I. A definition essay defines a word, term, or concept in depth by providing a personal commentary on what the specific subject means. A. Most physical objects have a definition about which most people agree. 1. Most people will agree on what trees, windows, computers, and pencils are in general. 2. These objects all have specific physical properties that most people can agree on through the use of their physical senses. B. However, abstract terms, such as love, pain, or patriotism, have different meanings for different individuals since such terms play on people’s feelings more than their physical senses. C. The definition essay provides a personal, extended definition of such terms by linking or comparing the term to a previous definition and by illustrating how that term should be applied.
II. Setting up the definition essay A. Select a subject carefully. 1. Since such essays are personal in nature, select your subject based on your own need to clarify the term. a. For example, if you feel that the word marriage should be defined in a limited manner, that term would make a good subject for a definition essay. b. Perhaps as a parent, you want to define what the term discipline means from your point of view. 2. Select a term or subject that you know well enough so that you can provide specific examples to illustrate your definition. a. For example, if you aren’t familiar with the term platonic love, don’t attempt to define it in an extended essay. b. The subject of the essay must be familiar enough to you that you can readily supply specific examples. 3. Don’t select a subject either too broad or too narrow to fit the parameters of your essay. a. For example, the word hat may be too narrow for you to define in an extended essay. b. On the other hand, the term love may