Skip Nav

General Essay Writing Tips

Don't have an Account?

❶Students are asked to explain, comment on, or assess a topic of study in the form of an essay.

Introduction:

The Five Paragraph Essay
Navigation menu

Almost all modern essays are written in prose , but works in verse have been dubbed essays e. In some countries e. Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills; admission essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants, and in the humanities and social sciences essays are often used as a way of assessing the performance of students during final exams.

The concept of an "essay" has been extended to other media beyond writing. A film essay is a movie that often incorporates documentary filmmaking styles and focuses more on the evolution of a theme or idea.

A photographic essay covers a topic with a linked series of photographs that may have accompanying text or captions. An essay has been defined in a variety of ways. One definition is a "prose composition with a focused subject of discussion" or a "long, systematic discourse".

Aldous Huxley , a leading essayist, gives guidance on the subject. Furthermore, Huxley argues that "essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference".

These three poles or worlds in which the essay may exist are:. Huxley adds that the most satisfying essays " The word essay derives from the French infinitive essayer , "to try" or "to attempt". In English essay first meant "a trial" or "an attempt", and this is still an alternative meaning. The Frenchman Michel de Montaigne — was the first author to describe his work as essays; he used the term to characterize these as "attempts" to put his thoughts into writing, and his essays grew out of his commonplacing.

For the rest of his life, he continued revising previously published essays and composing new ones. Francis Bacon 's essays , published in book form in , , and , were the first works in English that described themselves as essays. Ben Jonson first used the word essayist in English in , according to the Oxford English Dictionary. In France, Michel de Montaigne 's three volume Essais in the mid s contain over examples widely regarded as the predecessor of the modern essay.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Edmund Burke and Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote essays for the general public. The early 19th century, in particular, saw a proliferation of great essayists in English — William Hazlitt , Charles Lamb , Leigh Hunt and Thomas de Quincey all penned numerous essays on diverse subjects. In the 20th century, a number of essayists tried to explain the new movements in art and culture by using essays e. Whereas some essayists used essays for strident political themes, Robert Louis Stevenson and Willa Cather wrote lighter essays.

As with the novel , essays existed in Japan several centuries before they developed in Europe with a genre of essays known as zuihitsu — loosely connected essays and fragmented ideas. Zuihitsu have existed since almost the beginnings of Japanese literature. Many of the most noted early works of Japanese literature are in this genre. Notable examples include The Pillow Book c. Another noteworthy difference from Europe is that women have traditionally written in Japan, though the more formal, Chinese-influenced writings of male writers were more prized at the time.

This section describes the different forms and styles of essay writing. These forms and styles are used by an array of authors, including university students and professional essayists. The defining features of a "cause and effect" essay are causal chains that connect from a cause to an effect, careful language, and chronological or emphatic order.

A writer using this rhetorical method must consider the subject , determine the purpose , consider the audience , think critically about different causes or consequences, consider a thesis statement, arrange the parts, consider the language , and decide on a conclusion.

Classification is the categorization of objects into a larger whole while division is the breaking of a larger whole into smaller parts. Compare and contrast essays are characterized by a basis for comparison, points of comparison, and analogies. It is grouped by the object chunking or by point sequential. The comparison highlights the similarities between two or more similar objects while contrasting highlights the differences between two or more objects.

Compare and contrast is arranged emphatically. Descriptive writing is characterized by sensory details, which appeal to the physical senses, and details that appeal to a reader's emotional, physical, or intellectual sensibilities. Determining the purpose, considering the audience, creating a dominant impression, using descriptive language, and organizing the description are the rhetorical choices to consider when using a description.

A description is usually arranged spatially but can also be chronological or emphatic. The focus of a description is the scene. Description uses tools such as denotative language, connotative language, figurative language , metaphor , and simile to arrive at a dominant impression. In the dialectic form of the essay, which is commonly used in philosophy , the writer makes a thesis and argument, then objects to their own argument with a counterargument , but then counters the counterargument with a final and novel argument.

This form benefits from presenting a broader perspective while countering a possible flaw that some may present. This type is sometimes called an ethics paper. An exemplification essay is characterized by a generalization and relevant, representative, and believable examples including anecdotes.

Writers need to consider their subject, determine their purpose, consider their audience, decide on specific examples, and arrange all the parts together when writing an exemplification essay.

An essayist writes a familiar essay if speaking to a single reader, writing about both themselves, and about particular subjects. Anne Fadiman notes that "the genre's heyday was the early nineteenth century," and that its greatest exponent was Charles Lamb.

