Writing English -- A Short Course Page 2
Writing Short Essays
|typical task for many students who participate in writing contests
or college entrance exams.
We can begin with the topic of the essay. Unfortunately, the
topic of the essay is something that is seldom chosen by the
student. Instead, it is usually given to the student and can be
quite broad and abstract. It is therefore essential to limit the
topic to something the student understands well. The student
should always feel in control of the subject, rather than feeling
they are in some sense "under the gun".
Here are some useful guidelines for writing your essay--
(1) Interpret the topic in a way that touches your life. You are
already very familiar with your own experiences. Make the topic
become part of you by personalizing it. Limit the meaning of the
topic to something you know well. It may take some doing, but it
is nearly always possible to see the topic from your own
perspective or educational background.
(2) To help clarify (1) above, it may be useful to select two or
three personal experiences that relate directly to the topic. Think
of how these have been important in your life. Ask yourself how
these experiences have taught you something. Make a short list
of them and perhaps some notes how these affected you. You
can use them in your essay.
(3) Organize your thoughts into a framework for writing. This is
where the essay begins to take form. You can almost see it in
your mind. Jot down the basic outline of your essay. For
example, you may want to have the following
---- An Introduction with a description of your understanding of
the topic and maybe a short discussion of the difficulties in
defining the topic well.
---- Paragraph 2 can discuss the first experience or idea you
have on the topic. This should be the strongest case you can
make regarding the topic. Avoid deep abstractions, platitudes,
repetitions, biases, slang, and forced humor except when they
can provide strong emphasis. Be careful when using aphorisms
and apothegms, since you must have great experience in using
these to be effective. There is nothing wrong with being
self-deprecating, but don't overdue it. The most important thing
is to be honest, sincere, and transparent. The writing should be
natural and unaffected.
---- Paragraph 3 can discuss the next important aspect of the
topic which is directly related to you, your community, society,
etc, as you have experienced it. Do not simply reword the idea
contained in the previous paragraph. It should be new and
different than what went before.
---- Paragraph 4 may discuss the least important of the ideas
you have that is related to the topic. This paragraph can be
somewhat shorter than the others, since it is like an afterthought.
---- You can end the essay with a Conclusion, something that
leaves the reader satisfied that they have learned something, or
felt something new about the topic and about you. It should
reiterate the main points above and then extend what went
before. There should be nothing new in the conclusion and you
certainly do not want to begin a whole new line of thought. Try to
make a short description of what you have done and then point
the reader to something beyond this.