
An essay is an extended piece where its
creator explores a subject in some detail.
 It’s not always a piece of writing.

Essays differ from fictional pieces in that they
are organized by thoughts/ideas and not by a
narrative (story).

Essays appear in many different forms:
 Speeches
 Newspaper Editorials
 Opinion Pieces in Magazines
 Documentary Films
 Photo Essays in Magazines
 Exam Questions






To express new ideas/points of view.
To teach or explain.
To reflect on or express opinions about people,
events, or situations.
To raise awareness of social issues or injustices.
To influence readers on political issues.
To entertain or amuse by presenting topics in original
or clever ways.

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (as read
by Johnny Cash)

Always have some sort of central topic or
theme.

The title is often the first clue about the topic
and may even provide clues about the thesis or
proposition, which is the position/stance the
writer takes in relation to the topic.

Often, the key to understanding the real
meaning for an essay is to identify its main
THESIS (the main idea).
Essayist

Skilled essayists:
 are clear about their purpose in writing;
 develop distinct ideas
 organize ideas clearly
 include original insights to stimulate audience
 support what they say with evidence from verifiable
sources.

Gains your interest through a strong or
controversial statement, quotation, or some
other technique (anecdote, figure of speech,
visual, etc.).

Sometimes states the thesis of the essay and
previews ideas discussed in the body of the
essay.

In writing, the first paragraph or two usually
presents the thesis and an overview of the
essay’s content.

The thesis could be expressed as a sentence,
and could also include the topic of the essay as
well as the writer’s position in relation to the
topic.
 But this is not always the case.

A thesis statement must come at the end of the first
paragraph.

A thesis statement must be one sentence in length, no
matter how many clauses it contains.

You can't start writing an essay until you have a perfect
thesis statement.

A thesis statement must give three points of support.

In some essays, the thesis is not stated
explicitly (an actual line from the essay in plain
English/easy to identify).

You may have to reread the essay to come up
with the implicit (implied) thesis and then state it
in your own words.

The main section.

Where the thesis is
developed:
 Arguments are
presented/explained;
 Evidence is given (and
properly-referenced);
 Ideas are connected into a
cohesive whole.

Each body section develops an new (but
connected) aspect of the thesis.

TOPIC SENTENCE
 Each new topic should begin with a sentence that
supports the main thesis.
 Each topic sentence – when read together – should
outline the key arguments or ideas that support the
thesis.

Shifts in between the key arguments of the
essay are usually contained in the first sentence
of the paragraph (the topic sentence).

Look for transitional phrases or connecting
words that signal such shifts.

Usually short and to the point.

A conclusion usually includes a brief summary
of main points of the.

It should not add new information, but can
present the writer’s final thoughts and insights
on the thesis.
 A written essay usually follows a standard structure:
○ Introduction establishes the topic and the writer’s position in
relation to the topic (thesis).
○ Body develops the thesis through supporting arguments.
○ Conclusion sums up key ideas and leaves the reader with a
sense of importance of the topic.
 But this structure can be flexible. Writers vary in how
they use it.
Informal Essay

Usually uses the first
person (‘I’ or ‘We’)

Directly addresses
the reader
Formal Essay

Usually uses the
third-person (‘he’,
‘she’, ‘it’, ‘they’, etc)
Informal

Frequently drawn
from life of the writer
and everyday events
(informal editorials,
etc)
Formal

More commonly
drawn from shared
historical events or
literature or other
forms of knowledge
(research).
Informal

Appears to be more
loosely structured.
Formal

Follows a fairly rigid
structure that
focuses on the
development of one
clear argument at a
time to support a
clearly-stated thesis.
Informal

May appear
anywhere in the
essay; may not be
explicitly stated.
Formal

Usually stated
explicitly, generally
located in the first or
second paragraph of
the essay.
Informal

vocabulary tends to
be taken from
everyday usage.
Formal

vocabulary tends to
be more academic
and may contain
some unfamiliar
words.
Informal

Entertainment;
satire; reflection.
Formal

Provokes thought,
and sometimes
action.

Have characteristics of both formal and informal.
 Informal essays are understood in a single reading.
 Formal essays can take several re-readings to ensure
understanding.
 Until now, we have encountered mostly FORMAL
essays in school.

Describes or explains a topic.
 The Care and Maintenance of a
Mustache
○ No opinions
○ No controversial statements or calls to action
○ No informal language
○ This is the type of essay you tackled last year

Uses a single well-told story as the basis for
drawing a conclusion or making a statement of
opinion.
 My Fascinating Mustache Story
○ Mostly informal language
○ Will use ‘I’
○ Will have opinion, reflection

Presents a reasoned (well-explained and
supported) series of arguments in support of a
position.
 Mustaches or Beards: Which is
Safest?
○ May be formal or informal
○ Uses research and expert opinion
○ Will tend to be opinionated

Combines reasoned (supported by research)
arguments with the emotion required to
persuade the reader to take action.
 Real Men Wear Mustaches
○ Will be mostly formal with some informal elements
○ Relies on rhetoric and emotional appeal
○ Relies heavily on research to support stance
ESSAY ANALYSIS
English 621
Purpose
39



what the essay tries to accomplish; the author
wouldn’t have written it without some sort of
purpose in mind
common purposes are to narrate, to describe, to express,
to argue, to persuade, to instruct, to report (usually
purpose is expressed as a verb)
figuring out the purpose behind the essay is essential
in order to recognize the type of essay you are
analyzing
Subject Matter
40