A history essay sometimes referred to as a thesis essay describes an argument or claim about one or more historical events and supports that claim with evidence, arguments, and references. The text makes it clear to the reader why the argument or claim is as such. A narrative uses tools such as flashbacks , flash-forwards , and transitions that often build to a climax.

This hook also leads into the last, or concluding, paragraph. This paragraph should include the following:. A classic format for compositions is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for writing an essay, of course, but it is a useful model for you to keep in mind, especially as you begin to develop your composition skills.

It is used here with his permission. This paragraph should include the following: The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement. This final statement may be a "call to action" in an persuasive paper. A Sample Paper 1 Stephen King, creator of such stories as Carrie and Pet Sematary , stated that the Edgar Allan Poe stories he read as a child gave him the inspiration and instruction he needed to become the writer that he is.

The introductory paragraph includes a paraphrase of something said by a famous person in order to get the reader's attention. The second sentence leads up to the thesis statement which is the third sentence.

The thesis statement sentence 3 presents topic of the paper to the reader and provides a mini- outline. The topic is Poe's use of visual imagery. The mini- outline tells the reader that this paper will present Poe's use of imagery in three places in his writing: The last sentence of the paragraph uses the words "manipulation" and "senses" as transitional hooks. Don't use "I" statements such as "I think.

Simply stating your argument with supporting facts makes you sound much more authoritative. Instead of writing, "I found Frum to have a conservative bias," tell the reader why your statement is true: It's tempting to allow your thoughts to wander or to add additional information that seems interesting. However, this distracts from your purpose and undermines your essay. Make sure you stay on topic!

Come up with a compelling title and introduction. Your title and introduction make people want to read your essay. If your teacher is the audience, then of course your teacher will read the whole piece.

However, if you're submitting to an essay contest or writing an essay for college admissions, your title and introduction have to hook the reader if you want to meet your objectives.

Skip obvious expressions such as, "This essay is about, "The topic of this essay is" or "I will now show that". Try the inverted pyramid formula. Start off with a very broad description of your topic and gradually narrow it down to your specific thesis statement. Try to use no more than 3 to 5 sentences for short essays, and no more than 1 page for longer essays.

Alternatively, you might open with an anecdote or quote that sets up the importance of your topic. Every year, thousands of unwanted and abused animals end up in municipal shelters. Being caged in shelters not only causes animals to suffer but also drains local government budgets.

Towns and cities could prevent both animal abuse and government waste by requiring prospective pet owners to go through mandatory education before allowing them to obtain a pet. Although residents may initially resist the requirement, they will soon see that the benefits of mandatory pet owner education far outweigh the costs. Summarize your points and suggest ways in which your conclusion can be thought of in a larger sense. Answer questions like, "What are the implications of your thesis statement being true?

In a sense, you are repackaging your thesis statement in your concluding paragraph by helping the reader to remember the journey through your essay. Nail the last sentence. If your title and first paragraph make the reader want to read your essay, then your last sentence makes the reader remember you. If a gymnast does a great balance beam routine but falls on the landing, then people forget the routine. Gymnasts need to "stick the landing," and so do essay writers. Wait a day or so and re-read your essay.

Get your essay done a couple of days before the due date so that you have time to go back and revise it to make it polished. Avoid turning in a first draft that you haven't double-checked for errors. Correct errors related to grammar, punctuation and spelling. Consult a style book if you are unsure how to properly use quotation marks, colons, semicolons, apostrophes or commas. Avoid using exclamation points. Make sure you know how to use apostrophes correctly.

Look for mistakes involving general punctuation. Check for run-on sentences , commas and periods inside quotation marks, as well as sparely-used dashes, colons, and semi-colons. Remove any repetitive or unnecessary words. Vary your language with the help of a thesaurus. Also, consult a dictionary to make sure that you're using unfamiliar words correctly.

At the same time, try to keep your language short, sweet, and to the point. A thesaurus is a great tool, but don't just use big words to sound fancy. The best essays are clear, concise, and easily understood by a wide audience. Focus on writing killer verbs for sentences. Verbs communicate the action in a sentence and drive the action. A great verb can be the difference between a bland sentence and a beautiful one.

Adjectives are great descriptive words, but when used indiscriminately, they can burden an essay and make it less readable. Try to let the verbs and nouns do most of the heavy lifting before you focus on adjectives. Avoid colloquial informal writing. Do not use contractions or abbreviations e.

