The Essay Essay

The essay is perhaps the most effective way of getting across information through writing. Whether it be an informal piece about the history of your favorite local pizza joint, or a seven page, highly researched paper about Pacific Island politics, an essay can cover a lot of different ground when presenting information. Essays can do a lot more than just present information though,  as essays can also touch on things such as personal experience and even follow a narrative structure. These types of essays could detail your own individual story about particular topics that your know-how can aid in. Argumentative essays are one of the most prominent forms of essays. They allow the author to make a declaration and then use the essay to prove why their opinion should be considered correct. All these different forms have their own unique qualities which make them advantageous when dealing with different topics.

The informational form is the essay that many have the most experience with. All throughout school, students write essays in essentially every class. This is all due to the fact that the informational essay is so dynamic. It can present any idea to an outsider, someone with absolutely no background knowledge of a topic, and if the essay is well written, can leave the reader feeling well informed. Despite their expository nature, there’re a lot of different ways in which informational essays exist. They can help define a concept, break down individual parts of it, or explain what characteristics of a concept define what it is. For instance, in a scenario where an apolitical person is reading an essay about a political candidate, if the essay is written well and stays unbiased, the reader should be able to develop their own opinion on the candidate based solely on their policies and beliefs detailed in the essay. If a person were to finish reading this same hypothetical essay, and does not come away with at least some understanding of what the candidate believes in, than the essay would not be considered successful. 

Informational essays follow a straightforward form. They’re somewhat basic in terms of writing, though they can be very dense with the material in which they are made up of. They’re not very flashy, and most professors would prefer that a reader does not use their own voice or style while writing a straightforward essay. Rather than showing off the “voice” of the author, the focus should be on getting a lot of information across in a way that does not overwhelm the reader. For this very reason, first person view is not encouraged by teachers. An informational essay shouldn’t try to cram as much information into the essay as possible, but rather making sure that the reader can retain the information that was written about. 

An argumentative essay is a very intriguing type of writing. This essay, while featuring a lot of good information, is not written as avenue through which to make information known. This essay has a different purpose, which is to allow the writer to express their own viewpoint and make an argument about a particular issue. An example might be an essay written about a political figure, where the author puts their own opinion into it and expresses their disliking for the candidate. This type of essay does not need to stay moderate, and instead lets the writer speak their mind. The quality of an argumentative essay is not judged by whether or not the reader agrees with the author, rather the success of an argumentative essay is judged by whether the reader can understand why the author would feel the way they do. A liberal reader may not agree with a conservative piece of argumentative writing, but if the essay is written well, than the liberal reader should still understand the viewpoint of the conservative, even if the essay does not sway their own opinions.

The argumentative essay follows a form that is reminiscent of the informational essay, but they’re not identical. Despite the point of the essay being that the author is getting across their opinions and their beliefs, first person view is still not encouraged for use. While the essay is written as a vehicle to deliver an author’s opinion, it’s not meant to be written as a discussion. It’s written as if the author is explaining away any opposing arguments, but with facts and not personal feelings, it doesn’t dismiss the other side’s stance, but it does disagree. Due to this non-personal writing style, argumentative writings might be very material heavy, which may lead to them being confused with the previously mentioned informational essay, but the difference is that there is a stance taken in an argumentative essay, while in an informational essay their is no stance taken.

Somewhere inbetween an informational essay and an argumentative essay there’s the narrative essay. A narrative essay is an essay which focuses on personal experience and anecdotes, and is not always written as consistently formal as the previous two types discussed. These essays focus on an individual and their experiences, and can only be written by their respective author. While anyone could write an essay about the history of the dinosaurs, or an argumentative piece about why the Chicago Bulls’ prime years were during the year 1997, only one author can write about their own birthdays over the years, or their pet guinea pig’s behavior. The strength of a narrative essay comes off the back of the author’s reason for writing. If the essay is about how music has influenced the author throughout their life, than the essay will only be as strong, as music’s influence has been on their life. A narrative essay lives and dies on the author’s anecdotes. If the author has no reason for writing the essay, such as music not having an influence on their life, than their essay will fall flat. 

