Lesson 4 - Types of Essays

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This lesson will introduce you to the different types of essays we will be learning this year.  Read the following descriptions.  You will be asked to write each style of essay in future lessons. For this lesson, submit a Process Analysis Essay.

Description Essay

Details, Details, Details.  In an essay, whose purpose is to describe something, the key concept to remember is to include vivid details of the subject, be it an object or an experience. It is usually easiest to write a descriptive essay about something that you yourself have experienced.  The purpose of a desriptive essay is to convey to your audience (who may or may not have experienced the same) your specific and personal perceptions of that subject. There is certainly something satisfying about being able to describe a special or unique experience on paper... something that makes those memories seemingly last forever once they are transformed from thoughts to paper.

In choosing which detail to include, remember that you are trying to make the reader experience the subject as you perceive it while they read.  With that in mind, make sure you use words, descriptions, and detail that involve all five physical senses.  

Does your house smell like fresh baked chocolate chip cookies?  

Did the baby sound like an ambulance siren whirring past you?  

When you saw him did your skin tingle like when all the blood rushes to your feet after sitting on the floor for a long time?  

Was her smile really like watching a flower blossom?

 Did the medicine taste as tart as a lemonade with too little sugar?  

Basically, if the reader has never experienced your subject before, you should be able to link it to something common that they have probably experienced.  

Narrative Essay 

"Once upon a time..." This is a typical introduction to your most basic form of narrative, the nursery rhyme, and one I do NOT recommend you use on your paper!  However, it proves a point-- in this essay you are in fact telling a story. Use this Story Web Template to help organize your plot line before attempting to compose your narrative essay.  In good narration, all the events are there to complete the story.  Also, interesting narration has dialogue that supports the events, but does not drag.  Finally, a well done narrative essay should follow a logical time line and have a central point.   The reader should not be left with time line gaps or unrelated information.

Standard newspaper writing falls under the category of narrative writing.  A good report (as well as your GREAT essay) should answer these questions:






The trick to interesting writing is to vary the order that you give this information in.  That is what is meant by "varying sentence structure."  If you write to answer these questions in a different sequence each time, you will not end up with a truly bored reader...

For example: Because of the weather, the Braves game at Braves Stadium originally scheduled for this afternoon was cancelled by the head coaches.  The sequence is why, what, where, when, who.  And with that you have all the necessary information!

And another example: Jamie and Miguel surf every morning a the beach down the street from school in order to become better at their favorite hobby.  This time: who, what, when, where, why!  And it is just that easy!  These are two inarguable points that leave the reader with no outstanding questions.

And remember to answer the question "how?" in your writing too.  While it's not one of the 5 Ws, it is indeed important to the reader, who should not have to assume that some thing happened simply because you said it did!

Illustrative Essay

An illustrative essay is nothing more than that-- an example.  Look at the paragraph above. Did the examples help you further understand the object of narrative writing?

An illustrative essay provides clarity and understanding to any topic and is often used as a preface for another (ANY other) form of writing.  By making broad generalizations and opening the possibilities for more specific topics, illustrative essays make abstract ideas a little more concrete.  And remember...Sometimes an example of what something IS may not be enough.  You may need to tell what it IS NOT, to give the reader a thorough intunderstanding of the subject you are writing about.  

In an illustrative essay, your thesis will be the most generalized sentence in the whole paper. Every other sentence in each of the supporting paragraphs will use detail to support your thesis more specifically.  Use enough examples to explain your point, but not so many that you over-kill your reader.  In general, the fewer illustrations you use to support your thesis, the more detailed each one should be.

Process Analysis Essay

The Process Analysis essay should answer the questions "How something is made" or "How something is done."  Any form of directions or instructions are a form of process analysis that can be taken one step further and put in paragraph essay format.

Sometimes the reader may already know how to perform the task.  In that case, it is up to you to make the reader aware of a more efficient way to do it or tell the reader about a new development in the process of your subject.  You may want to write about something the reader will never experience in order to increase his or her knowledge of the subject matter.  Or you could simply want to show the difficulty or beauty of a subject.  The purpose of some of the best process essays is simply to entertain the reader by being silly in their subject matter.  

In process analysis it is important to arrange details and supporting facts in chronological order. You would not want your reader to attempt to recreate your task and do something out of order.   Your instructions for any process should be complete and so thorough that your reader can perform that very process simply by reading your paper assuming they had all of the necessary supplies.


Comparison and Contrast Essay   

Comparison and contrasting are used to examine two or more subjects and the similarities or differences between them.  "Comparison" by definition refers to similarities and "contrast" to differences; however, often comparison is used interchangeably between the two.  

The best way to come up with a thesis for a comparison essay is to tell first tell the reader what you will be discussing and then state whether you intend to compare or contrast, or both.  Like Illustration essays, Comparison Essays clarify the unknown by examining it next to something familiar.  You may choose to write this form of essay to present new information about a common topic, bring a more clear understanding to the topic, or demonstrate superiority of one thing over another.  

Where you take your essay, depends on the kind of details you decide to use. You won't be able to point out every similarity and every difference, so choose the ones you think are the most important.  


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