Writing an Essay

The word "essay" (French for "attempt") comes from a collection of writings by the Renaissance author, Michel de la Montaigne. His "essays," ranging from a few pages to as many as 40 pages, were an assembly of a lifetime of personal reflections from a "man of affairs." Montaigne's essays are still models of the genre today.

Generally, an essay deals with a single idea, although it may wander afield in the process. It is always a personal reflection, although this does not mean that it is unstructured or illogical. It makes no pretense to objectivity or completeness, although it must thoroughly explore your reflections on the main idea. A good essay will balance careful analysis with significant (often colorful) observation and detail; often the reader will have an experience of, "I hadn't thought of it that way before." While an essay is frequently informal and often appears to have been composed spontaneously, they are almost always carefully crafted with every sentence advancing the argument in some way, every word selected for best impact in the sentence. Many revisions are common.

When writing an essay, pay attention to issues of

The essay you write should be suitable for

An "A" paper would show careful consideration of the six points listed above, and could reasonably expect to be published were it submitted for publication.


© 1996 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 2 January 1997