I’m not sure about you, and I have no idea what most schools were doing at the time, but I swear I was never formally taught how to write an essay. Nevertheless, somehow I bumbled through school with reasonable grades. It wasn’t until I was at university that I had to really think about essay structure, and then as a new teacher, I taught others who to write essays. So how do you write an essay?
It’s pretty easy really and once you know the basic structure, essay writing becomes quite an art. Essays can be incredibly dry and boring, but they don’t need to be – I have read some fabulously quirky personal essays!
Here are just two examples of different styles of essays:
I start by thinking of an essay as a burger with separate elements making up one scrumptious meal. Think of the burger bun as the introduction and conclusion/summary of your essay. To help you structure your essay and ensure you have all the required ingredients, you can use the acronym ‘TEEL’ – topic sentence, explain, evidence, link, when writing the body of your essay.
A Topic Sentence is the first sentence or two of a paragraph that gives an explanation of what information is to follow. It tells readers what the main point of the paragraph is. The Explanation comes in the following sentences that explain/expand the topic sentence/main point further. Evidence should be used to support your explanation – this might be quotes from relevant experts, for example. The Link should connect back to the topic sentence and/or to the next paragraph to create a sense of flow.
Putting this together in an essay plan, would look like this:
Introduction: give an overview of the topic, introduce your main points and make your contention (your opinion) clear.
Main body paragraphs – all have the same structure. Provide a topic sentence that shows the main point of the paragraph. Explain the point and provide supporting evidence. Conclude the paragraph with a linking sentence.
Conclusion: Rephrase your contention. Emphasise your important points. Finish with a strong concluding statement.
I have written many essays, some of which have been published. You can read a sample of my essays at:
- Critique of Young Adult Historical Fiction
- The use of Genre in Michael Pryor’s ‘Hour of Need’
- Reading as Adults
Now you have a taste for essays and a basic structure to start with, have a go at writing your own essay.
Most newspapers publish essays, but there is also a plethora of journals and magazines, both general and subject specific, that do also. While this is not a definitive list, here are just a few to get you started:
- The Washington Post
- Going Down Swinging
- The Republic of Letters
- The Paris Review
- The Copperfield Review
…and so many, many more.
A final note: always be sure to follow submission guidelines when you are trying to have your essay published.
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