Essay Writing Tips
Updated: Jun 9
Essay writing is indeed one of the most challenging activities yet an important component of academic learning. Effective essay writing is not just about putting down random words on paper, but a skill whose content is guided by clear objective. Essays measure creativity and the ability of students to tackle issues in a concise manner. In order to write an outstanding essay, it important for you as a student to understand the various types of essay writing styles as well as the general structure of an essay.
The four Types of Essays
Although there are other creative essays without instructional guidelines, this post will only focus on the 4 types of essay writing styles that are common in academic writing. They are; persuasive essays, expository essays, descriptive essays and narrative essays. Understanding their differences and what is expected of each style will not only help you avoid common writing mistakes, but also boost your essay writing skills.
1. Persuasive Essays
Derived from the term ‘persuade’, persuasive essays do exactly that. The intention of writing a persuasive essay is to convince the reader to believe your argument. This is achieved through use of rhetoric methods such as logos, ethos and pathos. For instance, a student required to write a persuasive essay supporting the idea that bullying affects self-esteem of affected children would be expected to create a strong argumentative essay in which they defend their reasoning with facts.
Characteristics of persuasive essays
Written in either first or third person
Presented as an argument/ debate
Employs the use of opinions as points in an argument
Normally compares and contrasts
Backed with logical reasoning and credible sources
Can follow a 4 or 5 paragraph structure
2. Expository essays
The objective of expository essays is to reveal fresh information regarding a particular topic of interest. The writer is expected to teach and present new information by revealing their findings and expressing the significance of the newly found information. A good example is writing an expository paper on the effect of social media on kids.
Characteristics of expository essays
Generally follows a five-paragraph structure
Strict adherence to presentation of facts
Written in third person point of view
Establishes causes and effects
Presents solutions to the problem
3. Descriptive essays
Descriptive essay is an essay writing style that requires the student to describe something- person, place, situation, experience or even emotion using the five common senses i.e., smell, touch, sight, sound and taste. For instance, a student may be asked to write a descriptive essay about the beach. It would be upon the student to paint a picture of the beach in a way that even someone who has never been to the beach can get a vivid understanding of the experience.
Characteristics of Descriptive essays
Can be written in first, second or third person tone
Require strong descriptive skills as well as creative writing
The five common senses are used to provide details
Usually follows 3 – 5 paragraph structure
Its sole objective is to describe something or an idea
4, Narrative Essays
Narrative essays are a bit different in the sense that the writer is in control of the content and its flow. Unlike the usual research and analysis style, writing a narrative inspires one to be creative in telling a story. Moreover, narrative essays allow writers to choose their own setting, plot, characters, ideas etc. When you are asked to write a narrative essay, your tutor is simply asking you to write a story that teaches a lesson through the progression of the story. As such, your ultimate goal as a writer is to make the reader feel a sense of purpose in reading the text. Books and tales usually follow this style.
Characteristics of Narrative Essays
Can take either first person or third
Tells a story from the writers point of view
Sometimes can be persuasive
Story is kept in a time linear progression
Employs figurative language and numerous quotes
Can be written in just three paragraphs or the size of a book
Having discussed the 4 different types of essay writing, it is evident that although there are shared aspects of general writing, there are specific features that distinguish one type of essay writing from the other. Simply put, persuasive essay aims to convince/ influence, expository essays present factual information, narrative essays tell a story with purpose and descriptive essays paint a picture.
Basic structure of an essay
Understanding the basic structure of an essay is very important. In fact, it is the first step towards writing an outstanding essay. This is because; despite the difference in essay writing styles as discussed in this post, all academic essays follow a basic structure I.e. introduction, body and conclusion. Therefore, it is important for a student to master the skill of linking up the different parts of an essay to form a smooth flowing piece of writing in line with a particular essay writing style.
The introduction part of an essay is very significant in the sense that it determines whether a reader gains interest to continue reading or not. It is within the introduction part that you establish your position as a writer also known as thesis statement. A good introductory paragraph creates a “hook” that grabs the reader’s attention. It is only after the reader is “hooked” that you can proceed to state your thesis. Your thesis ought to be a clear, concise (usually one sentence) explanation of your position regarding the topic at hand. This also helps the reader to understand what the paragraphs to come are about.
The paragraphs between the introduction and conclusion are collectively known as the body paragraphs. This is where all the action happens and all the points that a writer aims to prove or explain are explained in this particular part. More importantly, the body paragraphs aim to uncover the thesis by providing supporting details and examples. Depending on the length and requirements of an essay, the body paragraphs may be more or less. However, it is recommended that at the least, an essay should have three body paragraphs. It is also important to have meaningful paragraphs rather than creating paragraphs just for the sake of it. In other words, each paragraph should serve a unique purpose. In fact, each paragraph ought to have a topic sentence.
The conclusion can be seen as a call to action or a signal that the discussion has come to an end. Although it comes at the end of the essay, it should not be seen as an afterthought. An effective conclusion opens with a concluding transition, recaps important points discussed in the essay and more importantly, offer a restatement of thesis.
Understanding the type of essay you are required to write and following the right essay format will undoubtedly set you on the right path towards writing outstanding essays. However, there’s more to that. Your tutor will definitely consider a number of other related issues when grading your paper. For instance, how smooth your text flows, your grammar construction, your choice of vocabularies and generally how your paper answers the question at hand.
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