2. Plan your essay

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 - 1969)

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” Gloria Steinem

Planning is essential if you want to write effectively. 

“But Miss, in the exam I won’t be able to plan. Shouldn’t I practise just writing essays straight off?” (Urswick Sixth Former)

NO! You are still working out what you think, ideas are popping up as you write and grammar and style are nowhere to be found when you just sit down and write. If you always write in this chaotic manner, you will never know what it feels like to write a good quality well-argued essay. 

Learning how to plan effectively teaches you how to write effectively. 

  • It gives you a chance to concentrate on style and grammar when writing. 
  • It also gives you a chance to formulate ideas, find Steinem’s ‘leaps of imagination’ and possibilities.
  • It lets you sift your ideas and decide on your arguments.

General Eisenhower may have had to abandon set battle plans, but the process of planning meant he had a range of ideas and strategies to employ.

Your teacher may have given you an outline or plan of what to include. Be careful you don’t let this turn into just a short ‘shopping list’ of what to include:  you are not doing much thinking and may end up with a rather ‘thin’ essay. Add details on to this to give your plan greater depth.  Below is an example of a brief essay plan which we then added to.


Example of a brief essay plan which we then added to













Spider diagrams? Flow charts? Bullet points?  Paragraph by paragraph? You may need to try out different versions before you find a way of planning you like. Some people like to have everything worked out by the time they start writing; a few can plan more briefly, but these people are the exception, not the rule.

TOP TIP: keep the essay question in front of you all the time. Keep checking back to it to make sure you are answering the question.