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How to Write an Essay - The Jordan Peterson Writing Template

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How to Write an Essay - The Jordan Peterson Writing Template
Learning how to write an essay is a very difficult task. In school, it's often not taught in any systematic way. Students are left to either find their way by intuition or flounder. To address this problem, Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor at The University of Toronto, created a template for his students that takes them step by step through the detailed process of writing an essay.

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Jordan Peterson Writing Template

Jordan Peterson Writing Template
Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor at The University of Toronto, created a template for his students that takes them step by step through the detailed process of writing an essay.  

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Jordan Peterson
"Thinking makes you act effectively in the world.  Thinking makes you win the battles you undertake...If you can think and speak and write you are absolutely deadly!  NOTHING can g...

Jordan Peterson

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The Levels of Resolution

An essay exists at multiple levels:

  • The choice of words
  • The formation of sentences
  • The arrangement of sentences in a paragraph
  • The arrange...

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Step 1: Choose Topic, Read & Take Notes

Writing begins with these 3 steps:

  • Pick a topic: because your essay should answer a central question.
  • Make a reading list: You should aim to read 5-10 books befo...

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Step 2: Make an Outline

Step 2: Make an Outline

The outline is the skeleton of the essay and provides its structure. 

An essay that is 1,000 words requires a 10 sentence outline.  

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Jordan Peterson's Rules of Thumb for Note Taking

  • Take note of anything that catches your attention.  
  • Don't highlight or underline.  (That doesn't work.)  
  • Read a bit, then write down what you ...

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Step 3: Write Paragraphs

Write 10-15 sentences per outline heading to complete your paragraphs.  

Use your notes.  You can work back and forth between changing the outline and your sentences.

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Jordan Peterson's Rules of Thumb for Writing

  • Your first draft should be 25% longer than your final draft.  This will give you material to throw away during the editing process. 
  • Each paragraph in your fin...

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Step 4: Edit Your Sentences

Working paragraph by paragraph, take each one of your sentences and write a better version of it. 

 Peterson advises you place each sentence on its own line and write the rev...

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Jordan Peterson's Editing Advice

  • Make your sentences shorter, eliminating all unnecessary words.  U should cut each sentence by 15-25%.
  • Make sure each word is precisely the right word to express your m...
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    Steps 5&6: Reorder Sentences & Paragraphs

    Within each paragraph, see if your sentences are in the best possible order.  Get rid of any sentences that are no longer necessary.  

    Same for paragraphs:  They sh...

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    Step 7: Make a NEW Outline

    Step 7: Make a NEW Outline

    After finishing your first draft:  write a NEW outline of 10-15 sentences.  DON'T LOOK BACK AT YOUR ESSAY WHILE YOU DO THIS!!! 

    The purpose of this step is to ...

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    Step 8,9&10: Repeat Editing & Add References & Format

    To continue improving your essay, you can repeat the process of re-writing and re-ordering your sentences, re-ordering your paragraphs, and re-outlining. Add references, links, biography. 

    ...

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    SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

    The first draft

    The first words you write are the first draft. Writing is thinking. You'll rarely know what exactly you want to say when you start writing.

    The time you put into editing, reworking and re...

    Common errors

    Most writing mistakes are widespread, but good writers just get better at spotting them. Some things you'll learn to watch for are:

    • Overuse of jargon and business-speak, like "utilize" or "endeavor" instead of "use" or "try."
    • Clichés are stale phrases that have lost their impact and novelty through overuse. If you are used to seeing it in print, don't use it.
    • The passive voice. The subject of the sentence should be the person or thing taking action, not the thing being acted on. "Harry wrote this article," is better than "This article was written by Harry."
    • Rambling. When you are not sure what you want to say, it is easy to phrase it in three or four different ways. A single concise sentence is generally better.

    Give it some space

    When you write something, you get very close to it. It is nearly impossible to distance yourself from it straight away to edit properly.

    The longer you can leave a draft before editing, the better. Half an hour to two days is enough of a break to edit well. When you do edit, read your work out loud. You'll catch more problems and get a better feel for how everything flows.

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    Components of a good essay

    Many people think a good essay is persuasive. But more importantly, an essay should be useful.
    There are four parts to a good essay:

    • correctness
    • s...

    Correctness

    An essay should be correct. However, to be correct is not enough if it is vague. 

    Don't publish anything unless you're sure it's worth hearing. Write the first draft of an essay quickly, trying out all sorts of ideas. Then rewrite it very carefully, being sure to sift out anything that you're not sure of, or that is not true. Useful writing makes claims that are as strong as they can be without overstating it.

    Strength

    Strength comes from two things: thinking well, and the skillful use of qualification.

    Qualifications can express many things: how broadly something applies, how you know it, how happy you are it's so, even how it could be falsified. As you try to refine the expression of an idea, adjust the qualification accordingly. The more you refine an idea, the less you'll need to qualify it. However, don't underestimate qualification. Learn to use its full range.

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    Writing is intimidating. There’s this expectation of artful precision, mercurial grammatical rules, and the weird angst that comes with writing for other people. You start with a tidy nu...

    Writing is Deliberate

    Choosing the words to describe your work means you’re doing it on purpose. 

    You’re going on the record as someone who thinks about why they do what they do, and understands how each decision affects the results. And developing this knack for critical thinking will also make you better at what you do.