Writers' Treasure Academic Writing How to Write an Essay — Part I

How to Write an Essay — Part I

Anyone can write an essay, right?

Of course anyone can.

Anyone can write an essay — it is true. Even a 10-year-old can write one (well, I wrote them in school those days). But how about writing a good essay. A good essay is effective. It has a purpose. It is written with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. It has an idea in it. And it is a pleasure to read.

In An Introduction to Academic Writing I wrote some pointers on how to write essays. Let’s face it, though, they were very basic and those tips were, after all, just an ‘introduction.’ How about the full stuff?

So how do you write these types of essays? Is it insanely hard? Or ridiculously easy?

Not at all. It’s not hard — but it’s not easy either. Let’s see how to write these fantastic essays…

The definition of ‘essay’

The word ‘essay’ comes from the French infinitive ‘essayer’ which means attempt. By rights, you’re attempting to create a piece of writing which, according to Wikipedia, is often written from “the author’s”—yours—point of view. An essay has also been described as a prose composition with a focused subject of discussion. So let’s improve the definition. An essay is a piece of writing, an attempt to write upon a focused subject, and which is often written from the author’s point of view.

Now we know the definition. Let’s learn how many types of essays there are:

Types of essays

At a basic level, Daily Writing Tips says that there are two kinds of essays: literary essays and school essays. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find that there are subcategories as well.

All types of school or literary essays aren’t the same. So now we have these categories to file our essays under. These categories are:

  • Descriptive essay
  • Imaginative essay
  • Narrative essay
  • Dialectic essay
  • Critical essays

As you can see there are many types of essays. Let’s just give you a quick definition on what each type of essay means:

  • Descriptive essay: The most basic type of essay. In this, you have to describe what is given in the topic, describe the happenings, the smell or the taste, the feelings, the hopes, anything which they expect. You get the idea. You have to write an account of what happened. To make reading the descriptive essay more pleasurable, devices such as simile, metaphor, analogy and figurative language are used. Examples of these types of essays include: My Home, The Zoo, The Postman, The Farmer, etc.
  • Imaginative essay: In this kind of essay, you imagine that you are something or someone else and write from his point of view. For eg. If the topic is given If I were the headmaster of my school… then you have to write from the point of view from the headmaster. You’d say that if I were the headmaster, I would really take the school to new heights (okay, don’t write that, it was just an idea). I would bring this and that improvements and eradicate that and these bad practices. Just finish it with a logical conclusion, and hey, presto! You’ve written an imaginative essay. Examples of these kinds of essays include: If there wasn’t any rain, If I were a butterfly, If I were a cat, etc.

In the imaginative kinds of essays you find a subcategory called autobiographical essays. In this you are given a topic such as “The Autobiography of a Watch” and you have to write a small but detailed autobiography of it. Yes, that means referencing to you as the watch in the first person and narrating all the happenings and the stories of the watch. For e.g. The Autobiography of an Old House, The Autobiography of a Pen, etc.

  • Narrative essays: These essays are similar to stories. In these kinds of essays, you are given a topic such as “Two Hours in the Science Exhibition”. You have to narrate what happened in the science exhibition, all the stories, incidents, and projects, whatever. In short you have to narrate what happened. As this is similar to what a true story is, these essays are called narrative essays. For e.g. An Hour Spent at the Railway Station, Two Hours Spent at the Zoo, What Happened on My Last Vacation, etc.
  • Dialectic essays: In these essays, you have to propose an argument, then argue it with another argument (also called a counterargument) and in the end, finally knock down the counterargument with some novel words and make your original argument true. These essays remind of lawyers, a bit. For e.g. Rote Method and Understanding learning, etc.
  • Critical essays: These essays are also called argumentative essays. For these essays, structure is extremely important, and research and analysis are also required. You are also expected to have strong internal logic and sharp structure, according to Wikipedia. In these essays, you write upon one particular subject or argument and point out all its positives and negatives. In the end, by logical arguments, you reach the conclusion and point out that the argument is true/false and well, you’ve written these critical essays. (I actually didn’t know they were called critical essays. From when I was taught them, they were argumentative for me, because they comprise of arguments, no matter how cool and calm). For e.g. Internet surfing (browsing) advantages and disadvantages.

Now… how do I write an essay?

Phew! So these were the types of essays. Let’s now begin to write an essay, beginning from the topic, then moving on to debate of outlining, then the introduction, then the main body, the writing, then the conclusion and the end. Seems fantastic. But oh… this article is far too much long already. So what are we to do? Make a Part II, of course! It will be up soon, so…

Stay tuned for How to Write an Essay — Part II in which we go to down to the essay writing nitty-gritty and be on our way to awesomeness.

Liked this post? There are more coming soon. You seriously have only two options left by now: subscribe to Writers’ Treasure by RSS or email, or just read the fantastic Writers’ Treasure Archives.

9 thoughts on “How to Write an Essay — Part I”

  1. I just bought Phillip Lopate’s “The Art of the Personal Essay.” (1995, Anchor Books), which is an essay form you do not list. In his introduction, Lopate states “the personal essayist is not necessarily out to win the audience’s unqualified love but to present the complex portrait of a human being.” Later he says “the essay form allows the writer to circle around one particular autobiographical piece, squeezing all possible meaning out of it, while leaving the greater part of his life story available for later milking.”

    Into which essay category do you place the person essay?

    1. I think I just forgot the personal essay. Thanks for making me realize that there were more categories in essays. I’ll be sure to update the article. The Art of the Personal Essay sounds interesting, I’ll look into this new category. Thanks again.

  2. There are so many varieties of essays, and I thought it was incredibly difficult to master. But really, the more writing experience you get, the better you know the types of essays.
    Thank you, this article is very informative and definitely helps you understand the art of essay writing.

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