Essay Genre

Essays are a form of nonfiction writing in which the writer may be descriptive; use narration; propose solutions to problems; compare and contrast; explain how to do something; elucidate the inner workings of complicated creations of nature or humanity; be persuasive; or make a point about a subject, problem, issue, or question. Essays may be creative in the sense that, you, the writer, have creatively explained your point of view, but essays have a strong, formal organizational system.

Every essay has a definable beginning (the introduction), middle (the body), and ending (the conclusion), and each paragraph of an essay consists of a topic sentence, supporting details, and a concluding sentence. Furthermore, every essay is built around one central idea, called a thesis. Basically, the thesis is the glue that binds the essay together; it is the point of the essay. It is what the essay is about, what it intends to show, prove, or do: the controlling purpose. Every paragraph of an essay relates back to the thesis.

Many standard school essays are five paragraphs, but length should never be a primary consideration when creating an essay. More relevant is that the essay should be long enough to completely discuss, argue, prove, or relate the main idea of the essay, the thesis. A well-written essay has a sense of completeness, so that the reader feels there is nothing more about the topic to be said. Therefore, your job as a writer is to thoroughly discuss your thesis, while incorporating all of your most effective writing strategies.

Features of Effective Essays

Write with Information

As an essayist, one of your tasks is to gather more information than you can possibly use: lots of the accurate, specific information that the reader craves. Donald Murray says, “The writing act begins with the collection of the raw material of writing, information that will be arranged into meaning by the act of writing.” Essayists write with information—lots of specific, accurate data. And, Murray continues, “Readers read to satisfy their hunger for information—specific, accurate information that they can use.” The information you need depends on the topic, issue, or problem you have chosen for your essay. Choose some of the best ways to fill your essay from these many ways to collect information and many forms of information to collect:

Murray advises writers: “Collect the material to fill out such a list, and you’ll stop feeling empty. In fact, you’ll feel so full that you’ll be eager to write to relieve yourself of the information.”

Students, use the job chart below to guide you in your essay writing.

Write an Essay that

  • Has a clear thesis or purpose stated within an engaging beginning
  • Has a strong organizational pattern
  • Paraphrases facts and information (if research was involved)
  • Effectively embeds at least one direct quote
  • Includes MLA in-text citations and works cited page
  • Gives relevant and compelling evidence to support the thesis
  • Uses strong transition words and phrases
  • Uses both compound and complex sentences
  • Uses vivid language and visual imagery
  • Has a closure that restates the thesis in a creative way
  • Has all no excuse words and conventions correct
  • Has exemplary presentation in MLA format (neat writing or typing that is pleasant to read)

Click here to see these:

Sample Essays.

The Class Essay.

Group Essays.

More Information about Thesis Statements.

Some Good Transition Words and Phrases.

A Planning Sheet.

The Highlighting Guide.

The Teaching Rubric.

The Scoring Rubric.