An Essay is an important aspect of the writing skill of language. Every literate user of language writes some sort of essay on various occasions. This could be a story, report, an explanation of a process, a present etc. certain qualities characterize a good essay.
TYPES OF ESSAY
There are four types based on the function each performs but we are going to look at these three:
1. Argumentative essay
2. Descriptive essay
3. Expository essay
1. ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY
This belongs to the domain of argument just like oral debate. It seeks principally to present a point of view in a way that sways the audience’s opinion in favor of the author’s side of the argument. It is employed where the topic raises a controversy making it possible and logical to take sides. Examples are:
I. The Television is more effective News Media than the Radio.
II. Male Children Are Preferred to female Children.
III. The Rainy Season is Preferred to the Dry Season.
IV. Mother is Greater than Father.
V. There is no Morality in Politics.
VI. Military Rule Has More advantage than democracy.
VII. Capital Punishment Should Be Abolished in Nigeria.
GUIDELINES FOR WRITING AN ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY
One needs to be guided by the following points among others:
I. One needs to decide right away, which of the two sides to support.
II. One may begin by isolating and convincingly debunking the apparently strong arguments which one’s opponent one may have.
III. One needs to begin one’s argument from the strong, through the stronger, to the strongest – there’s no room for weak arguments.
IV. One needs to maintain polite tone throughout the essay.
V. One has to select one’s words appropriately and effectively to forestall being misrepresented by the opponent.
VI. One should avoid logical fallacies such as hasty generalization, non-sequitur argument, straw man argument or arguing against the person, joining the bandwagon, argument by extension, shifting the burden of proof etc.
2. DESCRIPTIVE ESSAY
This centers on the description which could be technical or sensory. Technical description collocates with scientific experiments, technology such as production, of clothing material, soap, paper etc. The sensory description, on the other hand, is less objective and more subjective, admitting of the author’s experiences, emotions, judgments etc. examples: description of the taste of fried rice. Whether Sensory or Technical, description depends heavily on the five senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch.
GUIDELINES FOR WRITING A DESCRIPTIVE ESSAY
To write an effective descriptive essay, one needs to do the following:
I. Observe keenly meticulously and accurately. Stressing the relevance of observation to the description.
II. Engage some of the senses adequately, words like small, green speckled, big, rough, friction, loud, euphony and cacophony etc. tend to specifically appeal to sight, taste, touch, and hearing respectively.
III. Limit the subject of description to specific aspects with which one is thoroughly familiar. This delimitation not only helps to sharpen the focus of the essay but also controls the length of the description and checks the possibility of boring the readers.
IV. Adopt a logical order for the presentation of the details: general to specific or vice versa, big to small or vice versa, first to last or vice versa.
V. Clearly and coherently specify what is described in terms of shapes, sizes, time, colors, tastes, age, location, make, models, constitution, condition, paragraphing etc.
VI. Use an analogy to describe those objects which are strange or complicated that they cannot be described in the specific register.
VII. Describe details within the ambit of a specific impression or unit, putting the unit of or impression in a thesis statement in the case of an entire essay or a topic in the case of a paragraph.
3. EXPOSITORY ESSAY
This one exposes knowledge or information. Which hitherto may have been hidden to the audience. It explains the functioning of the idea, a phenomenon or a process. It is based on the four WH’S, and an H, namely what, why, where, when and how. What deals with the selection and definition of the subject or concept or topic to be “exposed”, why denotes the explanation of the rationale behind the selection and the reason for the explanation/exposition; where locates the subject/event/topic in a setting/event relates. How establishes the manner, methods or way in which the subject or process is exposed or explained how it works.
It calls for a clear definition of terms and concepts, logical presentation of information: instructions, advice, directives etc. showing what comes first and last in identifiable order. It also requires that no relevant/necessary steps or points are omitted. It also calls for comparison or contrast in order to reveal ideas and processes which may be difficult to portray directly.
