I am currently spending my every waking hour (ok, that is an exaggeration, but it does not feel like one) correcting essays. While there are glimmers in the darkness, this can sometimes be quite an aggravating affair. Especially when it appears all my helpful advice has fallen on deaf ears earlier in the semester.
Now, I know most of our regulars have finished their stint in undergraduate hell, but as some are taking it up again and there is a youthful contingent somewhere in the murky depths of the commentary fields, I decided to present you with 7 helpful tips that (if followed; ah, there's the rub) should magically cause good grades to appear. If you don't care about grades, please think of the poor person forced to suffer through it all when she has a lot of other stuff that she really, really ought to get on with.
Read the essay question properly (all of it!) and make sure you do what it tells you to do. Sometimes important information is hidden in a second sentence on the same line as the first sentence (or at the bottom of a paragraph); that does not mean it is less important.
While split infinitives and prepositions at the end of a sentence can be perfectly good language, you should avoid colloquialisms. This does not mean you should find the most difficult word you can in order to impress your reader. You should aim for clairty.
Give a plan for your argument in your introduction. Tell us what you want to show and how you intend to show it. This allows the reader to follow your argument more easily, but it has the added advantage of forcing you to make a coherent argument (because you can easily see whether your argument makes sense when you have to summarise it in a few words). The aim of your essay is to make your argument clear, not to surprise the reader with your conclusion.
Make sure you do not misrepresent your sources. While the aim of your use of quotes should be to further your argument, don't do this by quoting so selectively that you compromise the source of your quotes.
If your word formatting program breaks with the style demanded, turn off the auto-formatting. Above all, don't let your word formatting program dictate your style.
Remember to cite sources, include a list of works cited and number your pages.
There. Now Calcuttagutta's readers should all get As. Provided you've read your stuff.