Essay Writing 101

Posted on Posted in Tips Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you are all doing great! Today, I'll be kicking off a series of entries talking about essays. There's a lot to talk about them: trust me, but I will strive to cover all the sub-topics as accurate as possible, always hoping they become helpful for you.

So, what's an essay? It is a piece of writing which talks about a certain topic. That's probably the simplest way to explain it. However, just like that, it may be confused with an article, and perhaps even a pamphlet (of which we will also talk in the future). So let's talk a bit more about essays, so we can get a more clear idea. Essays can be either formal or informal, even though, most of the times, they are formal. However, the most peculiar attribute of essays is what they expose: an argument.

Whenever you write an essay, you need to keep in mind that whatever topic you choose, it must be something debatable. Nobody would read an article about 'why is water wet'. That's a fact, which is good, but it is not something arguable. It will always get you wet, everybody knows that. Essays talk about topics which might have differing opinions among people, especially your readers. Therefore, the idea of the essay is to allow the writer to explain their ideas in favor or against one side of the argument. Also, the essay wants to convince your audience that what you say is true.

The purpose of the essay is to provide arguments to your reader, which will support your thesis statement. The thesis statement is the core idea of your essay, whatever it is that you are supporting or against of, expressed in a single sentence. It is what you are going to argue about (spare the all caps, is not a rant we are writing). A thesis statement will be followed by a series of topic sentences, with which you will further explain your thesis statement. Both of these elements are going to be further explained in future entries, because there is too much to talk about each of them. Let's focus completely in essays in general for this time.

Essays can also be classified, depending on how the arguments are presented, or how they relate to the topic you are talking about. This is very important to note, because it doesn't only limit how you would display your arguments, but it also narrows the topics you can talk about, depending on the type of essay. The most popular ones are Cause and Effect, Compare and Contrast, Argumentative, Classification. However, there are plenty of others, and we will get to all of them when the time is right.

Essays are the most popular type of writing for Academic Writing. For these, essays will always have to be formal, which mean they will talk about a serious topic, and will try to inform or convince the audience of something. In this context, there is a series of "rules" you need to keep in mind whenever you are writing an Academic Essay:

  • Always use third person. Third person is the correct way to present your ideas. Even though they are yours, and you are presenting them, you should never write "I". However, you cannot say "The student John Jones of That University" either. Just express your ideas as if you were stating them as a fact. "Abortion shouldn't be legalized", for instance, instead of "I don't support abortion", or "I don't think abortion should be legalized".
  • Cite your sources. This is EXTREMELY important. Whenever you provide information in your essay that you cannot assure, but you rather found them in someone else's work, you need to cite them properly, in order to give credit to them, and avoiding plagiarism. I will talk about plagiarism, too, in the future.
  • Use correct grammar and punctuation. This might be a little obvious, and perhaps even redundant, but it's important to state it anyways.
  • Use the correct format. Each type of essay has its own format, or your teacher will provide you with the structure they want your essay to follow. It is very important you follow them carefully, so your paper can deliver. Also, you should have in mind the citation standard you should be using for your essay (APA, to mention one).

One good thing to keep in mind when writing an essay is that your audience is reading your essay for a reason: whether it is someone who ends up reading it casually, or your teacher or piers due to an assignment, it is important to keep in mind your reader will see you as an expert on the topic you are talking about. This is not a random talk about the high tuition of colleges nowadays that was brought up in a conversation among friends: this is an essay, a paper. Whoever reads it, will think you spend enough time researching about the topic, learning not only the ideas in favor (which are the ones you support), but also the ones you are against. You shouldn't only research three similitudes or differences between two topics (in a Compare and Contrast Essay). Rather, you should be aware of as many of them as possible, so you can select the most relevant one (and maybe even combine them). On the same page, you need to show yourself sure of what you're saying, in order to convince your audience that you actually became an expert on the topic, so you could be able to talk about it.

I want to apologize for the amount of topics I didn't talk about this time, and just said I will in the future. Essays is a really deep topic, and there is a lot to talk about. I hope you can bare with me on this one. Thank you very much for tuning in. I hope these tips have been helpful for you. Let me know if it is easy for you to write essays, or if these tips actually helped you understand essays better. See you on the next one!

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