Written by Karis Leung
Waffling, babbling, and general chit chatting. These are all great when you’re at a party late into the night, pondering about life and its purpose. But if you’re like me, you may find yourself adopting this type of speaking style into your writing, especially your argumentative or academic writing. And if you’re like me, you may find yourself getting docked points for tonal issues. Keep reading for tips and tricks on how to stop bumbling around your essays and communicate like a pro.
Step 1: Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
When making an argument with different sub-points and foreign concepts, you may have found that it is incredibly easy to lose your reader. So in your introduction, be very clear in what the topic is, the basic outline of what you are going to cover, and the names of the theories you will explain in your essay. If you’re citing academic research in your essay (which you always should), make sure to signpost some of the key pieces in the introduction. Ask yourself this. In 3 sentences, what is the basic gist of what you want to convey to the reader?
Step 2: Tell them
Now that your reader knows exactly what you’re going to be explaining to them, it’s time to dive into the nitty gritty. In your body paragraphs, break them up into sub-arguments that support your wider stance. Ideally, you want your individual body paragraphs to be MECE; Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive. Simply put, you don’t want to repeat the same argument across paragraphs, so make sure each paragraph has its own topic sentence. You also don’t want to miss out anything you’ve already signposted in your introduction, so make sure your paragraphs collectively encompass your entire stance in the argument.
Step 3: Tell them what you told them
The bulk of the work is over, and all you have to do is reiterate what exactly the reader should have taken away from your amazing essay. Good rule of thumb is to take a look at all your topic sentences for each paragraph, and work out how to reword them into the conclusion. This does not mean you need to argue your points again, you’ve done that, but simply reiterate the take home message. If you’re having trouble writing a concise conclusion, ask yourself this, if the reader forgets everything you have just written, what are the three dot points they should remember?
This framework also applies to speeches, so make good use of these 3 steps to writing a good essay. Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them.
For a lengthier look into the history of this framework (it’s pretty old), check out this article.