This is a guest post by Sam Pealing. Make sure to visit his website EnglishForStudy.com for more academic English help!
I admire international students. Seriously. If you’re a non-native English speaker doing a degree or doctorate in English, then I take my hat off to you.
I get a lot of questions about writing essays, and I’ve taught hundreds of students how to write effective essays (which get good grades). One of the most common mistakes that I see is a lack of opinion.
Most of the time, students describe a situation, but they don’t give their opinion or stance. This can really damage your grade because lecturers are always looking for ‘critical thinking’. If you don’t give your opinion in your essays, your lecturers can’t see your critical thinking.
To put it simply: If you don’t put your opinion or stance in an essay, then you’ll probably lose marks.
In this article, you’ll learn 10 effective phrases that you can use to give your opinion in your essay. I’ve also created a free lesson pack which will help you to practice the phrases in this article. CLICK HERE to download it.
Introducing the Phrases
If you’re looking for a quick fix for your essay, these phrases should help you to start putting your own opinions in your essays.
But, before you rush over to your essays to start putting these phrases in, there’s something you need to know.
If you’re writing an academic essay, you will need to support your opinions with strong evidence. This is especially true if you are using some of the stronger phrases.
This evidence can be a journal article, a lecture, a textbook, or something else which is a trustworthy source of information.
In a more informal essay, like one in an IELTS or TOEFL language test, you don’t need to support your answers with strong evidence. Your experiences or opinions will be enough.
Quick note: I know! You’re ready to see the phrases.
This won’t take long and it’s really important.
1. For these phrases to be really effective, you’ll need to review your grammar. Shayna has some great videos on her Espresso English Youtube channel.
I recommend these:
2. If you want to know the structure of a good essay paragraph, check my post here.
Informal English Phrases
These phrases are suitable for language tests such as TOEFL or IELTS. In an academic essay, these phrases will probably be too informal because they are too personal.
“In my opinion, + [your sentence]”
- In my opinion, a good education is more important than a good car.
“I believe that + [your sentence]”
- I believe that schools should encourage students to walk or cycle to school rather than drive.
“In my mind, + [your sentence]”
- “In my mind, no-one should have to pay for medical care.”
More Formal Academic Phrases With ‘That’
These phrases are more suitable for academic essays. If you are unsure whether you should use an informal phrase or an academic phrase, use an academic one. If you think your writing might be informal, read this post to learn more.
The patterns here are quite straightforward. Just add your sentence after ‘that’.
“It would seem that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you support your opinion with evidence.
- “It would seem that children learn best when they are feeling comfortable.”
“It could be argued that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you want to challenge an existing opinion.
- “It could be argued that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in this situation.”
“This suggests that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you don’t want to fully commit to an opinion. You’re giving yourself some distance.
- “The evidence suggests that people who speak more than one language have more job opportunities.”
“This proves that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you are confident with your opinion. This phrase is quite strong*
- “This proves that the best way to lose weight is through a controlled diet and a good exercise program.”
“This supports the idea that + [your sentence]”
Use this one when you are supporting an opinion that you have already made.
- “This new research supports the idea that successful English learners look for opportunities to use English.”
Other Ways to Express Opinion
“Although [idea you disagree with], [idea you agree with]”
Use this when you want make your opinion seem balanced.
- “Although reports suggest that cigarettes could help people to lose weight, there are too many serious health problems associated with smoking.”
Note: The ‘although’ pattern is very effective because it shows two sides of the argument. In the example, I support the idea that smoking is bad for your health –BUT- I recognise that it could have some benefits.
Structure your ‘although’ sentence like this: Although, [weaker argument you disagree with], [stronger argument you agree with].
Using Adverbs, Adjectives and Nouns
You can use adjectives to show your opinion.
- “This research was poorly conducted with a lack of control.”
The adjective and nouns in the example are negative. You can get some good ideas from this video on Extreme Adjectives. Note: try not to use any emotional adjectives.
Make Your Own Phrases!
Of course, these phrases aren’t the only ones that you can use! You can find more –or– you can create your own by combining different patterns.
Here’s an example of #7, #9 and #10 used together.
“Although it is difficult for older adults to learn a second language, an important study by Smith (2014) proved that the elderly can successfully learn new languages.”
What Should You Do Now?
So now you should have a better idea of how to include more opinions in your essays. But that’s not all; there are probably some new words here that you don’t know.
So here’s what you should do:
- Choose three of the opinion expressions and phrases that you want to try.
- Practice writing sentences using them (if you don’t have a topic, try this: should students do homework? You can see examples of this in the lesson pack)
- Get the Lesson Pack for this lesson (which contains the vocabulary and the phrases from this lesson) CLICK HERE to download it.
About Sam Pealing
Sam Pealing is an English language coach who specialises in two important areas: 1. helping you to get great grades at university, and 2. helping you to become an effective and confident English user. If you’re feeling frustrated or confused with English, Sam has created the perfect email course for you! You can join his course here –or- you can read more by him on English For Study.
The basic five-paragraph essay structure, which you have possibly used for many times, works extremely well for opinion essays. Be ready to warm up your thinking by evaluating various opinions and reasons to determine which are strong and which are weak to support your point of view.
To write a successful opinion essay, make sure to follow these stages: pre-writing, writing and proofreading.
Before starting to write your essay, you need to gather information to support your opinion. Make sure the evidence you collect matches your stated point of view. While brainstorming and looking for arguments, try to answer these questions to get more ideas:
1. What question should I answer in this assignment?
2. What are those things my audience want to know?
3. What main points should be conveyed in my essay?
4. Are any of the points inconsistent or contradictory?
5. Can I improve any of my arguments?
Look at the list of your ideas and organize them the way you will use in your composition. Decide which ideas are perfect to be mentioned at the beginning, in the main part and at the end of your essay.
Your opinion essay should have an introduction, main body and conclusion.
In the introductory paragraph, you need to present your subject and state your opinion clearly. Make sure it contains a thesis statement – a sentence that summarizes the main point of your paper.
There are several techniques to begin your essay, so you can:
- address the reader directly;
- include a quotation, direct speech, a sentence from a book or play;
- ask a rhetorical question.
In the body of your essay, you need to support your thesis statement. Write several paragraphs, each presenting a separate point of view supported by reasons. Start every paragraph with a topic sentence – the main idea you will back up with arguments. Make sure you don't begin a new paragraph because the one you are writing right now is too long. Begin a new paragraph only when you want to discuss a new idea.
While writing, pay special attention to:
- Tense – normally you should use present tenses in this type of essay.
- Linking words – use different expressions for giving reasons (one reason for ... is / many people believe that... / since... / due to...), expressions opinions (to my mind... / I am convinced that... / from my point of view...), adding ideas (first of all.../ secondly... / what is more, …/ finally... ), etc.
- Formal vocabulary – do not use idioms, phrasal verbs or colloquial expressions.
- Formal punctuation – do not use exclamation marks, parentheses and contractions.
- Citing sources where necessary.
To conclude your opinion essay, write a paragraph where you restate your opinion using different words. You should avoid introducing a new idea or apologizing for your views. However, to make your essay more engaging, you can end with a warning, ask a provocative question or suggest consequences.
When you complete your essay, evaluate different aspects to make sure that your work is just excellent:
1. Grammar – make sure you use the same tense throughout the essay.
2. Vocabulary – check whether you use linking words and avoid slang.
3. Spelling and capitalization – check if all the words are written correctly.
In addition, make sure you do not present your ideas using the lists. After all, this is an opinion essay, not a shopping list.
Done right, your opinion essay will be an outstanding piece of writing. Follow the tips above and take your essay writing to the new heights!