How to Write Essays Faster

You’ve already written like, a ton of essays.

So, why does it feel like every time you’ve got an essay assigned and you immediately want to put off writing it?

Maybe you’re worried it’s not going to be good.

Maybe you know the act of writing the essay is going to be fraught with difficulty.

Maybe there are, I don’t know, 10,000 other things you’d rather be doing.

The real problem isn’t that you can’t write an essay -- you can. You just don’t want to.

Because, let’s face it. Writing an essay is hard.

The process for me was a total suck until after about essay 200...and then, WHAM, I had finally written enough essays to feel like I was actually pretty decent at writing them.

200 essays later.

About 132 essays after one of my college professors pulled me aside after class -- while other students were still in the room -- to tell me, “I’m not convinced you know how to write a sentence.”


A pretty significant number of tears later and now I approach writing essays with a wild enthusiasm -- I can’t wait to have the opportunity to explore a new subject through writing an essay. And my professors now scrawl giant “YES!’s” all over my papers (it feels pretty good).

Once you’ve learned how to translate stuff you’ve read about into a compelling, coherent essay, you’ve unlocked a super ability: effective communication.

When you’re able to write essays with confidence, you’ve open yourself up to remarkable accomplishments and opportunities.

Not only that, but you can push your superpower further, and learn to write essays that matter.

And with that power, you can shape the world. Or y’know, just do a really good job at life. :)

So, Ambitious, let’s dive right in and find out….

6 things you can do right now to write better essays, faster.

Step 1. Write a checklist of elements necessary for your type of paper

Here’s what I like to include in my checklist:

  • Paper length (format: MLA, APA, etc)

  • Paper type (research, summary, critical synthesis, etc)

  • Required texts (how many, if there’s a specific type needed, course books, assigned article etc)

  • Specifics from the prompt

Adding specific requirements from the prompt is the most important, and most helpful part of learning how to write an essay quickly. The prompt is your map -- it shows you the major landmarks and can even help you figure out how to get from point A (your thesis) to point B (your conclusion.

Before we dive into the prompt specifics here’s a pro tip about using your paper type to help you write a better paper:

Not sure what elements are required of your type of essay assignment? Look it up! A critical essay, for example, means you’re using logic and analysis to interpret or evaluate a text. Synthesis is when you integrate multiple and different points of view to make broader claims about a topic. Knowing that definition helps orient how you’ll evaluate sources to use and how to structure your paper. The more you know, the better you can prepare, and the easier it will be to write your essay.

Usually the essay assignment from your professor will come with some explicit requirements or a prompt.

Here’s an example essay prompt:

Discuss how either movies or music reflect the culture of our times. Select a particular era (for example, the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, or another era), and conduct online research on the popular movies or music of the time. What were some important milestones of the era and what was happening in our country and around the world during that time period? What were some of the top films or songs of the time? How did either the music or films of the time reflect our world in terms of attitudes, themes, messages, or other important aspects? Based on your research and conclusions, explain the importance of music or movies and how they shape and/or reflect our world. Remember to cite your sources in MLA formatting.

As I read through the prompt, I’m isolating terms that are going to help guide me in writing my paper (above in bold).

I love the 60s, so I’ll focus on that area (when you merge interest with your essay topic you will 100% produce a better essay).

I know more about music of the 60s than film, so I’ll put my knowledge to use in choosing 60s top hits to explore 60s culture in America and around the world. (When you write about what you’re more familiar with, you’ll 100% produce a better essay.)

So I can add the prompt guides to my checklist and I’m done:

  • Paper length (format: MLA, APA, etc)

  • Paper type (research, summary, critical synthesis, case study, etc)

  • Required texts (how many, if there’s a specific type needed, course books, assigned article etc)

  • Specifics from the prompt:

    • 1960s

    • important milestones

    • what was happening in our country

    • what was happening abroad

    • top songs

    • how did the music reflect the world

      • attitudes

      • beliefs

      • values

      • themes

      • messages

      • other aspects

  • explain the importance of music on how our values are shaped/reflected

See what happens now? Once you pull from the prompt, you’ve basically created an initial outline for your paper. Once you flesh out the outline -- you’re almost done.

Now here’s where things get a little crazy (and fun).

I first pick a topic, then I research, pull quotes, and then I write my thesis and outline.

Some people like to order things differently and I think it holds them back from writing an exemplary essay.

