The meaning, history, purpose, structure and style of the essay
Answering the question: what is an essay?
In fact, the question of “what is an essay and its parts” may have many answers as each author has his/her own view on what is meant by essay and what an essay is. Usually, the essay is a type of academic writing in which the author presents his/her opinion, arguments and research on a certain topic. In part, there is an obvious similarity between the essay and short stories. Essays usually contain a number of elements, including the retrospective analysis, real-life observations, author’s reflections, feedback and analyses. Whereas prose is the most common form of an essay structure, still there are some examples of essays written in verse (“An Essay on Criticism” by A. Pope). Thus, it is obvious that the question “what is essay style?” may have more than one answer.
Interesting essay facts in historical context
English is known as one of the most prevailing and old languages in the world. The way we speak, write and use it now is the result of numerous alterations, changes and events. The history of English language includes three huge stages: Old, Middle and Modern periods. Each stage is characterized by certain events that affected the development of the language. Before digging deeply into the historical context of the language and essay formation, let us clarify what is the meaning of essay as a term. According to the philologists, the origin of the word “essay” goes to the French verb “essayer” that is translated as “to endeavor”, “to attempt”, “to try”. In English language, the denotation of the word “an essay” is “a trial” or “an attempt”. In fact, the meaning of the English noun is just the expression of the action denominated by French verb “essayer”.
The first usage of the word “essay” to describe the piece of writing was offered by the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, who used the term “an essay” to describe his “attempts” to convert his non-systemized ideas into the structured pieces of writing. Michel de Montaigne began to work on his essays in 1572, and eight years later he published the first edition of the collection the “Essais”. The edition was revised by the author a number of times. Historians mention that he was working on his essays till his last days, edited them, added new essays to the existing collection and strived for perfection. The first essays in English were published by the English author Francis Bacon in 1597. The term “essayist” as the denomination of the author who composes written essays was used for the first time by the English playwright Benjamin Jonson in 1609.
The facts about essays suggest that it is misleadingly incorrect to relate essays solely to writing. The answer to the question “what is the essay format and which one is better to use?” will definitely offer a number of options. Nowadays, the concept of an essay is extended to various media. For example, there is a special genre in movie art that is called “movie essay”. Particular term is concerned with the documentary that depicts the elaboration of some argument or topic (the history of famine, the development of some state). Another example of non-writing use of “essay” is photo-essay which is a set of photographs on a certain idea or topic. Some photo-essays contain text as explanation of the idea. Others are silent representation of the theme.
The purpose of an essay may vary according to the writer’s initial goal and subject. Essays may be of numerous types and forms. Nevertheless, most essays can be attributed to one of the four main categories. The category of the writing answers the question: what is the purpose of an essay? Usually, the essay purpose is to inform, to entertain, to explain or to persuade.
What is the purpose of writing an essay? Writing to provide information!
If your task is to write to inform, you have to provide the new information on the topic. It is the succinct report of facts, not the representation of the author’s thoughts and ideas. The example of the informative essay may be the paper that provides information on the innovative car engines. If the instructor requires supporting your information with the results of credible research, you have to choose the peer-reviewed reputable sources that concentrate on facts rather than opinions.
What is the purpose of an essay? Writing to Persuade!
When you are writing the persuasive essay, your task is to cause the reader to approve your position. In other words, it is convincing by arguments and trying to take some action. The thesis statement of the persuasive essay should provide the clear position of the author. If your task is to incorporate the research in the persuasive essay, the research should confirm the validity of your arguments.
What is the purpose of an academic essay? Writing to Explain!
If you are writing the explanatory essay, your key task is to familiarize your audience with some process, action or situation. For example, your explanatory essay could provide an instruction of how to cook the Thanksgiving turkey, or how to drive a car in a snowstorm. If you have been assigned to write how to do something, try to choose the process you perfectly know.
What is an essay writing purpose? Writing to Entertain!
Writing to entertain is associated with emotional experience. Your task is to provide your audience with the interesting story that will appeal to their emotions, help to relax and share the precious experience. An example of entertaining essay may be a piece of writing about your best birthday celebration, your first day at school or the purchase of the first car.
Answering questions about the essay structure: Why? How? What?
Commonly, an essay is comprised of different informational parts that form the paragraphs (or sections). Even the shortest essay should contain several important parts: introduction of the argument, analysis of the topic and data, providing the challenge and conclusion. While introduction and conclusion must be placed in a certain order (introduction at the beginning of the essay and conclusion at the end), other parts may be organized in various ways. For example, the challenge (counterargument) may be written after the each argument, or appear before the conclusion. The analytical part may be placed straight after the introduction or may be written after the relevant background information of the problem (historical context, geographical, political, or biographical information that helps to better understand the nature of the argument).
In order to answer the questions “what is essay structure?” or “what is an essay format?” that can be utilized as a universal framework for writing any paper, we need to answer three simple questions. Try to look at your thesis through the eyes of the reader and imagine what questions the reader might have (if he doesn’t have any, your thesis lacks the hook and relevant claim).
“What?” This is probably the first question you can expect from the reader. The reader is curious to know whether your writing contains evidence in support of your claim. In other words, he wants to make sure that your thesis is correct. In order to answer the “what” – question, you have to examine your evidence. Your evidence should demonstrate the validity of your thesis. Usually, the “demonstration” section is placed directly after the introduction. This section should not be too long. To set the ideal balance, it should not take more than one third of the entire paper.
“How?” A curious reader will also be interested to make sure your argument is correct for all cases. The relevant question is “How does the thesis of the paper withstand the counterargument point?” Or, “How would additional material, sources and information affect your thesis claim?” The good writer should be equipped with the comprehensive answers to the possible “how?”-questions and make sure the reader’s curiosity is satisfied. The “how” section usually appears after the “what” part, however, the counterarguments may appear in any part of the essay as the relevant addition to the “what?” subsections.
“Why?” The reader may be also interested in a larger context of your arguments. In other words, the reader may ask: Why does your view of the topic is relevant to the knowledge and viewpoint of other people? The answer to the question “Why?” points to the own significance of the matter. The conclusive part of your paper should give the undisputable confirmation of the validity of your initial claim. If you omit this part, the reader will have the feeling that your essay is unfinished or your arguments are still questionable.
We hope that this article will put the light on what is essay writing and provide the relevant explanations to beginners in this interesting but complicated field!
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