Writing Tips



Tip #1

Understand the different types of expository essays

  • Definition essays explain the meaning of a word, term, or concept.
  • Classification essays break down a subject or idea into categories and groups.
  • Compare & Contrast essays describe the similarities and differences between two or more people, places, or things.
  • Cause & Effect essays delve into the reasons that cause something and then discuss its results or effects.
  • “How to” essays explain a procedure, step-by-step process, or how to do something.




Tip #2

Ask yourself questions when proofreading and revising

  • Does my essay give an unbiased analysis that unfolds logically?
  • Are my facts and examples relevant?
  • Do I use effective transitions between sentences and paragraphs?
  • Does my conclusion communicate the value and meaning of the thesis and key supporting ideas?

If your essay is still missing the mark, take another look at your thesis statement. A solid thesis statement leads to a solid essay.




For more writing tips on the various types of compositions students will have to write in either primary or secondary school, click on the following links below:

Primary School

Secondary School

Writing Tips: Narrative Writing



Tip #1

Gather story ideas from reading the news

Read the news daily for story ideas, or at least skim through the headlines. For example, the following news stories would be relevant content for a compo prompt on courage:

  • Students who helped boy trapped under car receives SCDF awards
  • SCDF officers to the rescue as flood waters rise
  • 78-year-old woman fights off armed robber at convenience store


Tip #2

Flesh out the climax

Make sure your climax is engaging and has sufficient detail.

Did you…

  • include your characters’ feelings, actions and thoughts?
  • use the five senses (beyond sight) to paint a vivid scene?
  • break down important actions into smaller steps?

Negative Example: The robber demanded for money.

Positive Example: One of the burly men fished a gun out of his baggy pockets and pointed it at the shopkeeper’s forehead. Advancing slowly towards the shaking shopkeeper, he roared, “Fill my bag up now!”


Tip #3

Use figurative language

Use the acronym MS HIP to help liven up your writing.

  • Metaphors:            The classroom became a zoo once Ms Lee left.
  • Similes:                   He avoided the water like the plague.
  • Hyperbole:             Old Mr Ong has been working here since the Stone Age.
  • Idioms:                    Our star player had fallen sick at the eleventh hour.
  • Personification:     Fear robbed me of my words.

Writing Tips: Discursive Writing



Tip #1

  • Use a formal, impersonal style
  • Use topic sentences to introduce the subject of each paragraph
  • Write well-developed paragraphs, giving reasons/examples for each point
  • Use linking words/phrases:
    • Sequencing words (e.g. first/ly; second/ly)
    • Same line of thought (e.g. furthermore; likewise; in addition; similarly; moreover)
    • Contrasting idea (e.g. yet; on the other hand; nevertheless; however; although; otherwise; conversely; on the contrary)
    • Conclusion or summary (e.g. thus; therefore; consequently; hence; in conclusion)
  • Use quotations, either word-for-word or in paraphrase, being careful to identify the source (e.g. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said, ”…)
  • Review all aspects and viewpoints of a particular topic and present these views objectively


Tip #2

  • Don’t use contractions (e.g. can’t; shouldn’t)
  • Don’t use abbreviations (e.g. MOE; SPCA) unless you have previously introduced the term [“According to the Ministry of Education (MOE)…”]
  • Don’t use informal / colloquial language (e.g. some guys; stuff; lots)
  • Don’t use very emotional language (e.g. I absolutely detest people who…)
  • Don’t express personal opinions too strongly (e.g. I know…); instead, use milder expressions (e.g. It seems to me that…)
  • Don’t make sweeping statements (e.g. Everyone believes that…)
  • Don’t quote blindly or refer to statistics without accurate reference to their source [e.g. “A Minister of Parliament said… / A recent study showed…”  (which minister / study?)]
  • Don’t use clichés (e.g. Time heals all wounds.)


Tip #3

What are some differences between a discursive essay and an argumentative essay? Here are some tips to tell them apart:


  • Discursive essay: To present a balanced and objective discussion; usually discusses both advantages and disadvantages of the topic
  • Argumentative essay: To convince the reader to agree with the writer’s view

Writer’s Perspective

  • Discursive essay: 2 or more points of view
  • Argumentative essay: Takes a strong stance on the topic or issue; only 1 point of view

Body of Essay

  • Discursive essay: 2 supporting reasons, 2 opposing reasons
  • Argumentative essay: 3 supporting reasons, 1 counter-argument


  • Discursive essay: Allows readers to draw their own conclusion, or expresses a low-key opinion
  • Argumentative essay: Repeats thesis statement and summarises supporting reasons

Writing Tips: Narrative Writing



Tip #1

Plan your story

Never leave writing to chance. Spend 5-10 mins plotting your story’s key events before you begin to write.


Tip #2

Create believable characters

  • A character doesn’t have to be perfect to be a strong character. Faults and weaknesses are important ingredients in making a character believable.
  • The traits you choose for your main character determine how your character must act, talk and think.


Tip #3

Make dialogue purposeful

  • Good dialogue:
    • reveals information about characters’ personalities.
    • helps to advance the plot.
    • is never boring or mundane.
  • Use short concise sentences that get straight to the point. (No more than 2-3 sentences.)
  • Don’t use Singlish. (Most schools do not accept non-standard English in dialogue.)


Tip #4

Show, don’t tell

Give the reader actions, thoughts, senses and feelings rather than simple description.

Telling Sentence:

Going to the dentist makes me really nervous.

Showing Sentences:

I had to go to the dentist to get a cavity filled. My stomach was in knots. I felt like I was going to throw up. My palms were sweating and my hands were shaking. Just the thought of the high-pitched whir of the dentist’s drill made my heart race.


Tip #5

End with a satisfying conclusion

  • The ending of your story forms the readers’ final impression of what they have read, so make it memorable.
  • A story ending can be happy or sad, something unexpected, or a lesson learnt. Make sure it ties up all the loose ends.
  • A great ending makes readers feel something. If you bring your characters and conflict to life, your readers will care how everything works out and will feel for your characters when they succeed or fail.

Writing Tips: Narrative Writing



Tip #1

Pre-Writing (8-10 minutes)

  • Understand the requirement of the prompt that you are given.
  • Know who your audience is.
  • Plan and organise your ideas by using:
    • Word / Idea Webs to generate the kind of vocabulary you will be using.
    • Other visual organisers (tables, time-lines, flow charts) to classify, order and further develop your ideas.
  • Group your ideas into ‘chunks’ so that you can develop them as paragraphs.
  • Decide which group of ideas will be used for maximum effect.




Tip #2

Writing (35 minutes)

  • When writing out your composition, try to link your ideas as smoothly as possible with linking words and phrases as well as develop your events.
  • Don’t worry too much about spelling and punctuation. You can check on these later. The main thing is to get your ideas fleshed out on paper first.




Tip #3

Revising & Editing (10 minutes)

When you reread your composition:

  • Does it make sense?
  • Is your handwriting neat and legible?
  • Are proper nouns capitalised and does each sentence begin with a capital letter?
  • Does each sentence end with the correct punctuation mark and has punctuation been used correctly throughout your composition?
  • Are your ideas grouped into paragraphs? Did you indent before each paragraph?
  • Is your spelling correct?
  • Do your subjects and verbs agree?
  • Are your tenses consistent?