The competition essay is different from all the other deliverables in the Future City Competition. Unlike all the other deliverables that focus on your entire city, the essay looks at a particular aspect of your city. On this page, we will review essay writing basics and offer some tips to help you write a good one. As we've said on other pages, we can't guarantee that you will win an award if you use this information. However, we do believe that it will be helpful.

Click here to see the essay topic for this year's Future City Competition.

Essay Writing Basics

An essay is a document that defines a situation and offers a viewpoint concerning that situation. In the Future City Competition case, we will define the problem and propose a solution so we will use these terms here.

There are three basic parts to an essay. The first is the introduction and is usually one paragraph. The introduction defines the problem e.g. we need alternatives to fossil fuel and introduces a proposed solution e.g. geothermal energy. The last sentence in the introduction should make the reader want to continue.

The next section of an essay is called the body. The body describes the solution and all the important things about it. For example, you might show how your solution works, what it costs, its environmental impact, etc. This is where you use all of your research on the topic. The body of an essay is usually three or four paragraphs.

The last part of an essay is called the summary or conclusion. This is where you tell the reader why your solution is better than any other. You list the important points from the body of your essay. You then explain the positive differences between your solution and others. Your last sentence should be a powerful statement for your solution that your reader will remember. The summary or conclusion is usually one or two paragraphs.

The Future City Competition essay should contain no more than 1,000 words. This may sound like a lot, but it is only about three pages. Choose every word carefully and make certain that your sentences are clear and complete. When you apply for admission to college, you will be required to write essays so this is good practice.

How Do You Write an Essay?

Hopefully, you've completed your city plan and community outlines and used Them to collect research. Also, we hope that the webpage about research was helpful to you. Now, get all of the research on the essay topic from your Research Folder in the Project Archive. If your research is well-organized, the writing of the essay will be much easier.

Using your research, you should prepare an outline of the essay. The outline should show the three basic parts of an essay described above. Under each of these, you should write what you plan to say in each section. Normally, you will want a set of outline statements for each paragraph. Using an outline helps you to organize your thoughts and put information in your essay where you think it will do the most good.

Using your outline, write a rough draft of your essay. Ask your parents and teacher-sponsor to review and comment on the rough draft. You might also ask your English teacher to review and comment as well. Revise your rough draft based on the comments from your reviewers. You should review and revise your essay as many times as necessary to get it right. Perfection pays.

When you are satisfied that you wrote your best essay, prepare your final document. Again, have your final essay proofread by others before submitting it. Don't forget to include a bibliography. The bibliography is a list of the research references that you used in your essay. It is very important to give credit to those people whose work you used. It is dishonest not to do so.

Click here to get information on preparing bibliographies

Look at our Tips section (below)for other helpful hints.

Rubric

You should use the rubric provided by the national Future City Competition as your guide to what you must have in your essay. This is a list of the scoring rules that judges will use to evaluate your essay. Click here for the 2014-2015 rubric.

Tips

Here is a list of tips that may help you with your essay:

  • Use a standard filename for your essay. For example, YYMMDDRR-your city name-FCC Essay. (Y= year, M= month, D= day, R= revision number)
  • Keep each draft and revision document in the Essay Folder in your Project Archive. Change the month, day or revision number in your filename every time that you revise your essay. The month and/or day will change only if this is the first revision on a new day. The revision number will change if you make more than one revision in a day. This will give you a series of backups and clearly identify the latest version of your essay. Your final essay for submission must use the naming format defined on the Deliverables Submission page.
  • Use short concise sentences that contain action verbs.
  • Use spell check and grammar check. Remember spell check will not flag words that are spelled correctly, even if they do not make sense in the sentence.
  • Beware of homonyms. Homonyms are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Here is just a short list of the many homonyms:
    • Right / write
    • Wear / where
    • Accept / except
    • Piece / peace
    • Were / we’re
    • Plane / plain
    • Led / lead
  • Add technical terms that you find in your research to your word processor dictionary (make absolutely certain that they are spelled correctly)
  • Use the thesaurus in your word processor. It will help you to find words that keep your reader interested
  • Proofread and edit. Do this as many times as it takes to make your essay perfect.
  • Ask people who don't know your essay to review it and proofread it (parents and English teachers).
  • Give your reviewers/proofreaders plenty of time to read and review your essay. Don't wait until the day before the essay is due to ask people to proofread and edit your essay.
  • Read your essay out loud, record it, and play it back (if you don't have a voice recorder, most cell phones and many MP3 players have this function). This is what your essay "sounds like" in a reader's mind. Does it sound like something that you would want to read? If not, revise your essay.

Once you understand the basics of writing essays it can be a fun activity. In high school and college, you will write many essays. We hope that we got you off to a good start.