The pen is mightier than the sword, but it's useless if you don't wield it right. Great writing takes practice -- a lot of it -- and you need to have the insight to know which skills and techniques to work on. Nobody is expecting you to write like Mark Twain, but in a world of 6.5 billion literate people, the standards keep going higher. The best time to start learning is, of course, yesterday.
...or you can keep spending money on "write my essay for me" type services to have the experts do your work, which is what the rich kids are doing.
Whether you're writing an essay for school or want to learn how to become a better writer, consider these tips and you'll be writing like a pro in no time. For more comprehensive insights into academic writing specifically, here's a useful link.
Use proper spelling
The most important aspect of any essay is readability. If you don't use proper spelling and grammar, nobody will be able to decipher what you're trying to say, and that defeats the whole purpose of writing an essay. Additionally, you will lose a lot of credibility if you don't have proper spelling. Why should anybody take your opinions seriously if you don't even know how to spell?
Make an argument
Every great essay has a clear argument. You need to immediately assert your paper's argument, or "thesis," in the first paragraph. And don't start with a lofty, pretentious, opening paragraph -- be direct about your argument.
It's also important that you don't forget about your argument while you're writing your paper. As you section off your supporting arguments into paragraphs, remember to keep mentioning your main argument. Tell the reader why your evidence supports your argument.
Support your ideas
Don't be shy about using evidence and sources to support your arguments -- the more the merrier! But be careful with what you source. Try to avoid using a lot of web sources if possible. Secondary scholarly sources and primary sources will be your best bet.
Most of the time you won't need to directly quote the sources in your essay. Using too many quotations can look lazy and harm the overall aesthetic of your essay. Unless it is absolutely necessary to quote your source, you should try to integrate the author’s argument into your own instead.
Use evidence critically
You might have found some good secondary and primary sources, but that doesn't mean you should blindly accept them as accurate. Almost every author has some sort of bias. You need to be critical of your sources and cross-check them for reliability. In many instances, there are conflicting arguments in the academic world, and a strong essay will consider every angle of an argument. And it's important to note that you shouldn't make a straw man of an argument you disagree with -- you need to attack the actual argument.
End it strongly
By the end of your essay, you're probably tired and ready to wrap it up. But the conclusion is important because it's the last impression the reader will have of your essay. A weak conclusion will make the reader feel like they wasted their time, but a strong conclusion will be fulfilling.
A lot of high school teachers coach their students to write conclusions that are reworded versions of their introduction, but that's not how you create a satisfying ending. A strong conclusion adds something extra and explains the importance and significance of your argument. Your conclusion should leave the reader pondering about the larger implications of your argument.
Writing is both an art and a science, but there are no arcane mysteries -- and it's not beyond anyone. Keep writing, keep reading, and keep learning -- you'll be composing great essays in no time.