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18 Simple Essay Hacks Every Student Needs To Know

Turn off Netflix for starters.

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1. Start with a good quote for inspiration.

Daniel Dalton / BuzzFeed / Axel Antas-Bergkvist / Via

A killer quote can give credibility and purpose to your introduction, or it can provide the major mic drop to conclude the essay with. A great quote can also help give you purpose as you write, even if you end up editing it out of the final draft.

2. Try the Pomodoro technique.

Pomodoro is a time management technique that breaks your work time into 25-minute bursts. After each burst, you get a five-minute break to stretch your legs, make a cup of tea, etc. Then you go again.

There are many different apps for both iOS and Android, or you can use websites like Tomato Timer, which has a simple interface and desktop notifications (pictured).

3. Block out distracting notifications.

Freedom is an app for Mac and Windows that turns off your internet connection for a set amount of time, giving you a distraction free window without Facebook, Twitter, and email notifications disrupting your flow.

Use it in conjunction with your Pomodoro timer in 25-minute bursts, and use your five-minute break to see how many favourites your "#AmWriting" tweet got.


5. Use Wikipedia to find sources, not answers.

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Academic papers and studies can be hard to search for. The footnotes at the bottom of Wikipedia pages are a rich source for relevant studies to read on your chosen subject, providing they aren't hidden behind a paywall.

6. Recover lost files in Word.

7. Or just use Google Docs.


Google's cloud-based Docs is formatted similar to Word or Pages, but every word you type is autosaved. Unless you go out of your way to delete a specific file, you'll never lose your work again. And you can access and edit it from any machine.

If you're not a fan of Google, try Evernote for a cloud-based app with dozens of great features.


8. But if you are using Word, at least use this shortcut to find better words.

9. Sharpen your sentences by cutting unnecessary words.


Nothing Says Over 40 Like Two Spaces after a Period!

This is a hangover from the days of typewriters. You are not using a typewriter, so don't do it. If you're using a typewriter then cut that shit out, hipster.

11. Get up and walk around.

Jordan McQueen /

Stretching your legs will get the blood flowing, even if you just stroll around the room or downstairs to get some water.

Even better, get some fresh air. Walk outside a moment, or crack open a window.


12. Get out of the house. Go to a café or library.

A change of scenery can help motivate you to get some work done. Some find the ambient bustle of a coffee shop helps them focus, and it's near impossible to procrastinate in a library. The studious masses will encourage concentration, and you won't be short of a source or two for your essay.

13. Write your first draft by hand.

Alejandro Escamilla /

A pen in your hand means you can scribble notes and thoughts as you think of them without having to organise them on the page.

Once you've done a rough draft, type it into your computer. You'll edit as you transcribe.

14. If you don't like traditional word processors, try a clean writing enviroment like IA Writer.

IA Writer offers a clean, distraction-free interface that lets you focus on your words. You can export into a Word doc, and it will sync to Dropbox or iCloud. Perfect if you like a clean, minimal, and clutter-free screen.

15. If you're working on a longer essay, try using Scrivener to organise your thoughts.

Scrivener is the opposite of IA Writer– it does everything. It will help you structure your essay, keep track of what you've written, move segments around, and much more. If you're writting a dissertation-length essay, Scrivener might just save your mind. It even has a clean writing interface.


16. Use Wordle to generate a cloud of your most used word to help avoid repetition.

17. When editing, change the font to something with a serif, and print it out.

Daniel Dalton / BuzzFeed

Printing the essay will help highlight errors you missed on screen, and a serif font is easier on the eyes.

And if all else fails...