It doesn’t matter what level of school you’re at, you will need to write some time of essay. We get asked a lot, what is an essay? We are here to explain what it is and describe the different types of essays and writing styles.
What is an Essay?
The word ‘Essay’ may have overlapping definitions due to its close likeness to articles and short stories. However, there are some features that set an essay apart from the two. Typically, an essay is a short piece of writing covering a single subject and is usually built on an author’s perception that may or may not be backed up by research.
‘Essay’ is derived from Essai, a French word that roughly translates to experiment or attempt. It is therefore written to try to convince readers into buying the author’s ideology or simply educate them. Although essays are known for their brevity, some may be as long as conventional articles.
Examples of essays are literary criticisms, recollections, political manifestos, personal arguments or observations derived from daily life.
Components of an Essay
An essay has three major parts:
1. An Introduction
The introduction gives the reader a glimpse of what the entire article is all about. It is usually written in a catchy manner to grab the reader’s attention and lure them into reading the rest of the essay. Arguments in the introduction of an essay are presented in the form of a thesis statement.
This forms the middle section of the essay and is where the author’s main ideas, arguments, and research work are nested. The body may have multiple paragraphs, sub-headings, and any other appropriate structural formatting.
Gives a brief summary of the main points of the essay. It wraps up what had been discussed in the piece without leaving the reader dissatisfied or in suspense.
Different Types of Essays
Essays are usually written in different styles. The style that an author chooses is often inspired by their motivation behind writing the piece. Is the writer trying to describe or explain something, persuade readers to believe in their viewpoint on a given topic, or are they simply writing about personal experiences and observations?
The following are some of the different types of essays:
1. Descriptive Essays
A descriptive essay is written in such a way that it describes the main points of the essay topic in a manner that is easily comprehended by the reader. Think of a descriptive essay as the use of words to try and paint a picture in the reader’s mind.
A well written descriptive essay is one that enables the reader to feel, hear, see, taste or smell what the writer is describing. The essay might be about the description of a person, object, place, a situation or an occasion.
A descriptive essay should be geared towards showing rather than telling. Persuasive words and sensory details are employed to enable the reader to clearly see the writer’s point of view. To achieve this, writers utilize every small aspect to create an exciting description of the subject matter without leaving anything to the reader’s imagination.
A great descriptive essay must succeed in capturing the reader’s emotions and visualization to achieve highly evocative results.
2. Narrative Essays
A narrative essay makes excellent use of storytelling, usually about real-life experiences. This type of essay is often written in the first person and enables the reader to vividly see events and happenings as the writer is narrating them. The use of the first person voice in narrative essays is particularly quite effective because the reader is actively engaged and invariably gets the feeling that they are part of the story.
To write an excellent narrative essay, you have to be a good storyteller. This means being able to excite the reader and elicit emotions that make them strongly relate to your viewpoint on a given subject. Although a narrative essay may be likened to a short story, they are not the same things. A narrative essay is non-fiction, to begin with. It tells a narrative about real life happenings rather than fictitious things.
A narrative essay may be about your personal experiences or those of others. It may also be about an important event or even situations.
3. Expository Essays
Unlike a narrative, expository essays focus more on facts rather than personal opinions. This kind of essay is tailored to providing information to the reader using facts, in-depth analysis, statistics and relatable examples. The purpose of an expository essay is to ‘expose’ things in great details so that readers comprehend them as clearly as possible.
In an expository essay, the writer may or may not express personal opinions or feelings, and the first person voice is hardly used. To write a credible expository essay, you need to do a ton of research, especially if the topic is unfamiliar. This research enables you to evaluate issues exhaustively and draw a reasonable conclusion.
Expository essays are used to help students learn both basic and advanced research skills. They are usually longer than other types of essays and much harder to write.
4. Informative Essays
An informative essay focuses on educating the reader about a particular subject. The main purpose is to provide the reader with new and helpful information to improve their understanding of a given topic.
Informative essays are often confused with or likened to expository essays. In fact, some writers will tell you that they are the same things. This confusion is sprouted by the fact that both of them closely serve the role of feeding the reader with information.
However, a thin line exists between an informative essay and an expository essay. For instance, an expository essay uses more authoritative and persuasive language as compared to the more casual and friendlier informative essay. Additionally, personal opinions, which may be capitalized on in an expository essay are not encouraged in an informative essay. The writer is only allowed to inform the reader and nothing more.
5. Argumentative Essays
At the core of any argumentative essay is an argument that a writer is trying to get across to a reader. An argumentative essay is intended to vividly express an argument on a given topic to make the reader see things as the writer sees them.
These essays make good use of authoritative language, credible facts, and blatant examples to prove the immaculateness of the argument. Using sketchy facts and propaganda will cripple the credibility of your essay and render it irrelevant.
