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What Constitutes a Good Essay?

While there is no formal rule book for defining what a good essay is, or what it should look like, there are generally accepted qualities for great writings. However, in conventional essay writing such as academic and expository writing, there are generally five qualities. These include, focus, development, unity, coherence, and correctness.

Five qualities of good writing


A good essay should be anchored on the main idea, focus variously referred to as thesis, theme, controlling idea, or main point. In professional writing, writers generally tend to use the terms in the aforestated terms to capture "occasion" for the writing and as a means of helping the writer to stick to the point.

Sticking to the point generally means that the essay should have clarity of focus.  This constrains the writer to singularity of focus by giving the writer a clear purpose to determine what to write and how to achieve want to write about your topic. 


Paragraph development should aim at supporting or expanding the main idea of the paper. It involves crafting of the main point in every paragraph by use of explanations, and illustrations, details, examples, and descriptions.

In conventional essay writing, sufficient care must be maintained to reduce instances of poorly developed body paragraphs common among novice writers. To prevent this, the information contained in every paragraph must sufficiently explain, illustrate, define, or support your topic sentence. This includes the expectation to provide adequate evidence in support of the topic sentence.


Unity dictates that every paragraph in the essay is tied in with the main idea. Unity as a mark of a skillful writer helps to amalgamate paragraphs around a central idea. This ensures that subsequent sub-points and supporting details are relevant to that point. It also helps the reader to delimit the main idea in a sentence without the writer’s express statement of the same.


Coherence is attained when the paper conforms to a logical flow of ideas to deliver a sensible piece of writing to the reader. Thus, absence of coherence can hinder a reader’s ability to identify the key ideas in an essay. In other words, coherence makes it easy for the reader to read through the paper sentence to sentence, yet still come to a unified understanding of the central focus of the writing. With this in mind, it is essential for the writer to strive for coherence. Tested ways of achieving coherence involve repetition to Link Ideas, Sentences, and Paragraphs Repeating key words or phrases helps connect and focus idea(s) throughout the essay.


Having put four of the key qualities of essay writing in place, you must not underestimate the importance of correct Standard English, with complete sentences, and very few grammatical errors.

Correctness in this way is achieved by use of specific words, word forms, and syntactic structures in strict conformity to the rules of the English language in written forms. It may be helpful to remember that attainment of grammatical correctness requires both knowledges of how to recognize your work to minimize errors and timing,  and the narrowing of focus to proofreading.

One additional quality, not part of this list, but nevertheless, very important, is creativity. The best writing carries some of the personality and individuality of its author. Follow the above guidelines, but always work to make your writing uniquely your own.




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