How to write the perfect essay...
Although impressionistic and based mostly on personal opinion, there are certain steps that can be taken to help write that elusive perfect essay. First, the planning and preparation must be based on the type of essay one wants to write, which typically falls into one of two categories, objective or subjective.
An objective essay, one without bias from an objective standpoint, will generally need to focus more on detailed analysis to elicit fact from possibly inaccurate or conflicting information. An example of this would be an attorney attempting to present a case by examining two different presentations of the same course of events, each with a particular bias in favor of the party presenting it. A subjective essay, subject to personal opinion from a subjective standpoint, could for example be a political paper expressing ones political opinions and individual views.
In most cases, however, one will be expected to write an essay objectively demonstrating the ability to present a well structured and concise argument based on analysis of fact rather than personal opinion. The best way to achieve this is to "read between the lines", so to speak. Consider this fictional sentence:
Tommy viciously threw the baseball as hard as he could at Chris' face, striking home with a sickening crunch.
Without context or background examination, there is only one fact to be gained from this sentence - Tommy threw a baseball and during its flight Chris is hit in the face. However, the sentence can be interpreted in a number of ways; Tommy's intent was to hit Chris in the face, Tommy didn't mean to do this, it was in fact an accident, or even that Tommy did intend to cause damage, but not to Chris, to the player next to him.
Writing an objective essay is often the most difficult skill to learn, but easily the most important in almost every academic field, English language, literature, history, law, and business to name a few. Once you have mastered the distinctions between writing purely subjectively and writing objectively with structured and referenced arguments, the rest will become a lot easier to master.
Perhaps the second most important skill to master is writing concisely and being to the point. A habit often picked up by literature students is that they tend to write very long, wordy sentences that may be beautiful to read, but often use far too many words to suit a purpose that could be met by a shorter, clearer sentence. For example:
Angelo turned slowly to face the group. The sunlight flicking through the curtains suddenly caught the side of his face, sharply illuminating it, giving the impression of some sort of godlike figure...
From these two sentences, all that can be learned is that a man named Angelo turned around to face a group of people. The rest is merely descriptive and of no real importance, but would meet the purpose of writing descriptively to entertain.
Students can find many great books on essay writing at Amazon.com and Google Books. For you technical science writers, visit the superb MIT Open CourseWare. For more information on interesting ways to improve your essay skills, get in touch now with members of our professional writing team who are more than happy to help impart some of the skills they have picked up in the course of their own writing careers!
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