Essays

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Overview Essay Types (genres) Transition Words Editing
Overview: So what exactly is an essay anyway?  Basically an essay is a group of paragraphs evolving from and revolving around a central thought (or thesis).  Too many students (and teachers) think of the essay as simply a product.  In reality, the essay is more of a process than it is a product.  Indeed, the word essay is derived from the French word essai, which means "to try, to attempt".  The French derivation comes from the Latin verb exagium, which means "to weigh".  An essay, then, is an activity in which we weigh alternatives and put into writing something which we have attempted several different ways.
     For the purpose of English A, an essay should be no less than five paragraphs.  Keep in mind that this is a minimum.  Any number more than five paragraphs is perfectly fine.  One of those five paragraphs is an introductory paragraph, and one is a concluding paragraph.  The remainder of the paragraphs are considered body paragraphs; they are used to make and prove the main points of your essay.
   For English 1A it's best to think of essays in terms of pages rather than a set number of paragraphs.  However, even in 1A essays you'll have one introductory paragraph, a concluding paragraph, and body paragraphs.  See the paragraph page of this web site for more details.

Essay Types:
    While all essays attempt to persuade, there are different types (genres) of essays.  Narrative, descriptive, persuasive/argumentative, cause and effect, and compare/contrast are among the most common.  It's important that you clarify with your instructor what essay genre you are required to write.


Transition Words: Students have a tendency to not use these enough.  Yet these words work to make your essay more cohesive (or at least appear more cohesive).  Use them wisely.  The following are some common transition words and phrases:

Relationship

Addition

Transitional Words

also, in addition, too, moreover, and, besides, furthermore, equally important, then, finally

Example for example, for instance, thus, as an illustration, namely, specifically
Comparison in addition, furthermore, plus, like, likewise, similarly
Contrast however, conversely, in contrast, nevertheless, on the other hand, still, yet, but, nonetheless
Result as a result, therefore, thus, so, accordingly
Concession certainly, granted, unarguably, of course, to be sure
Time first, second, third, next, afterwards, finally, before, soon, later, meanwhile, simultaneously, immediately, subsequently, currently
Summary in conclusion, in short, hence, finally, in brief


Editing is the process of making an essay better.  It involves rewriting, writing, discarding, and rearranging.  It should be a timely process.  Too often students submit their very first draft of an essay.  This is a complete waste of time even if the student manages to get a good grade on the assignment.  My goal is to help you write better than you do now.  Consequently, a great deal of editing should be done on your essay before I see it.  Edit meticulously, edit often, and take your time.  The following is an editing checklist to help get you started: