Essay Definition

Essay Definition

Well, beyond a jumble of words usually around 2,000 words or so – what is an essay, exactly?

Essays are one form of writing; the most common for school and college work. The purpose of essays is to get people thinking about certain topics and present new ideas to them. Of course, this varies between types of essays (literary analysis vs. opinionated).

Many things can be written as an essay; from opinion pieces to theoretical questions; from book reports to personal stories. The word “essay,” itself comes from the French verb “séssayer,” which means “to try.” So basically, you’re trying out a new idea with your essay in an attempt to present your views and thoughts on the topic. Essays may be written about practically anything, depending of course on the interests and knowledge of the author. Essay topics can range from one word (e.g., “war”) to more complicated questions or ideas (e.g., “How does Herman Melville’s Moby Dick explore religion through its characters?”) Essays usually provide reasoning and support for an argument and come in different forms: expository essays explain ideas; persuasive essays try to convince readers to agree with a point of view; literary analysis essays present critical reviews on particular works of literature; descriptive essays give vivid accounts of events or experiences; personal experience essays share details about authors’ lives.

Essay writing can be done in many different ways. Essay writing is unique because you have the freedom to choose what your essay will be about, how long it will be, and what style or format it will use. Essay writers usually decide on a topic that they find interesting enough to write an entire essay about based on their own personal experiences and interests. Essay writers also must think of a thesis – a clear statement of the argument being made in the essay – as well as supporting details for this argument. Essay writers use facts, examples, explanations, reasons, and other evidence to support their position. Essay writers then organize these details into separate paragraphs which help move the reader through the writer’s train of thought or pattern of reasoning (this is called a “thesis-supporting paragraph”). Essay writers also need to organize their ideas in the best order possible. Essay writers usually do this by using a number of different essay structures depending on the assignment and topic they are writing about.

Essays may follow a standard format or be written without a pattern, with free-form essays being an example of that. Essay writers may choose to use one specific kind of structure for each essay, such as creating 5-7 paragraphs which involve some combination of an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Essay writers may find it helpful to outline their ideas before they begin writing so that they can organize them in an effective way – some choose to do this in the form of a graphic organizer. Essay writers may choose to use quotations, paraphrases, and summary when writing their essays. Essay writers may also add visual aids such as charts or graphs when appropriate.

A final characteristic that some essay types share is that they are written with specific audiences in mind. Essays written for college admissions are different than those written for history class; which are different than those written for an assignment on how to make pizza (and yes, some essays ARE about pizza). Essays can be tailored to specific audiences by using certain words or targeting certain points; however, remember that every audience consists of individuals who want you to respect their intelligence and attention span – so don’t insult them!

Essay writing is an important skill to learn and not just for those who want to pursue a career as writers or journalists. Essays are written in school, outside of school, for class assignments and personal pursuits – so it’s critical that people know how to write them well. Essay writing can help improve your ability to think critically, read analytically, and express yourself clearly – all skills that will be useful throughout life.


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