How To Write An Essay

Writing Essays for AP English Literature and Composition

1. Read the essay question and consider the topic carefully. What are you going to prove about it?

2. Begin your introduction with a general thought about the topic. You may use the question to formulate this statement as well but do not copy it verbatim.


The answer to the question + the 3 reasons or 3 claims you are making = thesis statement

Remember that a thesis statement states your claim…It is what you are proving or claiming or analyzing for the entire essay. Each body paragraph will be working to prove the argument you make in that thesis statement.

4. Body paragraphs MUST begin with a clear and strong topic sentence. A topic sentence states specifically what you will be focusing on in that paragraph as it relates to the thesis statement. Every topic sentence goes back to proving your argument since that is the purpose of writing the body paragraphs.

5. You are no longer able to get away with providing details and examples and moving on. If you do this, you will never score higher than an 80 (B-) on a paper. Why? Because you are not showing analysis when you merely list details and provide examples. The analysis is in the connections you make. It comes through when you demonstrate your thinking in your own voice. Discussing literary elements is a way to demonstrate analysis.

You will never say, “The author used tone…or diction…or imagery…or anything at all.” See below for ways to incorporate literary elements into your analysis of literature.

The broken rose symbolized the fragile relationship of the protagonist and his lover.

The imagery of the blowing wind, raging waves, and blood red sky paralleled the tumultuous yet passionate nature of their relationship.

The author personified Death in order to demonstrate the significant role it plays in the lives of mortals.

The speaker’s derisive tone illustrated his disgust with the people he once trusted the most.

**You must use “power verbs”!!

**You must write in the literary present (tense)!!

Check out the file below for the writer's guide to writing if you think you need more info.