Essay, a definition:
-A relatively short piece of writing on a particular topic
-To attempt or try
“The primary reason to write an essay is so that the writer can formulate and organise an informed, coherent and sophisticated set of ideas about something important.”
Some spoken quotes:
“The best way to teach people critical thinking is to teach them to write.”
“If you can think and speak and write you’re absolutely deadly."
About essay writing
If you want a life characterized by competence, productivity, security, originality and engagement rather one that is brutish and short, you need to think carefully about important issues. There is no better way than to write. Writing extends memory, facilitates editing and clarifies your thinking.
Writing allows careful editing of thoughts and arguments. You can reject substandard ideas until only good ideas remain. You keep those and use them, like an arsenal of well thought out, well founded ideas to persuade, influence and communicate.
Being able to formulate and communicate a clear argument almost always wins. Examples like making a case for yourself at a potential job, asking for a raise or a debate over an idea.
Writing and editing well opens your ability to tell well-presented ideas and deceitful, faulty ideas put forth by unskilled thinkers. You are then more likely to only be influenced by profound and solid ideas than foolish whims and ideologies.
Thinking and communicating well empowers you to defend yourself and your friends and family.
Without thinking and communication we would still be living in trees, or worse.
You need two screens. One with reference material and one with ideally two versions of your essay.
Make your space as ergonomic as possible, a you may spend hours writing. This is not trivial.
People’s brains function best in the morning. Proper sleep and food make you smarter and more resilient. Coffee alone is counter productive. Have protein and fat. Make a smoothie with fruit and real yoghurt. Spend one point five to three hours writing,though even fifteen minutes is useful, particularly if you do it every day. The most effective writers write every day, at least a bit.
Your mind will rebel and everything will distract you; snacks, cleaning, menial tasks, anything. If you resist for about fifteen minutes then the distractions subside. With practice the temptations won’t wane but the time it takes for them to subside will reduce.
Three productive hours a day are MUCH better than ten hours of self-deceptive non-productivity. Even in the library.
Words, sentences, paragraphs and more, levels of resolution
Selection of the word -> Crafting of the sentence -> Arrangement of sentences in a paragraph -> Arrangement of paragraphs in an essay -> The essay as a whole
Each word should be precisely chosen, in the right location in each sentence. The sentence should present a thought, part of the idea expressed in the paragraph. A paragraph should have at least ten sentences, or 100 words. You have very little right to break the rules, until you have mastered them.
Rules are there for very good reason. However, if you are respectful of the rule and conscious of its importance and place to keep chaos at bay, then you could break it carefully if the circumstances demand it. This is different to an ignorant, antisocial approach. If you’re not a master then don’t confuse your ignorance with creativity or style. Writing that follows the rules is easier for readers. Use convention.
RULE #1 - Paragraphs should be 100 words or 10 sentences long
A paragraph should present a single idea, using multiple sentences. If you can’t think of 100 words to say about an idea it’s probably not a good idea. Or it needs more thought. If longer, it should be broken up if it has more than one idea, or you’re rambling. Each paragraph is a stepping stone to the final destination, the conclusion.
However competent the essay is, if it is not interesting or important then it can still fail. This can swing the other way, where the ideas are so desperately trying to be expressed that a poorly formatted, mess of an essay can succeed.
Other levels of resolutions
Context and audience
An essay exists with two more levels of resolution: The reader and the culture the reader is embedded in. These levels consider the assumptions they will bring to the essay, with roots in biology and culture. A brilliant essay succeeds at all levels resolution simultaneously.
Aesthetics and Fascination
Strive for brevity, concise and efficient expression, as well as not being bored while writing or boring to read. Your mind cannot be hoodwinked into being interested by something not so. If you’re bored you have either chosen the wrong topic, or approached a good topic in a poor way. The topic should be a question you want to answer. This can be the hardest part, finding the proper question.
Rule #2 Be interested if you want your essay to be interesting
Rule #3 Finished beats perfect
Zeroes are VERY bad. If you don’t submit anything you get a zero. An essay handed in, no matter badly written, can usually get a C. Not handing anything in is the act of a self-destructive idiot.
If you can’t list ten topics, then you need to do more reading. If you can’t write, it’s because you have nothing to say. Read more.
Rule #4 If you can’t write, you have nothing to say. Read more.
To find readings start at wikipedia or encyclopedic sources, using their reference lists to guide you. If you find someone who is interesting and appropriate for the essay, look into people they mention and reference. Most important works in a body of learning is interconnected.
Rule #5 Use 5-10 books or articles per thousand words of esay
Notes on Notes
If anything catches your attention while reading you may think it’s important, something you seriously disagree with or something you want to more about. Your emotional reactions will help discern when these responses happen.
Rule #6 Useful parts of readings will make you: alert, curious or angry
Rule #7 Don’t bother highlighting or underlining, this doesn’t work. Read a bit then write down what you’ve learned along with any questions that have arisen.
Rule #8 Don’t copy the reading word for word. The point of learning is to remember and then communicate an idea in your own words. Unless quoting. This is not a simplistic rewriting, this is a dialogue with the author of your sources.
Comprehension tip. When reading, look away or cover the material and say out loud what you understood it to mean. Write that down. The key here is to copy down three times the amount of notes that you may use in an essay. The way to tackle level six and seven is to be picky about choosing what not to include, including only what is relevant and most impactful.
PART FOUR - The Outline
Rule #9 Your first draft should be longer than the final version. You want to cut down your writing. It is not faster to try to write to the word count.
The outline is the most difficult part of the essay. The outline forms the skeleton of a body. It is basically the argument you are putting forward. Stick to less than fifteen sentences outlining your argument. If the essay is longer make sub-outlines for each sentence. For the introduction keep it simple and avoid cliche. This essay will do x, how will it do x. Then This essay did x, why did it do x.
PART FIVE - Paragraphs
When writing paragraphs write ten to fifteen sentences for each outline point. This is production mode. No niceties, focus on grammar or quality. If you get stuck on an outline item them move to the next. Edit mode is when you go to the raw material you produced and tweak, remove, change and rectify. These need to be distinct operational modes to make the production as productive as possible, and the editing as swift as possible.
PART SIX - Editing
When editing, place each sentence on its own line. This singles out the sentence as a statement, and allows for easy editing, as well as rearranging. Better in this case means shorter. Eliminate 15-25% of your sentences and write to your level of vocabulary, even stretching a bit in order to build your level up. Read the sentences out loud and change them to speak better. Remember to be comparing your new sentences to your old ones, as the changes may not always produce a better result. Do the same in reordering the paragraphs.
Part Eight - A new outline
Read your entire essay. Now, without looking back, write a new essay outline. You are distilling the remembered ideas of your essay into an even more potent version. What you do next is create a new document, with the new outline and the second draft pasted below it. You will then place back in sentences that are relevant, removing what isn’t. When finished this will be your final essay.
Part Nine Repeat
If you want to improve it even more then repeat this new outline and rearranging process. You will know when you can’t improve it anymore when reordered sentences or paragraphs stop seeming like improvements. This is useful to do after a few days with some time away from the essay, with fresh eyes.
Part Ten References and bibliography
You need to reference when you state a fact or informed opinion that you gathered from your reading. The bibliography should contain not only things you refer to in the essay but other material you read to gain a background knowledge of the subject.
Format: double spaced with a title page and a tab indent at the beginning of each paragraph.