Picking a topic and then finding good sources about that topic can help shape a more powerful thesis (unless you’re a super genius, then by all means, do it on your own).

So the next tip is to…

2. Read your text(s) with a topic in mind, and make it a topic that interests you

Since I know my topic is going to be about 1960s music and culture, I’ll use those as keywords for my secondary source search.

how to write an essay fast

Popped those keywords into the old google books search, and here are the results:

how to write an essay

A lot of great stuff! Now, from here you can get a sense of how you can narrow your topic down....if you see the first book listed, it discusses girl groups, girl culture, and identity.

That’s a fantastic niche to explore. There’s another book at the bottom that discusses a similar topic, so my brain wheels are turning that this might be a good paper topic for me.

Notice how I’m thinking about making my topic even more specific -- before I just had 60s music and culture. Now I’m going to be thinking about the music and culture specifically as it relates to gender, identity, and race -- just based on what I found off the cover of two books.

I just used 25 seconds of research to define my topic and gain a competitive edge in getting an A on this paper.

A focused paper is going to get a better grade than a paper that bounces all over the place.

3. Use more (& better) quotes

The best way to get an A on a paper is to let people smarter than you do the thinking.

There are good quotes, and there are bad quotes, and it’s up to you to know the difference.

A good quote should:

  • Be authoritative

  • Shed light on your topic

  • Contain on-target keywords

  • Say more than you could summarize

I like to think of writing essays as a curation of conversation. My role is to stitch together multiple points of view on a topic that I’ve chosen.

I make the quotes work in service of my thesis, and I design the argument, but that all happens based on my supporting evidence.

4. Use a formula for your thesis

The moment I started using formulas, my life changed.

Now I don’t even have to think that hard before writing an essay. I go to my formula and plug in information based on my topic.

Want the formula I use for turning a topic into a thesis?

Download the worksheet that lets you simply fill in the blanks for a complex thesis!

(If you work through the workbook step by step, you’ll actually have the bulk of your paper finished...yeah, it’s that awesome.)

Your thesis doesn’t have to be mashed into one quick sentence. I like to give myself breathing room to create a complex thesis that will get me a good grade on a paper. So give yourself space -- take a few sentences to create a well rounded, complex thesis.

My favorite formula goes like this:

Claim (statement of fact about your topic). Position (do you agree or disagree?). Stakes (why is this significant? What is the effect?).

Because I gather my quotes before I write my thesis, it’s pretty easy to know what my position is, and why my argument is significant (or how it relates to the world today).

5. Shortcut your works cited

My least favorite part of writing a paper is writing out the works cited. There's no creativity involved — it's just up to you to follow a format and plug data into that. It's busywork, and it feels like a big waste of time.

Fortunately there are many work cited generators out there that'll do the work for you. You just need to check and make sure that they've done your citations correctly.

The works cited generator I've been using for years is EasyBib. EasyBib has a simple to use format and makes it super easy to figure out what information you need in order to generate a works cited page.

Often you will only need to put the link of the paper in and select what format you need, such as MLA, APA, or Chicago style, and they will generate flawless work cited link for you.

You just need to copy and paste. That’s it!

Be careful -- sometimes there will be missing information, or the format will look a little off.

Just give your paper scan and make sure that if something looks wrong, you correct it. This speeds up the process of writing a paper, and insures that this important piece of your essay doesn't get left out.

6. Edit with Grammarly

You can let another app edit for you -- Grammarly. EasyBib has a feature that also checks for grammar mistakes & plagiarism, but it isn’t quite as thorough as Grammarly.

It’s a pretty powerful & amazing tool. If I need to write a paper in a day, you better believe I’m using a third party app to edit my paper.

You don’t have to spend a ton of time to polish your paper. Grammarly will catch accidental plagiarism (or those sentences that you didn’t quite “summarize” well enough from the original text).

Grammarly will also give you quick fixes for misspelled words, grammar changes, punctuation misuse (of which I am suuuuper guilty), word choices to better enhance your paper, and a style scan which catches passive voice (so common, so horrible), wordiness (guilty), improper formatting, and weak language.

You can correct and edit a paper in minutes -- they’ll catch everything you miss. It’s worth it to bump your grade from an A- to an A+ because you used a proofreader as powerful as Grammarly.

(Or a B to an A-, C to a B -- all because you ran through a professional checker.)

Check out Grammarly’s power and scan your first paper today >>

BONUS: you can use Grammarly on EVERY paper...which saves you time, stress, & lands you better grades.