To be a reputable argumentative writer, you must have an infallible sense and understanding of what you believe is the right thing to do or say in a given situation. You must form your idea in such a way that it can be confidently articulated so as not to be easily dismissed by opposing opinions.
An argumentative essay must have a strong introduction that immediately relays your idea without beating about the bush. The conclusion should succeed in summing up your argument and leaving the reader with no reason to disagree with you.
6. Persuasive Essays
A persuasive essay is purposed to achieve only one goal: persuade the reader to subscribe to the author’s point of view. This happens to be one of the most challenging essays to write. Unlike an argumentative essay, a persuasive essay tries to change or manipulate the reader’s perspective.
Without confidence and solid authority in your writing, making readers change their attitudes or viewpoints on a certain topic is not an easy task. Writers of persuasive essays must, therefore, strive to remain credible, believable and knowledgeable in the eyes of the reader. Otherwise, you will easily lose the reader’s attention and interest.
When writing a persuasive essay, you must take caution not to strike the reader as being pushy. You have to use carefully selected words that persuade the reader without giving them the impression that you are overly desperate or aggressive.
Persuasions are more easily achieved verbally than when written. That is why excellent persuasive essays are hard to write. They lack the charm and personal connection that comes with verbal persuasion.
Tips on How to Write Better Essays
Many writers and especially students, dread the task of writing an essay. Depending on what you are writing, coherent articulation of ideas, arguments or information is essential. Some types of essays are more challenging than others to write. However, the writing format and skills needed with most of them are universally the same.
Below are some tips to help you write compelling essays:
1. Pick a great topic
You may or may not be given a topic to write on. Not being provided with an essay topic will burden you with the task of looking for one. However, this is advantageous in that you have the freedom to pick one that you are well versed and have some interest in.
When picking a topic, you must first consider the primary purpose of your essay. Is it to persuade or inform the reader or are you looking to present an argument?
First, you will have to come up with a list of topics that you would love to write about. Analyze your list carefully and strip it to one main subject that you believe will be perfect for presenting your ideas in an essay.
The kind of topic you settle on should be attached to the purpose of your essay. For example, if you want to educate the reader, you might want to go with a topic that has already been researched and written about. If you aim to persuade and make the reader buy your argument, you should write on a subject that you are passionate about or have in-depth knowledge on.
If you are given the opportunity, do not just choose a topic for the sake of picking one. It must be something that you can relate to and are confident that you can write a credible essay on.
2. Outline your main ideas or points
Coming up with a coherent and well-articulated essay requires that your thoughts are well organized. Making an outline will enable you to see things differently and come up with additional ideas and facts. This is not likely to happen if you just start writing haphazardly.
An outline is like the skeleton or backbone of your essay. Without it, you are likely to run out of valuable points and risk writing irrelevant things or even experience a writer’s block.
To write an outline, begin by writing your essay subject at the top of a blank page or a piece of paper. You can alternatively type it on a computer screen or use pre-formed templates, but jotting down on paper has been shown to be more effective.
Under the subject, write a list of your main points or ideas. Leave some space under each of them where you will come back and list smaller concepts that are related to the major one.
3. Write a captivating introduction and thesis statement
The thesis statement describes the main idea of your essay in a nutshell. A thesis statement usually states the topic of your piece and its purpose.
Aside from clearly stating your thesis statement, you should also write an introduction that captivates the reader and makes them want to read the rest of the essay without hesitation. A bad or boring introduction will easily scare the reader away. You might have an excellent essay in general, but if the opening does not immediately capture the attention of the reader, they may end up not reading it.
Begin your introduction with surprising facts, a provoking question or an attention-grabbing quote. Remember that your introduction should stem from your thesis statement and complement the main points.
4. The body of your essay
Your main points and ideas are housed in the body of your essay. This is where you present your arguments, persuade or educate the reader using appropriate language and tone. The main ideas that you wrote in your outline will be expanded and written in details in the body of your essay.
Start with your main ideas and most cogent arguments. Use short sentences and brief paragraphs so as not to bore the reader easily. Complement your main ideas with the supportive ones creatively and excitingly. Purpose to hold the reader’s attention throughout your essay. Note that a single flimsy point or a weak argument can turn them off.
5. Write a satisfying conclusion
Leaving the reader hanging can be dangerous. If you want your essay to be compelling, make sure that the conclusion wraps up your ideas to the satisfaction of the audience. Provide your final thought on the topic and challenge the readers to take a particular action, for example, believe your arguments or give in to your persuasion. Most importantly, make the conclusion short, clear and satisfying.
While writing an essay may seem like a backbreaking task, you won’t have lots of problems if you have a firm understanding of your topic. The kind of writing style you are going to use is mainly dependent on your subject. Make sure that you go with a writing style that will enable you to present your points seamlessly without any struggle.