What is an essay?

What is an essay?

Aldous Huxley described an essay as “A literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything”.


What is an Essay?


An essay is a piece of writing that revolves around a particular theme and contains the academic opinions of the person writing it.

An essay can perform one or more of the following functions:

  • Analyses and critically evaluates a topic
  • Presents the writer‘s argument for or against an idea
  • Describes something
  • Narrates a story
  • Persuades the reader

Characteristics of a Good Essay

  • Brevity: Express what you want concisely. Do not beat around the bush.
  • Coherence: Every sentence and paragraph should flow smoothly and logically from the previous one. A clumsily written essay reflects not only the lack of preparation but also the absence of clarity of thought.
  • Unity: The essay should never stray from its main purpose. Different points of view can be introduced, but they should all be used for the same subject.
  • Lucidity: The essay should be easy to read and understand. Using tough words or difficult phrases may impress a few but can confuse many others. Great writers are praised not only for their beautiful ideas but also for the simplicity of their language.

The objective of Essay Writing

Essay writing often forms a part of English written exams to test the ability of students to

  • Think critically: Critical thinking involves understanding the task at hand and evaluating it appropriately.
  • Structure the ideas logically: The essay has to be structured and coherent. The ideas have to neatly flow from one paragraph to the other.
  • Express views eloquently: The student should be fluent in the language he or she is writing in. Ideas when presented shoddily may not make the right impact.

Parts of an Essay


Introduction

It constitutes the opening paragraph of the essay.

  • It helps the reader get oriented with the topic.
  • It states the purpose of the essay.
  • It captures the interest of the reader.
  • It presents the general idea of the essay.
  • It often ends with the thesis or the main idea of the essay.

Body (Supporting Paragraphs)

They constitute the supporting sentences and ideas.

  • They provide the reader with additional details about the main idea.
  • They support the thesis of the writer.
  • There is no fixed number of supporting paragraphs.
  • Ideally, every supporting paragraph should contain a different idea.

Conclusion

It constitutes the ending paragraph(s) of the essay.

  • It ties up loose ends of the paragraph.
  • It helps in reiterating or highlighting the main idea.
  • It summarises all the arguments.
  • It brings the essay to a logical close.
  • It never ends in a detail.

Tips for Writing an Essay


Preparation

  • Read: The more you read, the better you get. Reading essays will give you the inspiration to write. It will fill you with the knowledge that you can use to enrich your writing.
  • Write: Practise writing essays. This will give you the necessary confidence that you require during the exams. Writing also sharpens your thought process preparing you to deal with essay questions with much ease.

Writing

1. Think about the idea given in the title or the prompt.

  • What type of essay will be appropriate?
  • What could be the main ideas?
  • How to write the introduction, the body and the conclusion?
  • Write all the ideas.

2. Structure your essay.

  • Create an outline of your essay.
  • Do not use more than two sentences for introduction and conclusion, respectively.
  • Therefore, it is important to plan your essay before instead of writing spontaneously.
  • Arrange the ideas in chronological order if you are attempting a narrative essay.
  • Arrange them in the increasing order of importance while attempting a descriptive or an expository essay.
  • Remember to conclude the essay.

3. Use a consistent tense form while writing the essay.

4. Express clearly.

5. Be original in your ideas. Don‘t be afraid to think out of the box.

6. Use your own memories or your experiences to add to the essay.

7. Recheck for any grammatical errors after finishing the essay.


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Example of Essay


My Native Place

My parents hail from a small village in Kerala which is nestled among mountains in a scenic district of the state. Every year, I visit my native place with my family. It is a trip that I look forward to all year. My father books the ticket two months in advance as it is difficult to procure reservations on short notice. Although I have lived in the city all my life, I feel that I never belonged to it. I have always felt at home in the quaint mountain village that is far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life.

It takes us 18 hours by train to reach the railway station that is closest to my village. The journey is usually grueling in the summers but very pleasant in the winters and in the monsoons. We plan our trip in the summer months since we get a two-month vacation in April. In order to beat the heat, we travel by air-conditioned coaches every year. We board the train at noon and we reach our destination at 6 am the next day.

The morning air is heavy with the scent of flowers and wet foliage. The temple bells start ringing at 6:30 am and the sound of bhajans fills the air. The village is only a 20-minute rickshaw ride away from the station. When we enter my grandmother‘s house, we are welcomed by her diminutive figure holding a lamp.

According to her, it is auspicious to welcome loved ones by lighting the lamp at the altar of God. The moment we set foot into the house, we are filled with a sense of nostalgia and love. After a sumptuous yet simple breakfast, we relax with our family in the courtyard.

The cool mountain air is laden with scents of the rustic countryside. From afar, we hear the sounds of birds. My sister and I make paper boats and run to the little babbling brook that flows southwards. We set the boats on the water and watch them bob up and down. Far away from the world of video games and television, we seek fun in a world of simplicity.

The house itself has a personality. Simple, two-storeyed, made of stone walls and a thatched roof, the house is an old friend who warmly embraces you every time you meet. The rooms are small but well maintained. On the ground floor is a room that my grandmother uses for storing condiments and grains. It is illuminated with a single light bulb and an old-fashioned
lock-and-key style door. In its corner is a small bed.

The calming silence of the room soothes my ears and transports me into a magical place. I feel weightless. The smell of the spices envelops me. On many occasions, I have spent hours sprawled on that bed reading a book or listening to music. If I ever have to pick a favorite place, then I have no doubt this would be it.

When twilight descends on the little hamlet, large clusters of stars start appearing in the sky. Such a sight is never seen in the city as the lights obscure the stars that appear in the sky. My grandmother lights the lamp again and we all gather around her to say our evening prayers. After enjoying her simple, rustic yet delicious meal, we retire for the night.

Sometimes when I am upset, I think of my quaint little house in the village, my grandmother‘s warm embrace, and the small room that smells of spices. They immediately help me put my worries away and bring a smile to my face.


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