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How to Write a Short Essay

by tutlance

Writing a short essay as an assignment may prove to be a headache for many students compared to a more extended and lengthy essay. It is because, in a more extensive essay, you have room to explain your points. For a short essay, that room is limited; you have to be as brief as possible simultaneously. However, you have to ensure you deliver strong points.

A short essay is a brief publication that generally discusses one topic in detail. Shorter essays are also known as “short papers.” They are commonly used in schools, colleges, and universities to teach students how to write about a topic.

A unique idea helps you to deliver strong points. The unique idea is what separates your short essay from other essays on similar topics.

It is necessary to go through a lot of samples of short essays. You can find them online, in your library or bookshop. Short essay examples give you a reference point to start from and this will help you come up with a unique idea that works for you.

In this step by step guide on how to write a short essay, we will discuss;

  • What is a short essay.
  • Short essay length.
  • Short essay format.
  • How to write a short essay.
  • Short essay examples.
  • Tips in writing a good short essay.

What is a short essay?

A short essay (also called a brief essay), can be defined as a type of academic essay where the writer expresses their argument on a particular topic in a brief way. It is short because it has a limited word count as compared to a normal formal essay. It requires one to be brief and exact. For relative sized essays, check out how to write a five paragraph essay.

Short Essay Length

A short essay usually focuses on one main idea per paragraph. However, you may explore more than one idea in the process of reaching the conclusion.

The argument is what makes an essay remain concise, hence it is important to note that for a short essay; minimal points are given due attention. There should not be too many points raised that are not required.

How long should a short essay be?

A short essay should be between 300 and 400 words. It is usually advised that your word count does not exceed this limit. A shorter essay would also do just as well, but aiming for less than 300 words may seem unreasonably brief to the marker. With such a limited word count, it is important to keep in mind what you are going to include in your short essay. It is expected that a short essay would be well written and organized for the reader’s benefit.

Structure of a short essay – Format

A brief essay has the same form as any other essay; the only difference is the number of words used. It has three main parts; the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.

A short essay has a simple structure because it allows for flow of ideas. The introduction should state the topic clearly and explain why you’re writing the essay. The main body helps clarify any questions raised by the thesis statement, plus explain how your argument will be made clear; this means there should be a number of supporting explanations yet it should be brief.

The conclusion reinforces the main ideas and thoughts presented in a simple way, this adds up to the credibility of the essay. It does not require any new information or data; therefore, if there is any data or sources used, make sure they are cited accordingly.

Let us discuss the components of a brief essay format:


It is the window through which the readers see what the essay entails but from afar. It creates the first impression, and as they say, ‘first impressions matter.’ The introduction is what sparks the interest of your readers. With the opening sentence, how you use it will determine if your readers continue reading your essay. The introduction is brief and precise, but catchy. Write down your thesis statement here. It should be the closing line of your introduction.

The body of the essay

The body of the essay expounds more on the thesis statement. In the body, the main ideas are discussed and supported by pieces of evidence. Divide the body into three paragraphs. The trick here is to use the most relevant and essential ideas. In the first paragraph, discuss the most crucial point and support it with evidence.


Here the writer summarizes everything from the thesis statement to the last paragraph of the body. Slightly mention each point. The writer should keep in mind not to start a new idea in conclusion. The aim is to conclude, so as a writer, choose a strong finishing remark.

How to write a short essay in 6 steps

Writing a short essay can be summarized into 5 simple steps that, if you follow them carefully, you won’t get lost and end up writing a mess. Keep in mind that the points I’m going to cover are general rules, but there might be certain cases when they don’t apply.

These steps include:

  1. Research
  2. Brainstorm
  3. Outline
  4. Write
  5. Editing and proofreading
  6. Reference your sources

Step 1:Research

Before you start writing, you should carry out some research on the topic that you’re going to work with. For example, if your topic is “the best solution for sustainable tourism”, it might be interesting to first see what other people think about it and how they try to solve this problem. Carrying out research can take a significant amount of time, but it will make the writing process much easier. Instead of starting from scratch and thinking about what to write, you already have some ideas which you can work with.

Step 2:Brainstorm

Now that your research is done, you can start brainstorming. Brainstorming is basically making a list of all the interesting things that you can think of related to your topic. You shouldn’t worry about the structure or the order, you should just make a list with all your ideas in any way that they come to mind. Make sure you write them down, because having too many ideas will help you find more angles and approaches for your essay.

Step 3: Outline

Now that you have the list of all the ideas related to your topic, it’s time to make an outline. An outline can be summarized into making a plan and deciding on how to structure your essay. Don’t worry if you don’t know what information should go where or what angle would suit your essay more; everybody struggles with this when they first start writing. Just remember to follow the list of ideas that you have, and your essay will be fine.

Step 4: Write

Finally, you can start with the main part of your brief paper: writing it! Of course, this isn’t very specific advice, because every type of essay is different and has a different set of rules. However, there are some general tips that might help.