Your essay should have a serious tone, even if it's written in a light or lyrical style. Analyze how your essay flows. Does each sentence lead smoothly to the next? Does each paragraph flow logically to the next?

Although you can analyze your essay by reading through it, it's helpful to make a reverse outline, working from your essay to outline your thoughts. When events happen in sequence: I first started to realize that I was in the minority when I was in middle school My realization was confirmed when I proceeded to high school.

If sentences elaborate on each other: Plants need water to survive A plant's ability to absorb water depends on the nutrition of the soil. When an idea contrasts with another idea: Vegetarians argue that land is unnecessarily wasted by feeding animals to be eaten as food Opponents argue that land being used for grazing would not be able to be used to create any other kind of food. If you're relaying a cause and effect relationship: I will be the first person in my family to graduate from college I am inspired to continue my family's progress through the generations.

When connecting similar ideas: Organic food is thought to be better for the environment. Cut information that's not specifically related to your topic. You don't want your essay to ramble off-topic. Any information that doesn't directly or indirectly support your thesis should be cut out. Have someone read your paper aloud to you. Your ears are sometimes better than your eyes at picking up mistakes in language.

The essay should sound like it has a good flow and understandable words. As an alternative, you can record yourself reading it aloud and play it back. Rewrite any problematic body passages. If needed, rearrange sentences and paragraphs into a different order. Make sure that both your conclusion and introduction match the changes that you make to the body. Compose your essay with a clear purpose. A persuasive essay is designed to sway the reader to adopt your point of view about a topic.

This means it's important that your views are expressed in a clear, concise manner, which allows the reader to understand your argument. These are good examples of persuasive essay topics you might write about: Whether governments should or should not fund embryonic stem cell research. Whether love is a virtue or a vice. Why Citizen Kane is the best movie of the 20th century. Why American citizens should be forced to vote.

Write your essay as though you are conducting a debate. When you speak in a debate, you introduce your topic, list your evidence and draw a conclusion for the people who are listening.

A persuasive essay has a similar structure. Collect facts from good sources to justify your opinions. Support your argument with reasoned facts.

A well-written essay is great, but a well-argued essay is undeniable. In addition to doing research, you can perform empirical experiments including taking surveys, doing interviews or conducting experiments.

Survey results or interviews could be great pieces of information to start your essay with. Tell a story about the facts. Don't just list the facts; tell a story! How would you like to be one of those wrongfully-convicted inmates? Present the other side of your argument and use logic and facts to show why the other side's opinion is either inaccurate or not up-to-date. You're showing the reader you are unbiased and considered the other arguments, but you concluded that your argument is the best.

Time after time, evidence has disproved this theory. The death penalty, in fact, does not act as a deterrent to crime: Tie all your ideas together in a gripping conclusion. Be sure to stress your thesis, or what you are arguing for or against, one last time.

Use some of the information you have discussed, or a story you've saved, to color your conclusion a little bit. Choose a subject for your essay. You'll be investigating a topic and presenting your viewpoint about the topic based on evidence. Research papers usually fall under this category of writing. For example, you could write an expository essay arguing that embryonic stem cell research can lead to cures for spinal cord injuries and illnesses like Parkinson's or diabetes.

Expository essays differ from persuasive essays because you aren't stating an opinion. You're stating facts that you can back up with research. Select your strategy and structure. Some common strategies and structures for expository writing include: Definition essays explain the meaning of terms or concepts. Classification essays organize a topic into groups starting with the most general group and narrowing down to more specific groups.

In this type of essay, you'll describe either the similarities and differences or both between ideas or concepts. These essays explain how topics affect each other and how they are interdependent. How-to essays explain the steps required for completing a task or a procedure with the goal of instructing the reader. Keep your views unbiased. Expository essays aren't about opinions.

They are about drawing a conclusion based on verifiable evidence.


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author's own argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story. Essays have traditionally been sub-classified as formal and informal.

Privacy FAQs

Writing an academic essay means fashioning a coherent set of ideas into an argument. Because essays are essentially linear—they offer one idea at a time—they must present their ideas in the order that makes most sense to a reader. Successfully structuring an essay means attending to a reader's logic.

About Our Ads

Essay A classic format for compositions is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for writing an essay, of course, but it is a useful model for you to keep in mind, especially as you begin to develop your composition skills. The 5-paragraph essay is a model that instructors use to teach students the basic elements of a great essay and is commonly used in standardized testing.

Cookie Info