Luz Miriam Tirado
An essay is a prose composition that presents a writer’s reflections and ideas on
a specific topic. Any topic can be the subject on an essay and the written selection may
be of any length.
The controlling idea or central thought of an essay is often referred to as its
thesis. The thesis may be directly stated in a sentence called thesis statement. The
thesis may be stated partially or fully in the introductory paragraphs and restated
throughout the essay. It may also be included in the middle or at the end of the essay.
Sometimes the thesis is not stated at all. It means then that the thesis is implied.
The reader must read the whole essay to grasp the central thought or idea and then
draw conclusions from the details or facts provided by the writer.
Essays are often classified as formal or informal depending upon the author’s
style, the subject matter and tone. The formal essay is fairly impersonal, objective and
factual. It sounds like a formal address or lecture given by a speaker to an audience.
An informal essay is personal and subjective, so it usually conveys personal feelings
about a particular topic. It creates an intimate tone so that the reader feels the author
is speaking directly to him or to her.
Modes of writing
Writers often express at the beginning of the essay what their purpose is and
how they intend to develop the thesis. The purpose for writing essays may vary from a
simple desire to narrate a personal experience to a serious attempt to convince the
reader of a thesis. An essay may be written to share a personal experience, to
communicate a feeling, to offer information, or to persuade the reader to act in a
certain manner. As a result, there are four modes of writing or modes of discourse
according to purpose: narration, description, exposition, and persuasion.
Narration is the chronological presentation of events to tell a story or to relate
what happens. In essay writing, it usually involves the recounting of events that are
true and take place over a given period of time. It is often combined with description
and exposition to instruct or to illustrate a point. Transitional words or phrases of time
such as first, then, after that, next, and finally connect the events in a narrative essay.
Description aims to create a picture in words of people, objects, places, or
events. Descriptions can be physical or psychological. In a physical description the
writer pictures how something looks. Language makes us see. In a psychological
description the writer evokes certain feelings to move us. Languages make us feel.
Concrete words make descriptions clear and easy to imagine.
Exposition is used to provide an explanation or setting forth of an idea, usually
for the purpose of giving information. Since expository writing is meant to inform,
readers should be able to clearly identify and understand the ideas the author has
attempted to convey.
Persuasion is the use of argument to change the way we think and feel about
an issue or to prove the truth or falseness of a statement. A persuasive essay tries to
convince the reader to accept the author’s thesis.
The Structure of the Essay
Most essays follow a particular pattern of organization that includes three parts:
introduction, body, and conclusion. There are different types of paragraphs in each
section. Each paragraph has a specific function in the structure of the essay.
Introductory paragraphs are used to state the subject to be discussed and to
try to capture the reader’s attention. The thesis statement is usually included in the
Developmental paragraphs present supporting evidence for the central
thought or thesis of the essay. There are several methods by which developmental or
body paragraphs are developed such as definition, comparison/contrast, analogy, facts
and details, classification, analysis, examples and illustrations and cause and effect.
Sometimes different methods are combined within a single essay.
Transitional paragraphs serve to indicate a shift or change from one point or
idea to another. They are usually brief. The writer may refer to what has been
discussed previously and then introduce a new point or idea to be developed. They
usually start with a transitional word or phrase such as in spite of, then, in addition to,
Concluding paragraphs serve to directly or indirectly reaffirm the central thought
or thesis. They are frequently used to reinforce what has been emphasized throughout
the essay by restating the thesis statement or by providing a summary of major points
discussed in the body of the essay.
Methods of Paragraph Development
Writers use different methods to provide support for the thesis of the essay. As
a result, body paragraphs are developed using different approaches called methods of
paragraph development. Sometimes several methods are combined within a single
1. examples and illustration – giving specific examples of general or abstract
Examples help the readers see the truth of a thesis statement. Writers
generally use transitional phrases such as for example and to illustrate.
An illustration is a short chronological account of what happened in a
2. classification – placing several subjects into categories
Information is arranged into groups or categories in order to make clear
the relationships among members of the group.
3. analysis – taking something apart and looking at the parts to see how they
make up the whole
4. comparison and contrast – analyzing likenesses and differences between two
or more subjects
Comparison emphasizes likenesses and similarities, contrast centers on
the differences between two items.