When you first start writing, don’t spend too much time trying to find the perfect words or making sure that every sentence is grammatically correct. Write whatever comes to mind first, then go back and try to improve it with different words or phrases if needed. Remember not to focus too much on the structure or the presentation, because it can be fixed later.

Don’t go too far with this step. Write the general idea of your essay first, so you know what you’re going to write about and how it’s structured. Then start writing if necessary.

Editing is probably the most important step in this list, so don’t forget about it! Decide if you want to do the editing yourself or have somebody else do it for you, but make sure that your essay is good enough before submitting it.

Step 5: Editing and proofreading

If you’re doing the editing process yourself, there are a few things that you should keep in mind while writing your essay. One of the most important parts is to find somebody reliable who can check your essay for mistakes and give you suggestions on how to improve it. It’s also a good idea to read your work out loud: this way, you’ll be able to hear what words or phrases sound awkward and fix them easily.

If you want somebody else to edit your work, make sure that you find somebody who knows what they’re doing. It’s definitely not the same thing to have your teacher look through your essay or a friend of yours check it out. You can even ask an author if they wouldn’t mind editing your paper for you, although this option is only available in some cases.

Step 6: Reference your sources

Once you’re done with your essay, don’t forget to include the reference section. This is usually one of the last steps because you have to find all the sources that you used for this essay and write them down properly. Depending on what type of work it is, there are different rules about how to cite your sources accordingly, so check with your teacher or professor if you’re not sure.

Submit and review

Finally, after all the time you’ve spent working on it, it’s time to submit your essay! It may take a while for somebody else to look at it, but in the meantime make sure that nobody can recognize it as yours by changing the name or some other details.

Once your work is reviewed, make sure to ask for comments and suggestions before you decide to edit it again! The best way to do this in the comment section of the post, in case you have any doubts.

Short essay examples

Here is an example of a short essay:

Brief Essay Example: Is it better to live in the city or the country?

People have been debating this question for hundreds of years. However, it is my argument that rural living is better than the urban lifestyle.

To start with, rural living has beautiful scenery that one can enjoy at their leisure, whilst city living is often times polluted and the environment not so friendly. Secondly, people living in rural areas have access to fresh and healthy food while city life results in unhealthy eating habits that lead to obesity and malnutrition. Lastly, there is a sense of community that you can experience when one lives in a small town which cannot be experienced on such a scale in cities.

As you can see, rural living has a number of benefits over the city life. Therefore, it is to everyone’s benefit to live in a quiet and safe environment away from the hassle and stress of city life. For this reason, I maintain that rural living is better than the urban lifestyle.

Short essay structure example:


Body paragraphs:

  • Rural living is better than city life.
  • There are benefits to rural living over the urban lifestyle.
  • People living in rural areas have access to fresh and healthy food; this contributes positively to their well-being
  • Living in a small town creates a sense of community that cannot be experienced on the same scale in cities.


Conclusion restates the main ideas of the essay, this is done briefly. It does not contain any new information or data to present, it simply summarises what has been argued previously.

Remember that a short essay should be brief. Therefore, avoid over-elaborating with unnecessary points. If there is data or sources used, make sure they are cited accordingly. Try to use simple language in your essay with correct grammar and punctuation.

Tips in writing a good short essay

When writing a short essay, you should keep in mind the following expert tips:

  • The length. Remember, it is an easy essay; therefore, the number of words to be used is limited. If you have 6 points, compress them into 3. 
  • Have a thesis statement. It is the main idea of the essay. Having one helps you revolve around the essay around a central point. Your thesis statements can be either explanatory or argumentative.
  • Have sections and all the parts that make up an essay. The essay should have an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Both the introduction and conclusion are one paragraph each.
  • Have a topic for the essay and from the topic form your thesis statement. 
  • Use a few words for the essay since it is short. Alternatively, you can do the whole essay in long-form the high light to use in the short essay.
  • Have credible sources of information to use as support.
  • Use catchy but straightforward words. Have transitional words to connect the dots of your essay.
  • Use an active voice and avoid the use of passive voice.


  1. Short Essay Samples | Writing Personal Statements Online
  2. Basic Essay Format – De Anza College
  4. The Basics of Essay Writing | UNSW Current Students
  5. SHORT-ESSAY GUIDELINES (short-version) – Cuyamaca …
  6. A Short Essay on Critics
  7. How to write an academic essay
  8. Basic Essay Format – Canada College

Final Thoughts

Writing a short essay has never been so easy with the guidelines given above. It is a few steps that anyone can follow to ensure they write down their thoughts and ideas in an organised manner.

In writing a short essay, the writer should ensure that they follow the required length. Writing down the whole essay and then cutting it down is one way to write your essay. Even though it is easy, ensure you provide enough details for your points. Write in full sentences because, after all, it is an essay. The amount of data or information to be used is limited in a short essay, thus it is best to use fewer details and avoid mentioning unnecessary facts.

What are your thoughts on short essay writing? Leave your comments below!

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