An essay is a piece of writing which conveys an idea or a subject comprehensively. It can vary in length from a few hundred to thousands of words and you can discuss any subject you want. Essays have different styles and forms but you are often constrained in your choice by the kind of essay you want to write. If your essay is, for instance, about a political opinion like gun rights, etc you will most probably choose to write a persuasive essay with a lot of arguments.
Choosing a Type of Essay
Generally, there are four basic kinds of essays:
- Narrative essays
- Persuasive essays
- Expository essays
- Descriptive essays
1. Narrative Essays
As the name suggests, these essays are like stories. They have linear progress and are straightforward. They have a simple form and structure which is easy to follow and understand. For example, an essay about a journey from one city to another.
2. Persuasive essays
These kinds of essays convince a reader about some opinion or point of view.
3. Expository Essays
These essays explain something. For example, an essay about installing an air conditioner in a home.
4. Descriptive essays
When you want to describe something with a lot of minor details, this is a good format. For example, if you want to write an essay about a local resort like a waterfall, for instance, you will write in a way that gives the reader a feel for the place as if he was there.
Here are a few other essay types which can give you an idea about the structures that are often employed in essay writing:
5. Informative essays
To enlighten your reader about a certain topic with lots of facts and information. For example, an essay about the basics of political science.
6. Compare and contrast essays
In these essays, you identify differences and similarities between two or more subjects that are highly interrelated. For example, an essay about state-guided and open market capitalism.
7. Problem-solution essays
You introduce a problem and then provide a solution to the problem. For example, an essay about pollution and how to reduce it.
8. Argumentative essay
In these kinds of essays, you take an ideological position and then defend it using all kinds of arguments. For example, an essay about introducing basic income for all people.
Once you have decided to write an essay, you start brainstorming for a topic. This can be as simple as deciding something on a fly or it can be a complicated process involving hours or sometimes days of thinking and reflection.
Here are a few suggestions that can help you:
- Make notes. Write down whatever comes into your mind. Writing clears the mind and helps you focus and concentrate. It brings all the things into perspective. This can help you eventually decide what exactly is your essay about.
- Make diagrams. For example, a mind map with your main idea in the center and related topics around it. This is a great aid if you are a visual person.
- Recognize connections between different subjects and topics. This can help you delve deeper.
- Choose a topic that is neither too broad nor too narrow. If it’s too broad, you will be unable to comprehensively address it. If it’s too narrow, you will have problems in finding information about it.
For example if you are writing a history essay world history would not be a very good topic - it’s too broad. You could write an encyclopedia about it. A better topic will be the history of a certain country from its inception like America for example.
Search for related information on the internet. Ask people around you who might be better informed on the topic. When you are doing research, make notes. This helps to keep things in order and makes it easier for you to cite sources when you need them. Read academic books or journals if you need to. They are often the best sources of reliable information. Critically evaluate all the information you have so that your sources are free of error or outdated information, etc.
Create a Thesis
The thesis is the main point of your essay condensed into a single sentence. Jot down the main points of your research and try to condense them into one or two sentences. This will give you a thesis statement. Your essay will be built around this. For example, your main argument can be that “coal power plants are causing too much pollution”. You will use this statement as the main building block for your entire essay. All your arguments will point towards this thesis and the entire structure of your essay will lead back to this main statement.
Write an Outline
In order to write a good essay, you need an outline. Even if you know all the details by heart, things remain jumbled and disorganized in your head. To organize them into a logical structure that is continuous and builds the argument well, you need to jot down key points in an orderly manner. For instance, you can organize your essay in bullet points with each point, giving a little detail about a paragraph of your essay.
Draft Your Essay
After you have created an outline, it’s time to start writing. Follow your outline and don’t deviate too much. In this way, your essay will remain organized and continuous. It's important to start your essay with a catching phrase or statement that can capture the reader’s attention and hook him in. This is very important because your first sentence leaves a deep impression on the reader. It can determine whether he will read more or not.
Here are some more points to keep in mind when writing an essay:
- Keep making edits and re-read your paragraphs after finishing. This will decrease the number of mistakes and errors.
- Write in clear and succinct sentences. Look for discontinuities and remove them.
- Your paragraphs should start with a sentence that summarizes the paragraph. This will make your essay more organized. Use transition sentences and words like “Similarly”, “As a result”, “Subsequently”, “Therefore” etc to join paragraphs together.
- After you have written your essay, write a killer conclusion for it, that conveys your main idea powerfully to the reader's mind and leaves him with a lasting impression.
Revise your essay
When your essay is complete, take a nap or go for a walk to freshen up your mind. This will help you look at your essay from a new perspective. Your mind will be less cluttered and you will easily identify many errors and mistakes.
Look for technical errors first; if some information is wrong, such as some date or name, correct it. Remove spelling and punctuation errors. Read it again and correct grammatical mistakes.
Your goal should be to make your essay as clear as possible. If there is any excessive wordiness in some paragraphs or sentences, rewrite them. Look for vague sentences and make them more clear and meaningful. If there is any information that serves no purpose, remove it from the essay. If in some paragraphs your tone is casual or inappropriate, make it more formal.
Writing an essay might seem like a daunting task but the kind of freedom you experience is almost impossible to find anywhere else but too much freedom sometimes means no freedom at all. You have huge possibilities to choose from and you are dumbfounded. That is why it is always a good idea to constrain yourself by your own rules. Once you have decided something, try to follow its spirit to the core. You will find out that eventually, your writing will come out better than you expected.