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An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author’s own argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story. Essays are commonly used as literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The concept of an “essay” has been extended to other media beyond writing. A film essay is a movie that often incorporates documentary filmmaking styles and focuses more on the evolution of a theme or idea. John Locke’s 1690 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. An essay has been defined in a variety of ways.
One definition is a “prose composition with a focused subject of discussion” or a “long, systematic discourse”. It is difficult to define the genre into which essays fall. Aldous Huxley, a leading essayist, gives guidance on the subject. The personal and the autobiographical: The essayists that feel most comfortable in this pole “write fragments of reflective autobiography and look at the world through the keyhole of anecdote and description”. The objective, the factual, and the concrete particular: The essayists that write from this pole “do not speak directly of themselves, but turn their attention outward to some literary or scientific or political theme. Their art consists of setting forth, passing judgment upon, and drawing general conclusions from the relevant data”. The abstract-universal: In this pole “we find those essayists who do their work in the world of high abstractions”, who are never personal and who seldom mention the particular facts of experience.
Huxley adds that the most satisfying essays “make the best not of one, not of two, but of all the three worlds in which it is possible for the essay to exist. The word essay derives from the French infinitive essayer, “to try” or “to attempt”. In English essay first meant “a trial” or “an attempt”, and this is still an alternative meaning. The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. As with the novel, essays existed in Japan several centuries before they developed in Europe with a genre of essays known as zuihitsu — loosely connected essays and fragmented ideas. Zuihitsu have existed since almost the beginnings of Japanese literature. Many of the most noted early works of Japanese literature are in this genre.
This section describes the different forms and styles of essay writing. These forms and styles are used by an array of authors, including university students and professional essayists. The defining features of a “cause and effect” essay are causal chains that connect from a cause to an effect, careful language, and chronological or emphatic order. Classification is the categorization of objects into a larger whole while division is the breaking of a larger whole into smaller parts.
Compare and contrast essays are characterized by a basis for comparison, points of comparison, and analogies. The comparison highlights the similarities between two or more similar objects while contrasting highlights the differences between two or more objects. Expository essay is used to inform, describe or explain a topic, using important facts and teaching reader about the topic. Mostly written in third-person, using “it”, “he”, “she”, “they”.
Expository essay uses formal language to discuss someone or something. Examples of expository essays are: a medical or biological condition, social or technological process, life or character of a famous person. Descriptive writing is characterized by sensory details, which appeal to the physical senses, and details that appeal to a reader’s emotional, physical, or intellectual sensibilities. Determining the purpose, considering the audience, creating a dominant impression, using descriptive language, and organizing the description are the rhetorical choices to consider when using a description. This form benefits from presenting a broader perspective while countering a possible flaw that some may present.
An exemplification essay is characterized by a generalization and relevant, representative, and believable examples including anecdotes. Writers need to consider their subject, determine their purpose, consider their audience, decide on specific examples, and arrange all the parts together when writing an exemplification essay. An essayist writes a familiar essay if speaking to a single reader, writing about both themselves, and about particular subjects. Anne Fadiman notes that “the genre’s heyday was the early nineteenth century,” and that its greatest exponent was Charles Lamb. A history essay sometimes referred to as a thesis essay describes an argument or claim about one or more historical events and supports that claim with evidence, arguments, and references. The text makes it clear to the reader why the argument or claim is as such. A narrative uses tools such as flashbacks, flash-forwards, and transitions that often build to a climax.
The focus of a narrative is the plot. An argumentative essay is a critical piece of writing, aimed at presenting objective analysis of the subject matter, narrowed down to a single topic. The main idea of all the criticism is to provide an opinion either of positive or negative implication. A process essay is used for an explanation of making or breaking something. Often, it is written in chronological order or numerical order to show step-by-step processes. An economic essay can start with a thesis, or it can start with a theme.