The art of writing an essay


The word ‘Essay’ means an attempt; as a verb, it means ‘to try‘; what students attempt to write at school are rightly called essays.

General characteristics of an Essay

1. Unity: An essay has a beginning, a middle and an end, all helping to give it a unity.

2. Order: All the thoughts on the topic should be put down in a logical and orderly manner, leading naturally to the conclusion.

3. Brevity: Generally the essay should be brief with the length between 300-400 words.

4. Style: The style of an essay should be conversational, easy, natural, friendly and familiar. ‘Simple thoughts clothed in simple words’ should be the motto.

Above all, an essay should give expression to one’s individual and personal thoughts. It should not be colourless. It should show the personal touch. Do not quote extensively in an essay.

Thus an essay should be marked by a “suitable subject matter, proper arrangement of ideas and adequate power of expression.”

Classification of Essays

Broadly, essays are classified as; (a) Narrative, (b) Descriptive, (c) Expository and (d) Imaginative. Some of these types may overlap, but they are the broad categories.

Narrative Essays: These include stories, biographies, incidents including natural disasters, journeys etc.

Descriptive Essays: These contain description of animals, plants, towns, countries, natural phenomena, articles of use etc.

Expository Essays: These consist of detailed explanation of some subject, like an institution (Parliament) or occupation (farming), scientific or literary topics.

Imaginative Essays: When you are asked to describe the feelings of a ship-wrecked mariner or a home-keeping youth in a foreign country or topics like ‘If I were the Prime Minister of India ‘or’ If I were Aladdin’ you are writing an imaginative essay.

Planning and writing the Essay

Preparation: General:

You should have something relevant to say on ordinary topics of interest. Class textbooks do not give you all that there is to know. The best preparation is to read a number of books on a variety of topics-books and journals from the library. Reading makes the full man said Bacon. So cultivate the habit extensive reading and equip yourself with a lot of information from books on history, biography, science and adventure.

Reading makes the full man said Bacon. So cultivate the habit extensive reading and equip yourself with a lot of information from books on history, biography, science and adventure.

Secondly, develop your sense of observation, keep your eyes and ears open and try to note down briefly about the people, the buildings (museums etc.,) the sights and sounds you come across from day to day. What strikes you most must be described after the visit is over.

Thirdly, you should communicate and talk to people about things, about your own experiences and listen to their points of view.

Steps in writing an Essay (How to write a good essay)


1. Selecting the topic: Keeping the broad categories of essays outlined above, the teachers should suggest a suitable topic, in keeping with the level of their students. Descriptive topics are the easiest and imaginative topics are the most difficult. You may start with descriptive topics.

2. Preparing an outline: At the outset the teacher and pupils may work together in collecting relevant material for the topic and make an outline for the essay. He/she may ask questions and write the outline on the blackboard.


1. Introduction: As pointed out earlier, an essay should have a good introduction. Think of a few good sentences which will introduce the topic at one glance briefly using appropriate words. Make the introduction arresting.

2. Body of the Essay: An essay is divided into paragraphs, each paragraph containing one feature (of a description) or one thought (in an anvimaginative essay). Write down in outline the headings of the various paragraphs. One paragraph should lead to the other naturally and logically. Remember to avoid unnecessary words and sentences.

3. Conclusion: Think of a concluding paragraph, which should really summarise all that has gone before and end the essay as a self-contained unit.

If you have any doubts about this article, please comment below.

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