Essay Writing Guide
The format of the essay is often shortened to:
– Say what you are going to say (introduction)
– Say it (body)
– Say what you have said (conclusion)
Let’s look more deeply into the details of essay writing.
The need or desire to write an essay comes from one of the two following sources.
- The topic has been assigned.
- The topic has been chosen.
In either of the above cases the writer must decide whether the essay is to be:
Educational: The purpose of the essay is to teach new information to the reader
Persuasive: The purpose of the essay is to provide an alternate view to that of the reader
Once the decision has been made regarding the topic of your essay, and whether it is to be educational or persuasive, it is time to start creating a list of the information that you want to include. This information will come from a variety of sources, including what you already know, and what you have decided you have to learn from source material, including books, encyclopedias, stories, poems, videos etc. When you find something that you want to include, make special note of the source so that it can be entered in a citation or bibliography. There are different views on whether the introduction should be written first or after the body has been completed. I prefer to write the introduction first, then look it over and adapt it, if need be, after I have completed the body of the essay.
The introduction should be of interest to the reader and make the reader want to read further. An anecdote, a quote, some surprising information or facts or a short humorous line or two will often be of benefit to interest the reader and grab the reader’s attention. The introduction will also provide a short summary of the goal the writer has in his writing.
From the list, already prepared, the writer should decide which points to include in the essay. Each point should be expanded into a separate paragraph. The paragraphs should be arranged in a logical, easy to follow order, that will make sense to the reader. Keep in mind that you must include any information that the reader must know to fully understand what you are saying. Be aware of the level of your readers. It is often a good idea to decide upon the two most important points/paragraphs, and use those two points, one as the first and the other as the last points in the body. You want to start strong and finish strong.
If the purpose of your essay is of a persuasive nature, that is to convince your reader that your view is correct, you may want to include a paragraph that will counter common beliefs that reader likely has.
The conclusion should be used to reinforce the introduction and contain a final view of the subject.
It is very important that you reread your entire essay to correct any errors. Pay special attention to spelling, tense continuity, subject-verb agreement and other minor grammatical problems. Be aware that auto correct programs are sometimes in error. Make certain that all sentences flow smoothly into the next sentence. You may want to change the word order from the standard Subject – Verb – Object, to add a little variety to your writing.
I recently discovered an article on MSN from Reader’s Digest. Although it refers to email writing, it could be of great help in improving your essays. The link will be at the bottom.
Common Essay, and Email Writing Problems
- Misspelling words: As mentioned before, spell check can help. Consider loading a spell check and/or grammar check program. This does NOT mean you should no longer re-read your essay or email.
- Unnecessary repetition of the same word: Become accustomed to using a thesaurus, but be careful, words often have a variety of meanings. Make certain the word you use means what you want it to mean.
- Boring Vocabulary: Again, a thesaurus will be of great help here. Words like “good” and “nice” are boring, consider using words that are more expressive (stunning, amazing, awesome will add to your essay).
- While misspelling names in emails may be considered rude, in essays misspelling names is inexcusable.
- Capitalization: If you are unsure of the rules of capitalization, there are numerous books and websites that will assist you in learning the necessary rules.
- Passive vs Active Voice: Learn the active and passive voice and when to use them. Using the correct voice can help in achieving clarity and variety in your writing.
- The Oxford Comma: Misuse can lead to mistakes in the reader’s perception of what you are attempting to convey.
- Final Punctuation: While it is usually acceptable to omit final punctuation in text messaging, and sometimes in emails, for formal emails and all essays, final punctuation is mandatory.
- Capitalization: Take care in capitalizing all proper pronouns.
- Filler words: Filler words and phrases (on the whole, in a nutshell, basically etc.) are a waste of space and add nothing.
- Use numbers correctly: There are times to use numerals and times to use letters. Learn the rules.
- Pronoun references: Be careful, “Tom saw his friend and he was angry.” Who was angry, Tom or his friend?
- Comma Splices: Don’t join two sentences using a comma. Use a period or a semicolon.
- Missing Commas: Spell check won’t find this error. Learn when to use a comma.
- Wordy Sentences: If a sentence can’t be said in one easy breath, it is likely too long. Consider rewording the sentence or make it into two or more sentences.