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GENERAL HINTS ON WRITING AN ESSAY
A number of factors enhance the good quality of an essay. These include:
I. Knowledge of the audience.
II. Purpose of writing.
III. Knowledge of the subject matter.
IV. The plan or outline.
V. Cohesion and coherence.
VI. Conventions and grammars.
VII. Logical arrangement and order.
VIII. Consistency and focus.
I. Knowledge of the Audience
A good essay must address itself to its audience. The audience factor in essay writing is of fundamental importance for many reasons. It is the audience that enables the writer to decide what amount of information to pit out, what tone to adopt, what level of language to use, what aspect of the topic to emphasize, what technique to adopt in order to convince the audience etc.
II. Purpose of the Essay
The purpose of writing intricately relates to the knowledge of the audience and or other factors. No one writes or talks for talking sake. There must be a clear purpose if such text should be regarded. An important task of a good writer, therefore, is that he/she should establish right from the onset, a clear and reasonable purpose for his/her writing. The writing may be for entertainment, education information, teaching a process, explanation, persuasion, protest, request, caution, sympathy, condolence, criticism etc.
III. Knowledge of the Subject of Matter
Every topic belongs to a specific area of endeavor or a combination of areas of endeavor. Is it history, politics, economics, sociology, law, religion, entertainment, ceremony or sports etc. Every writing surely manifests its roots in a particular area.
IV. The plan or Outline
The outline not only helps the writer to select relevant information but also help in discarding irrelevant information, it also enables him to achieve cohesion and coherence in the essay since he can determine before the essay is written, which points comes first and which one later, and why.
V. Cohesion and coherence
These two terms connote a general characteristic sticking together but each denotes a specific character of components of the essay: on the other hand, cohesion denotes the tendency to stick together or the force with each component cohere. Coherence, on the other hand, signifies sticking together, being united. In choosing a material, logical and linguistics components for a good essay, therefore, writers should ensure that each component has the capacity to cohere and that they actually do cohere.
VI. Convention and Grammar
There are established traditions underlying the writing of various forms of the essay, there are conventions and rules governing the use of language. A narrative essay, as we shall see in due course, is written predominantly in the past, an argument requires that the writer takes a stand, i.e. he should not both sides of the argument; language is supposed to be polite etc.
VII. Logical arrangement and order
There is no hard and fast rules configuration of details in an essay. Choices or alternatives offer themselves to a writer in relation to arrangement and presentation of facts and details in an essay. Description of an object tends to require a spatial configuration (external-internal) while that of the process is likely to take initial – medial – terminal sequencing. The chronological order seems most suited for the narrative essay, i.e. events must follow sequential order. An argumentative essay or an expository essay tends to require the order of importance, i.e. presentation is based on the order of importance.
VIII. Consistency and Focus
Maintenance of some consistency and focus is of paramount importance in writing. The writing must show consistency and focus in terms of tense, tone, number, voice, the point of view.
This denotes choices which the writer makes at the level of words, phrases, clauses, and sentences. These elements have to be varied for effect as stereotyped choices are sure to bore the audience.
PARTS OF THE ESSAY
Basically, it comprises three parts: Introduction, body, and conclusion. Let us take them one by one.
This serves as an appetizer, a compass and a bacon stone for the essay. It states the purpose and thesis of the essay and stimulates the audience’s interest. It serves as a guide, showing the direction where the essay goes. It shows the boundaries or limitations of the essay explaining the organizational structure of the essay.
The body of the essay develops in well-illustrated and well-argued paragraphs, the thesis stated in the introduction, each paragraph exploring the main point listed on the outline. To maintain the unity of purpose, the writer need not make more than one point in a paragraph. Where an idea is too involving to be handled in a paragraph, such an idea need be broken down into aspects, the strategy enables the writer to maintain the unity of purpose since he now treats an aspect in a paragraph.
The conclusion summarizes thesis and the body of the essay without introducing any new point or idea. Authors have suggested the following ways of concluding the essay among others:
- Restate the thesis in a different way.
- Summarize the basic points raised.
- Break off at a climax.
- Point out the implications that grow out of the essay.
- Leave the reader with a question as food for thought
- Tell a short story to clench your point.