Essay: Style

The subject and its organisation may not be enough to make your essay leave an impact on your reader. How you present the matter is equally important. Part of the presentation is, of course, the form or framework you adopt. It has to be suitable for the subject at hand.

Logical development of ideas is important, too. The tone or perspective-humorous, ironic, serious, meditative, argumentative-should harmonise with the subject matter. Besides, attention must be paid to the mechanics of writing-spelling, punctuation, grammar and usage.


  • Consider the title carefully-what it means
    what its scope is. Is it asking you to genera establish a particular view, or take your own stand? If you do not agree with what a title states categorically do not attempt the essay, for generally you are not expected to argue against the title. (Some writers, no doubt, can do it but it requires flair and self-confidence.) In this context, you may compare these two titles – “India is not fit to be a democracy” and “Is India fit to be a democracy?” The first requires you to support the statement, while the second allows you the choice of your own view.
  • Select a perspective and a pattern for developing your thesis. Jot down your points and arrange them in the pattern without losing sight of your perspective.
  • Use words effectively. This does not mean using difficult words or ‘flowery’ language. What it implies is that each word should contribute to the development or explanation of the idea. It is best to avoid archaic and obsolete usage; some examples-albeit, ere, methink and trow. Foreign words, unless they have achieved currency in English, had better be left out. Also to be avoided is slang, even what is known as journalese, i.e., words coined by journalists and newspapers for effect. A recent edition of a standard dictionary will help you to identify such slang expressions. Effective use of words also requires you to know which word to use and where. There are several synonymous words, but they are not always interchangeable.
  • Stay clear of cliches or time-worn idioms, such as “keeping the wolf from the door”, “from the frying pan into the fire”. Sayings such as “variety is the spice of life”, “there is no time to stand and stare” have been over used and are thus hackneyed.
  • If you have a good memory, you may be tempted to strew your essay with quotations to emphasise your point of view. Resist the temptation firmly. Quotations become dangerous props indicating by their presence the writer’s lack of ideas or inability to express what he or she feels. If you have to use quotations, use them rarely and only in context where they give depth to an idea.
  • Check your writing for unnecessary repetition. Some avoidable repetitions:

Arun is never late for work; he is always either early or on time.

Mrs.Gupta kept her house spotless, and it was perfectly clean.

The butcher was very thin. This thinness was commented on by many of his customers. His customers commented on it because it seemed so inappropriate in a butcher. What would be more appropriate in a butcher, they felt, was a sort of
jovial chubbiness.

In all these cases, the effectiveness of what is being said can be doubled by saying it only once.

The passage below exemplifies the kind of mindless use of words you should avoid. Mistaken for argumentation, it merely epitomises the art of saying nothing in so many words.

This paper will attempt to document the way in which the Industrial Revolution changed the lives of so many people. The great technological upheaval known to us as the Industrial Revolution altered the way in which almost all levels of the society of the time functioned. Without this extraordinary Revolution, none of the changes that have made our lives what they are today would have occurred. Probably this period left untouched the life of no one who lived through it. What we are confronted with here is a staggering volcanic eruption in technology, science and manufacturing techniques of every kind that caused the most far-reaching reversals in the life, the existence, the day-to-day habits and the most profound beliefs of almost every soul on this planet. Yes, our society in all its ramifications was destined never to be the same again. No life, however high or however humble, passed through the Industrial Revolution unscathed. In the whole previous history of the word nothing had wrought such an unforeseen, such a revolutionary effect. Let’s take some examples. How many cities and villages, how many families large and small saw the familiar old way of life that they loved and knew so well slipping away from them as the new ways took over? No subject has attracted more research or more detailed scholarly comment than this: we know more about this period than perhaps about any period before or since. In conclusion, what this mass of evidence points to is the extent to which the Industrial Revolution did indeed inexpressibly affect the hard but rewarding lives of so many of our American forebears.

  • Check your writing for correctness. There is no place for ungrammatical sentences in an essay. And do not risk using words, phrases, expressions about whose meaning or correctness you are not sure. Avoid long and rambling sentences in which you as well as the reader may get lost.
  • An essay is certainly bound to reflect the personality and views of the writer. However, it would be pragmatic, from the point of view of an examination, to keep extreme opinions to oneself and not express idiosyncrasies.
  • Be clear, lucid and simple and you cannot go far wrong.