The form of the narrative essay has the most variety when compared to informational or argumentative essays. Narrative essays, of the essays discussed, are the one where first person view is most commonly used. Due to their personal nature, writes typically include a lot more of their personality as well. This is not always the case, as in some instances, essays are meant to decribe personal experience, but still be written professionally without any out of the box vocabulary, phrasing, or structure. In a lot of cases, though, narrative essays allow the most freedom for writers to show off their own voice, and use phrases or page structure that wouldn’t be allowed in an essay that didn’t feature personal anecdotes.

In this essay, I’ve employed many techniques I described earlier, and considered which of the three described essays would be the best to use for the topic given in class. I tried to maintain a mostly moderate tone. I refrained from using any first-person view. I wanted to write an essay about the different types of essays, but I didn’t want it to describe my experience writing these essays, or argue about which essay that I thought was the best out of the three I discussed, rather I tried to do a straightforward essay, which informed readers about the different essays.  I wanted a reader (who by some miracle is completely unfamiliar with the concept of an essay), to read my paper and know the basic characteristics of informational, argumentative, and narrative essays. I wanted the reader to know about some of the make up of the essays, and to help ensure this I included examples. I personally learn best when examples are included, and so I wanted to make sure that I included them myself.


An Essay About Essays

I’ve always had a bit of trouble when it comes to writing essays. I always feel like I wind up running out of steam and forcing myself to meet requirements. I don’t always struggle though, I think it mostly comes down to the topic, and how comfortable I am with the subject matter. I’ve found that most essays fall into two categories, ones that require research and ones that require personal experience, and each of those come with their own positives and negatives.

If I had to pick which one I consider myself better at, I’d have to go with research based essays. When it comes to writing based on research, I find myself writing more naturally. I never have trouble figuring out where my essay is going to go when I write based on research, because these essays follow a sort of map. They’re based around a specific structure, which I find makes it easier to write because I get to check things off of a sort of checklist. I like having this “roadmap” of sorts which lets me know that I’m making progress and encourages me to keep working. I think this is so effective for me writing my essays, because I sometimes struggle with procrastination. Sometimes, I just can’t force myself to write, even though I know I need to. With the “roadmap” that comes with a research based structure, I’m able to keep myself motivated and keeping on pace with the essay.

I found opinion pieces that rely on personal experiences to be the hardest to write. I think there’s a multitude of reasons for this, but the main one for me is that the structure is entirely up to the writer to decide. I often worry about where I’m going to take my essay because there isn’t the same sort of structure that can be found when dealing with argumentative research writing. I consider myself a creative person, but I don’t necessarily know if an essay is the right avenue in which to express creativity. I think an essay’s strength lies in the professionalism in which it is presented. Essays are typically used as a way to express your own opinions, but there isn’t really much wiggle room when it comes to the language, and the writing style used. Essays reward well written, thoughtful responses and straying from the expectations is usually for the worse, and could lead to your intentions falling flat.

A specific essay I can remember having trouble trying to write was the one I wrote and submitted to the colleges that I applied to. The essay’s topic was very open ended, just asking something along the lines of “what is something you’re interested in, that has inspired you in life”. I remember seeing this prompt as being very intimidating as I felt like there were so many ways in which I could tackle it. I wanted to represent myself both accurately and academically. I wanted to show myself positively and put my true self out there, but I also felt like all my interests would be seen as unimpressive in the eyes of the colleges. I finally decided to write about music and the way in which it’s influenced me in my life. I chose to discuss the friends I’ve made through music as well as the experiences I’ve had at concerts. 

As I progress through college as an English major, I’ve gotten more and more comfortable when it comes to writing essays. The more and more literary courses I took, it almost became a necessity to be skilled at essay writing. At any point in the semester I could’ve been working on as many as four essays at one time. It wasn’t exactly sink or swim, but you’d definitely be struggling if you didn’t learn the best ways to craft essays. Even though I still have insecurities when it comes to my essay writing, I still feel as though I’m improving every semester, and that I’ve yet to do my best work.