5. analogy – a form of figurative comparison between two things or activities for
the purpose of explanation
Unlike a formal comparison, its subjects of comparison are from different
categories or areas.
6. cause and effect – explains why events occur, or what the outcome or
expected results of a chain of events might be
It involves a way of thinking that identifies conditions (causes) and
establishes results or consequences (effects). Cause and effect may be
presented in two different ways:
a. deductive reasoning – the written work begins with the cause
followed by a detailed discussion of the results (from general to
b. inductive reasoning – the written work begins with the results and
ends with the cause (from particular to general)
7. definition – a way of explaining an important word or concept, so that the
reader knows what the writer means by it
8. facts and details – giving factual information to add force to a particular
statement or argument.
Transitional Words or Phrases
At times the ideas presented in a piece of writing may seem to be unrelated to each
other unless the writer includes transitional words and phrases that make the
relationships clear. These words and phrases help make the paragraph coherent. The
list below includes common transitional words or phrases grouped by the kind of
relationship they establish.
also / another / besides / furthermore / in addition to / indeed / moreover
2. Cause and Effect
To introduce a cause or reason
because / due to (the fact) that / for / on account of / since
To introduce an effect or result
as a result / consequently / for that reason / hence / so / therefore / thus
3. Comparison and contrast
To introduce a comparison
in the same way / like / likewise / similar / similarly
To introduce a contrast
although / but / even though / however / in contrast / in spite of / instead
/ nevertheless / on the contrary / on the other hand / otherwise / still /
unlike / whereas / while / yet
4. Illustration and Explanation
as an illustration / first / first of all / for example / for instance / for one
thing / namely / such as
above / alongside / back / beneath / east / eastward / here / in front of /
in the distance / inside / outside / left / north / outside / over / right /
south / west / wherever
after / afterwards / as soon as / at the same time / before / by this time /
during this time / eventually / first (second, third, etc.) / finally / later /
meanwhile / next / once / since then / simultaneously / soon /
subsequently / then / until / when / whenever / while
7. Summary or Conclusion
finally / in brief / in conclusion / in short / to conclude / to summarize
Choice of Words (Diction)
Every writer has his/her own characteristic use of language, that is, a particular
way of selecting and arranging words in a piece of writing. The choice of words
contributes to the final impact of an essay on the reader. Whenever we analyze the
choice of words, we consider the denotative and connotative meanings of words.
Denotation is the direct, specific meaning or referent of a word, what it means
literally. Connotation is the suggestive quality of a word; it has to do with feelings,
images, and ideas associated with a word.
A figure of speech is a word or phrase that departs from its usual meaning and
makes extensive use of connotation. Most common figures are based on comparisons.
1. simile – an explicit comparison between two things that are dissimilar using the
words like, as, or seems
ex. A growing child is like a young tree.
2. metaphor – an implicit comparison which attributes the qualities of one thing to
ex. Life is the fruit she longs to hand you, ripe on a plate.
3. personification – giving human qualities to inanimate things, abstractions, or
ex. The sun smiled at the earth.
4. hyperbole – extravagant exaggeration
ex. There were mile-high ice-cream cones at the parlor.
5. paradox – a statement that at first seems contradictory or illogical, but that
after a careful analysis shows an element of truth
ex. “An expert knows more and more about less and less.”
Nicholas Murray Butter
Other Literary Devices
1. allusion – reference to a person, place , or event of historical, literary, or
2. irony – the use of language and situations that are inappropriate or opposite
from what might be expected
3. symbolism – the use of symbols (a symbol stands for something else)
Imagery is descriptive language that appeals to the senses. Writers use this kind
of language to bring readers to sense what they themselves experience and to create
pictures or images in the reader’s mind. They turn to words that convey sight, sound,
smell, taste, and touch. Often a single image or a combination of images appeals to
many senses. Concrete, sensory language brings a person, an object, a scene
immediately to life. There are different kinds of images according to the sense they
appeal to: visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and tactile.
In addition to the images that appeal to the five senses, we can also find images
that describe motion (kinesthetic) and temperature changes (thermal).