What Exactly is an “Essay?”
The term “essay,” can be a little confusing to many students (and teachers.) What exactly is an essay? There is also a little confusion as to when and how to teach essay writing. The truth is much of what students write in both elementary and middle school can be considered an essay.
Aldous Huxley, a famous essayist said, “The essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything.”
That’s quite a… vague, yet accurate description. Essay writing is a little easier to understand when you see what it has in common with reports and stories.
Here are Five Common Types of Writing that Students do in School
1. Essay – From the author’s personal point of view
2. Report – Based on research
3. Fiction story – Story from the imagination
4. Short answer – Usually gives an answer to a specific question; a short answer can be anywhere from one word to possibly a couple paragraphs
5. Poetry – Artistic use of language
There are Lots of Different Kinds of Essays
Here are just a few: Narrative essay, personal narrative essay, cause and effect essay, descriptive essay, compare and contrast essay, argumentative essay, definition essay, 5-paragraph essay, expository essay, evaluation essay, persuasive essay. A general guideline for the term “essay” is:
v An essay is written from the author’s personal point of view.
v An essay discusses, explores, describes, or analyzes one subject or topic.
v An essay is a multi-paragraph piece of writing.
Is an Essay a Story? AND Is a Story an Essay?
Let’s Take a Look:
v Personal Narrative Essay – Narrative story from the authors point of view based on the author’s personal experience
v Fiction Story – A narrative story that comes from the author’s imagination
These are both “stories.” One is a true story, one comes from the imagination. Though they are both stories, they are not both essays. Notice that the “Fiction Story” is not an essay.
Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay does teach essay writing. However, when looking at the Aldous Huxley definition of what an essay is, I think you will find that the program greatly improves all writing that elementary and middle school students will do, including both stories and reports.
The essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything.
Aldous Huxley – Famous essayist