Whatever the form of the essay, the subject needs to be presented in an organised manner. Organisation is not a goal in itself; it is a means to an end. In an essay, organisation serves to make the point or thesis clear to the reader. There is difference of opinion on the writing process: some would say, draw up a formal outline and follow it strictly, while others would advise “free writing”. A compromise is b think out a preliminary plan and try to stick to it, bu not let the plan stifle your creative flow.
An essay, as pointed out earlier, is no longer a rambling, but a structured piece with a beginning (introduction), a middle (body) and an end in this broad structure, the development of the thesis may vary. If you choose to present your thesis as a theorem, you may state it at the very beginning as a hypothesis to be proved. This, however, should be followed by firm logical proof, to be concluded with an affirmation of the thesis.
Most topics for essays, however, do not accord well with this kind of treatment, as unarguable proof is rare outside the pure sciences. Usually, you are required to work with more controversial arguments. When this happens, the appropriate form is an inquiry.
An inquiry begins with a problem. It evaluates the available evidence and reaches a conclusion. It raises questions, overt or implied—the what and the how and possible consequences (good or bad)—that emerge out of the title of the essay. The ensuing discussion leads to the conclusion which is the statement of the thesis.
The first step in writing the essay is to understand the title-know clearly what is being asked. Consider, for instance, the topics—”The Status of Women in India”, “Problems of a Working Woman”, “Should a Mother Go Out to Work?” All three are related to women, but each one is different from the other. It is necessary to dovetail your arguments and ideas to the topic as given. Elaborating on the position of women has little relevance in an essay dealing with the specific issue of mothers going out to work.
Once the title is clearly understood, decide on the form of the essay. You must have a clear outline showing the progressive movement of the essay, paragraph by paragraph. An outline helps to keep you from straying into irrelevancies; it gives you an idea of how each paragraph is to carry forward your thesis. Obviously, outlining is closely linked with paragraphing.
An essay should let the reader know at the outset or early enough what it is about. It is not enough for the title to say it; you must spell out the topic in the essay itself. The introduction should be striking enough to catch the reader’s attention. There are several ways of opening an essay:
- You could give a general statement which you could then proceed to the particular aspect.
You could start with a quotation. B should be relevant and naturally lea of the topic.
- The technique of starting with an anecdote striking if used cleverly. The anecdote should be short have some bearing on the subject. Indeed, if it were possible natural transition from anecdote to the subject it would be all the better. The anecdotal beginning, however, suits the lighter form of treatment or a not very formal context.
- A beginning could be in the form of a rhetorical question which does not require an answer but is simply a trick for sweeping the readers off their feet.
- You could begin by giving the conclusion first (the danger here being that the writer is often unable to make a smooth transition to the next paragraph).
Experiment will help you more with openings than will guidelines, however. Just keep the aim of a good beginning in mind: it tries to hook the reader’s interest, to suggest that the essay is worth reading. But the introduction should be brief.
Develop the ideas as jotted down in the outline into major paragraphs.
How to structure paragraphs?
There are no rules, but there are certain common sense guidelines. First, the reader should be told fairly early in the paragraph what it is about. (The sentence announcing the topic is traditionally called the topic sentence.) The paragraph usually contains information or argumentation that go well beyond this opening statement. Finally, on completing the paragraph, the reader should know how it fits in with the overall structure of the essay; clarifying the point of a paragraph is ca pointing. These three “requirements” can be breached for a good many reasons, but, taken as they stand, they offer
a classic three-part paragraph:
- What the paragraph is about topic sentence.
- What the paragraph has to say about the subject information or argument.
- How the paragraph fits in-pointing.
The paragraphs in an essay must be crafted to hit a master plan. Without pointing, you may create a string of paragraphs, but it will not be an essay. The structure of a paragraph calls for unity, with the sentences in contributing towards explaining or supporting the thesis put forward by the topic sentence. And this should be done logically, sequentially.
The length of paragraphs vary, indeed must vary to avoid monotony, in an essay. Depending on its purpose a paragraph could run into a single sentence or a multitude of sentences. (A transitional paragraph, for example, need not exceed a sentence or two.)
By contributing to the thesis of the essay, each paragraph is linked to the other by the unity of idea. However, unification among the paragraphs is also to be achieved structurally, through transitional words and phrases. These words or phrases help to show the progress of the essay. Some such words and phrases and their purpose are as follows:
- Addition or continuation : next, besides, further, again, moreover, likewise, in addition,
- Comparison : similarly, somewhat similar, in a like manner, likewise.
- Contrast : however, but, on the contrary, after all, nevertheless, still, and yet, notwithstanding, at the same time.
- Concession : although, after all, naturally, it may be admitted, of course.
- Exemplification : for example, for instance, in particular, specifically, in fact, incidentally, in other words.
- Result, consequence: thus, as a result/consequence, in short, hence, therefore, accordingly, then.
- Passage of time: of late, since, until thereafter, soon, meanwhile, while, shortly. Immediately, at length, from this point.
- Summarisation : to conclude, to sum up, on the whole, in a nutshell, in brief.
- Miscellaneous : without doubt, the question which arises, so so good, in spite of, paradoxically, at the outset, as a ma of fact.
The paragraphs combine to build up the thesis of the essay. Neither the sentences nor the paragraphs can be thought of as independent units. An essay is an organic whole in which each part is fused into another.
A clever lawyer does not sum up a case simply by repeating the established facts. Instead, the lawyer hammers home the conclusion to be drawn from the facts: the unquestionable guilt (or innocence) of the accused. Try to think of your closing paragraph on similar lines.
The conclusion of an essay should carry the natural climax of the subject. It must grow out of the body of the essay and not be abrupt or seem imposed or forced. It should” either put the point of the essay in a fresh light or embody the thesis that has been developed through the essay. It is best not to be categorical, but the conclusion should give a sense of finality to the composition.