ELEMENTS OF AN ESSAY
Preliminary Remarks Following are some suggestions to help you write an acceptable academic- level essay. This is not the only way to organize and develop an essay. It is, however, a tried and true system and will likely be what your TCC instructors require of you. Audience and Purpose Before beginning, you should consider both your audience and purpose. For, before you can know how to approach the subject, you must determine whom you will be addressing, how much they already know about the subject, and what they need to know. Moreover, you must decide what you are trying to do in the essay and how you are trying to affect the audience. Are you primarily trying to persuade someone to accept your point of view, to describe or define something, or to explain something? These considerations will determine how you handle the subject. The Thesis The word “essay” means “to attempt,” “to try,” or “to test”; hence, an essay is a writer’s attempt to convince an audience that he knows something. An essay is a coherently unified piece of writing with a fairly standard form consisting of three parts— introduction, body, and conclusion—in which you must support a considered opinion, moving smoothly from point to point. This opinion must be neither wild conjecture nor incontrovertible fact, but a defensible judgment that admits the possibility of disagreement on the part of your audience. Furthermore, the statement of this opinion, or thesis1 , governs the whole essay and must be supported, illustrated, expanded, and exemplified in the body of the essay. The Introduction An introduction presents to the reader, in a general way, the subject to be treated in the essay, usually opening with a sentence or two that will grab the reader’s attention. In your introduction you tell the reader what is going to happen in the rest of the paper. You do this by funneling the reader through general opening remarks to the essential last sentence: a clear statement of the opinion you will support (thesis statement 1 , including limits and specifics of the subject) with a brief statement of your organizational strategy (enumeration of subject segments). And remember, interesting, arresting introductions are very important. This is where you can really capture a reader’s attention–or lose it.
The Body The body is where you support the opinion stated in the thesis statement. An essay usually has one body paragraph for each major division of the topic to be treated (i.e., subject segment). Each body paragraph contains a topic sentence2 and several supporting sentences3 with adequate detail and development. (You will have three such paragraphs in the five-paragraph essay that we are delineating here). You might think of a body paragraph as a mini-essay. It has an introduction (topic sentence), a body (supporting sentences, which in turn may have their own supporting sentences4 ), and a conclusion (a sentence drawing the paragraph to a close, wrapping it up, and completing it5 ). Development of body paragraphs will proceed according to the audience you have chosen to address and the effect you wish to produce in that audience. The Conclusion The conclusion completes the essay by tying everything together into a coherent unity– functioning, with the introduction, much the same as a picture frame to set the bounds of the picture and establish its coherent completeness. Some strategies for doing this are these: restatement, chronological wind-up, illustration, prediction, recommendation of a course of action, and quotation. Your conclusion, then, should re-assert the thesis 6 and close the essay. In closing the essay, your conclusion might state explicitly an undeveloped implication or an unnoticed consequence of what you have said about your subject, thereby leaving your reader with something to think about 7 . For the conclusion is the last thing your reader sees, and it is often the only part of the essay that creates a...
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