post on how to construct your thesis if you need it.

The conclusion starts with the most specific sentence to clearly reiterate the thesis. The paragraph then transitions seamlessly into the argument you’ve been making the whole time. Finally, you express the text or film’s importance in the world today.

Let’s look at my essay as an example: “Thoreau’s Political Activism: The Construction of Unconventional Masculinity.” I want to use this essay of mine as an example because it illustrates that your introduction can be two paragraphs. Especially in upper-level college English classes, your introduction probably should be two paragraphs. However, never add a third introductory paragraph. And you’re safe with one if it does the job.

Introduction

1st Intro Paragraph

Hook: In “Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau asks his audience: “How many men are there to a square thousand miles in this country? Hardly one” (70).

Slow, smooth transition to topic (reveal gender focus): This question forces us to ask in turn, what type of masculinity does Thoreau consider to be ideal? Since gender is a societal construct, people have equated different traits with “femininity” and “masculinity” depending on the time and place in which they lived.

Conclusion sentence: Since no characteristics are inherently feminine or masculine, Thoreau was able to construct his own unique unconventional ideal of masculinity throughout Walden and his political essays.

2nd intro pargraph

Continue transition to thesis, and provide roadmap: Thoreau’s constructed masculine ideal favors the politically active, independent, and virtuous man, which can be seen by analyzing Thoreau’s critique of conventionally masculine men and his idealization of John Brown.

Thesis (reveal race analysis focus): However, although Thoreau constructs this new ideal of masculinity in order to aid society in abolishing slavery, his texts reflect and perpetuate the racial biases that were held by society during his time.

Conclusion

Conclusions, unlike introduction paragraphs, should always be limited to one paragraph.

Another hook (optional) and restate thesis in a new, interesting way: In “Slavery in Massachusetts,” Thoreau wrote, “They persist in being the servants to the worst of men, and not the servants of humanity” (103). But couldn’t we argue that Thoreau himself was a servant to the worst of men through his perpetuation of the oppression of people based on race and gender?

Transition to less specific to paper to more general terms, and relate to present-day issue: Ironically, although he was attempting to aid in abolishing slavery, his political essays perpetuate racism by excluding non-white men. Similarly, although he was glamorizing the politically active John Brown, he never once mentions his mother or his sisters, who founded the Concord Antislavery Society (Petrulionis 19). How could he overlook the participation of his own mother and sister in the abolitionist movement, yet never fight for their rights at all?

Conclusion sentence describing the importance of essay in the real world: So, rather than glamorizing the politically progressive Thoreau, we should instead analyze the ways in which his texts both reflect and perpetuate the oppression of people based on race and gender.

Extra Intro & Conclusion Tips:

  • If you have more than one text or film to analyze, include all the titles in your thesis. Introduce each author or director in the introduction.
  • Always know what present-day issue you will be relating your text or film to before you write anything. Great lenses to analyze your text or film include gender, race and ethnicity, ecocriticism, Marxist, religious, or historical. Know the importance of your paper.
  • Always make a new, interesting argument. Read what literary critics have written about your text or film through the same lens you want to focus on, and find a way to make your argument better. Whether you agree or disagree with the articles, include some in your essay to show you did background research, and to make your argument stronger. Express your opinions on their opinions.
  • Write your introduction and conclusion after you write every other paragraph.
  • Make your introduction and conclusion as concise as possible. Present your argument thoroughly, but don’t explain or dive too deeply into your topic yet. Your body paragraphs will do the work for you. This balance of being thorough, yet concise, can be the hardest to strike. Definitely write multiple drafts of your thesis statement.
  • Write a draft on a loose-leaf piece of paper. Draw the triangles and brainstorm sentences next to them. How can you get your words to flow in a way that represents your introductory and conclusion paragraphs as triangles?

Now you should know how to write your own perfect introduction and conclusion paragraphs! Aim to leave your teachers stunned at how much effort you put into analyzing the text or film.