Writing is thinking on paper.- William Zinnser Definition of Essay: –An essay is a formal, structured piece of writing that makes a statement on a topic or question, and it supports this statement throughout with information and ideas.
What is a formal, structured writing? Formal writing is the opposite of the way you talk to your friends. It is not personal or friendly. It is reserved, structured and serious. Since essays are lengthy, they are structured or organized to help the reader follow you.
Structure of writing First, you tell your reader what you are going to write about. This is your introduction. Then, you write about it. This is your body. Finally, you tell your reader what you have written. This is your conclusion.
What is a thesis statement? This is a short, direct response to the essay question. It states one clear idea. It is generally one sentence. It ties your whole essay together. It comes in the first paragraph which is called the introduction.
The thesis statement is mandatory! If you don’t have a thesis statement you don’t have an essay! A thesis statement is where you tell your reader what you are going to write.
Supporting your statement You support your thesis statement in the body of the essay by expanding on your statement. You prove it, explain it, or discuss it. The body is the main section of your essay. You will usually have several paragraphs in the body of the essay.
Conclusion The conclusion is the last paragraph of your essay. It is a restatement of the topic or thesis, but should be the exact same words.
Why do we write essays? To show what you think about a topic To show what you know about a topic To show that you can use what you know to support and develop your ideas and opinions You are trying to convince your reader that you are right or at least that your point of view is reasonable!
Don’t write essays like you talk Do not write about personal feelings or experiences in an essay. In order to convince the reader, you need to sound sensible and logical. Do not use slang or informal language. You write essays for your teachers or unknown readers, not your friends.
Kinds of Essays Essays may be written to: 1. explain something 2. discuss ideas 3. describe something 4. compare and contrast two things 5. to trace the history of something 6. take a stand and argue your point
Fact and Opinion Some essays are a combination of fact and opinion. Most essays in history or geography are mostly about facts. But even in these essays, you must interpret facts, bring facts together and make statements about them. It is not just a list of facts. That would be a report.
Essay Questions— What are they asking you to do? Look for instruction verbs, such as: Describe Compare and contrast Explain Argue Analyze Discuss
Describe Give details about the features or characteristics of something These questions ask you- “Who is” and “what are” questions Example—Describe the significant battles of the Texas Revolution
Compare and Contrast Identify and discuss the similarities or differences between two or more things Example: What are the advantages of PCs compared to Macs? What are the similarities and differences between PCs and Macs? Compare and contrast Spanish Texas to Mexican Texas.
Explain To make plain To examine the reasons, causes and/or effects Examples: –How did the law allowing empresario contracts change Texas? –What were the causes of the Texas Revolution?
Argue Argue one side of a given point of view (This means you take a side, but show that you understand the other side, too.) Example: –Do you agree or disagree that Spain had a lasting impact on Texas? –What do you think was the most important period of Texas history?
Discuss Give points for and against a point of view, and come to a conclusion at the end of your essay based on these points. Example: –What are the points for and against slavery in Texas? –Is it true that Texas was better off as a republic than it was as a state of Mexico? –What are the pros and cons for having Sam Houston as the president of Texas?
The Introduction The introduction is like a signpost pointing the way, so your reader does not get lost in the “forest” of your ideas! The introduction is a paragraph, not just a sentence. –A paragraph has a topic sentence, a few explanatory sentences and a concluding sentence. –An Essay has an introductory paragraph, a few paragraphs making your point, and a concluding paragraph.
The Introduction restates the essay question It does not contain details of your essay points. The details go in the body of your essay or the middle paragraphs. Without an introduction, you really don’t have an essay.
A Useful Pattern for your introduction 1. One or two sentences that set the context for your essay—the lead-in 2. The thesis statement which is the statement on the essay question which ties the whole essay together 3. One or two sentences which show the reader how you are going to develop the statement in the body paragraphs-the preview
Break it down The Lead-In: Gives you some background or context for your essay The Thesis Statement: Directly relates to the Essay Question The Preview or “essay map”: indicates what is to follow in the body paragraphs
How this all looks: Introduction –Lead In: 1 to 2 sentences –Thesis Statement: Responds to the question or gives the topic statement of the essay: 1 sentence –Preview: shows the reader where you are going with your body paragraphs: 1 to 2 sentences
Body Paragraphs These paragraphs each state a point of your argument, description or explanation and proves it or develops the description or explanation. Each body paragraph has a topic sentence, which will be your stated point, and several sentences of explanation which you use to explain your position.
Conclusion The conclusion is the least emphasized part of your essay. In the introduction, you have stated your topic and stated your position.You have also pointed out what you will explain. In the body paragraphs, you develop your points with supporting information, giving reasons for your argument or more detail for your explanation. Your conclusion is a short restatement of the topic, wrapping up your position.
In conclusion, The conclusion reminds the reader why you wrote the essay, what you wrote in it, or what your main idea was throughout the essay. It gives the reader a chance to read a “wrap up” of the essay. It never introduces any new points or includes any detail.
Connecting Your Sentences and Paragraphs Use transition words to connect sentences together and paragraphs to each other to help the flow of your ideas. Some of these words are: also, in addition, furthermore, besides, likewise, so, therefore, then, consequently, in fact, in particular, next, first, secondly, finally, in conclusion, however, nevertheless, in contrast, instead, otherwise, yet
Use the right kind of language Avoid personal terms like “I, me and my” Your focus is not on you, but on your ideas and information –Examples of what to avoid: In my opinion, I think that, I am going to tell you is That is what I think
Spelling Spelling mistakes distract the reader from what you are saying. They give a bad impression because they show lack of effort. Use dictionaries, computer spell checks and your parents to proofread your work.
Punctuation and Grammar Both punctuation and grammar help us express exactly what we mean and help the reader understand what we write. This is particularly important in long and formal writings where the thoughts are complex. If you want to be taken seriously, you must write using the accepted writing practices of correct punctuation and grammar.
Complete Sentences—nothing but complete sentences! Proofread your work for complete sentences, and correct run-on sentences or fragments. Proofread for spelling, punctuation, grammar. Proofread for clarity to be sure you are staying on point, proving your point, and making sense. Revise that which does not make sense or sounds awkward.
In a good essay, a reader could read only the introduction and topic sentences and still have a very good idea of your argument or the point of your essay. Therefore, creating a good thesis statement or topic statement is very important.
Outline, Write, Edit, Rewrite A good essay will take time. It is necessary to follow these steps. When asked to write an essay for a test, you will only have time to outline and write. Writing good essays takes practice.