It is an interesting and difficult form of writing: it gives many possibilities, but also requires just as much. What is it? Originality, lightweight pen, rich vocabulary, and above all knowledge, knowledge, knowledge….
What kind of topics
The essay is a work close to journalism, somewhere on the borderline between literature and science. It can talk about very different issues: philosophical, literary, scientific… It is characterized by the fact that the subject is captured in an interesting, original way, showing the individual view of the author (subjectivism!). The essence of the essay is not – as in the treatise – reasoning (argument ‘conclusion’), but free consideration of the problem.
What theme “fits” into the essay?
Wherever the theme allows you to think freely, you can write an essay.
Purely dissertationary topics are less suitable: “prove the truthfulness of the words…”, “argue with the thesis…”. Their aim is to solve the problem unambiguously, while in the essay the thought argument is rather open.
The choice of this form of writing should dictate to you not so much a specific type of subject, but the conviction that we can say something new on a given subject, revealing, distant from commonly known truths.
Here is a concrete example: the theme “Images of love in different literary eras”.
There is no point in trying to write an essay if we have to say that the images of love were different and that this feeling brought happiness, but also suffering. In the essay there is no room for truisms and banalities! However, such a subject can be realized in a completely different way. One can, for example, analyze the dependence of love images on historical events or the influence of specific literary patterns. Or compare the different ways of looking at love in works written by men and women. You have to have an idea for an essay, so you won’t find a very specific recipe here. However, we can already see that the author should be an erudite – a well-read man with extensive knowledge in various fields.
One of the important features of the essay is its reflectiveness, manifested for example by the presence of philosophical references. In discussing the above mentioned images of love, one can refer not only to literature, but also to philosophy, history, psychology, sociology….
You only need to have this knowledge and a little courage to draw unconventional conclusions.
Original thought in beautiful form
The brilliant conclusions of the essay must be accompanied by great care for the linguistic side. This form of writing requires a harmony between knowledge and artistry that is not easy to achieve. Some people claim that a bad essay cannot be written – then simply “this something” ceases to be an essay. In extreme cases, an essay approaches poetic prose (when a beautiful form dominates over deliberations) or philosophical dissertation (when insufficient attention is paid to the beauty of the style), but usually the creators strive for a certain balance of elements.
How to write an essay?
- Keep the language rich – use different syntax constructions, avoid repetitions (unless they are intended!). You can use different stylistic variations – e.g. introduce scientific or colloquial vocabulary. Condition: it must serve something, it must not result only from the inability to use words in proper contexts (this applies especially to colloquial elements).
- Write original! Do not build your essay on stereotypes. Do not create drawers, do not repeat school schematics. Important: an essay requires originality. You don’t necessarily have to discover America at once, an unusual, surprising approach to the subject is enough to start with.
- Weave in your statement quotations from works, aphorisms, anecdotes – thanks to them your statement becomes more interesting, and besides, it is a way to boast of erudition. An interesting anecdote will help you to effectively start (or finish) your work. You can make the quote a motto of your work. Remember that you can also title it.
The word “anecdote” is not only a humorous story! This short story about a characteristic event (of course it can also be comical), usually represents an episode from the life of a famous person.
- Take care of your style!
In the essay, it is also important to take care of your language. The author has a lot of freedom – he can use different types of language, use stylistic means, evoke anecdotes, quotations, sentences… Thanks to that the essay has an attractive, picturesque language. But beware: don’t see in this, for example, permission to write the whole thing in colloquial language. All colloquial stylistic “quotations” must serve something, not only because of your small language skills.
- Use stylistic means only when you think it’s necessary (nothing by force!) and not necessarily at once Homeric (very complex) comparisons. An interesting metaphor will help to better express a thought, epithets make a picture work, onomatopoeias – they influence its sound and musicality. The contradictions existing in the discussed problem will be easier to expose thanks to the use of oxymorons or antitheses. Try – as in the case of conclusions – to avoid banality, schematically.
- Use rhetorical elements – not only in the form of rhetorical questions, but also an apostrophe or repetition. Their presence diversifies the stylistics of the text, but also helps in establishing contact with the recipient, making him/her curious.
- Present your own views!
Do you disagree with the views presented here? You do not have to. An important feature of the essay is subjective. This form of writing always shows the author’s individual view of a problem. It is often a controversial view, but it always stems from something, it is somehow justified.
- Do not summarize, refer to other texts of culture!
In the essay there is no need to summarize the fate of the characters. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know them well… Sometimes it’s enough to mention a small detail (like Lotta’s dress from Young Werther’s Suffering), sometimes to quote something. Besides, literature is not enough! An important feature of the essay is its erudite character, i.e. its comprehensive knowledge. References to art, philosophy, history, psychology or other fields of science are welcome.
- Avoid chaos!
What some people really like about essays is the freedom of composition. There is no question of justifying a previously put forward thesis, of organizing arguments. In the essay it is allowed to suddenly move to another aspect of the problem or to introduce digression. However, this does not mean mental chaos! The author of the essay considers a problem, and the deliberations are not necessarily ordered. However, the sequence of thoughts is not completely random!
- Leave some question marks!
Note that an essay does not have to end with any unambiguous and final conclusion. A feature of this form is its fragmentation – the consideration of the problem without the intention of exhausting it. That is why the thought argument in the essay is always open.