Subject


Thesis


sentence(s) summarizing the main point of the essay; all subordinate
points should support thesis
Subordinate Points


the topic (broad or specific) of the essay being analyzed
individual thoughts or arguments that develop the thesis (topic sentences
for each paragraph)
Supporting Details

examples, illustrations, quotes, reasons used to support the subordinate
points (which support thesis)
Audience
41



to whom the essay is directed
why would the author choose to direct this essay
at this particular audience? (this is always tied to
the purpose)
we must assume that the audience has been
carefully chosen by the writer. We find the best
‘fit’ for this essay.
Vehicle
42



the form of the author has selected to share
his/her message
letter, article, review, column, video,
documentary, editorial, speech, etc.
in some cases, the vehicle isn’t an essay at all, but
a documentary film, a speech, a photo essay, etc.
Context
43


the personal, historical or social circumstances
of the writer that influence the content and form
of the essay
for example, what would prompt Michael Moore
to produce a documentary (an essay on film)
which points out the flaws in the American
healthcare system or another one which suggests
President Bush acted in error during his first
presidential term?
Style
45



in simple terms, style refers to the author’s writing style,
his/her structure, diction, use of figurative language
and rhetoric.
style is affected by regional and cultural variations, by
changing uses of words, by the development of new
words and new meanings in the language, and by the
fertility of the author’s imagination.
a good essayist chooses and arranges words to convey
his/her particular meaning and to produce a particular
effect.
Style
46

Beginnings and Endings are Important
 The
reader often remembers them best.
 They contain the ideas you most want to emphasize.
 The
beginning is what draws the reader in.
 The ending leaves the reader with a strong final
image, thought, or insight.
Style  Structure  Beginning/Endings
47
Beginning/Ending
Example
Illustrative Anecdote: a brief recounting of an
incident that illustrates or introduces the point
you made or are about to make
In his essay, ‘How to Live to be 200', Stephen
Leacock uses the anecdote of Mister Jiggins, the
health nut, to introduce his criticism of the
overly health conscious.
Shocking Statistic
...powerful industries - the $33 billion a year diet
industry, the $20 billion cosmetics industry, the
$300 cosmetic surgery industry, and the $7
billion pornography industry - have arisen from
the money made out of peoples’ anxieties, and
are able to negatively influence mass culture’.
(Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth)
Bold, Direct, Statement
‘A student often leaves high school today
without any sense of how to survive in a world
where his parents wipe his nose when he
sneezes’. (Northrop Frye)
Style : Development
48


The development of arguments is the main
component of the structure of the essay.
Using different methods indicates a sophisticated
thought process. Some methods:
 Analogy
 Cause-effect
 Definition
 Example
 Comparison
 Contrast
 Classify
Style: Development
49
Development Method
What is It?
Example
Analogy
compares something that is
Niels Bohr's model of the atom
less familiar with something
made an analogy between the atom
more familiar in order to help and the solar system.
the reader understand the less
familiar topic
Cause & Effect
explains why something
happened by showing the
direct causal relationships
between two or more things
Factory jobs draw people to cities
which, in turn, have become
overpopulated.
Definition
explores in greater depth the
significance associated with
the term or concept in order
to give as full a picture as
possible of its characteristics
Susan Sontag defines ‘beauty’ by
examining the ancient views of
beauty, the language used to
describe men’s versus women’s
beauty, internal and external
beauty, and the significance of the
absence of beauty in the world.
Style: Development
50
Development Method
What is It?
Example
Example
illustrates a point with
reference to a personal or
shared experience, an
allusion, statistics, analogy,
or quote from an authority
In his essay ‘Were Dinosaurs Dumb?’
Stephen Gould cites Jack chopping
down the beanstock and David smiting
Goliath with a slingshot as metaphors
that show how ‘slow wit is the tragic
flaw of the giant.’
Comparison
points out similarities and
differences between two or
more ideas, things, people,
etc; point-by-point
comparison is a more
effective organization in that
similarities and differences
are clearly pointed out
Comparing Brutus to Hamlet as tragic
heroes reinforces the characteristics of
the Shakespearean tragic hero while
pointing out specific differences in their
tragic flaws.
Style: Development
51
Development Method
What is It?
Example
Contrast
points out differences
between two characters or
ideas; because this method
can sharpen and clarify an
argument, it is frequently
more powerful than
comparison
By contrasting the openly
discriminatory laws against women
with any other visible minority, Doris
Anderson argues that 51% of women
suffer routine discrimination
Categorize/Classify
places together under a single
heading concepts or things
that share sufficient key
characteristics as to be
considered similar
Kildare Dobbs in his essay ‘Canada’s
Regions’ classifies the people of each
region of Canada by their character.
Style: Diction
52


choice of words used (connotation,
specific/general, colloquial/form,
abstract/concrete)
The level of the language chosen often points to
the intent of the writer and the audience to
which he/she seeks to address.
 Simple
diction: informal, humorous
 Elevated diction: formal, scientific, academic
Style: Figurative Language
53

In writing, this includes figures of speech and
specific imagery.
 What
impact do these devices have on the passage?
 The reader?
 This includes the use of rhetorical devices.
Style: Rhetoric
54



Rhetoric is the study of effective speaking and
writing; the art of persuasion; and many other
things.
Rhetorical devices include techniques that help
persuade the reader to agree with the view
presented.
Knowledge of those devices is critical to effective
writing.
Tone
55

Tone:
 the
essayist’s feelings toward the subject matter.
 The
tone is created through a number of features,
like rhetorical devices, diction and the type of
evidence presented.
 The
tone of an essay may be ironic, frustrated,
sincere, angry, self-mocking, encouraging, or
nostalgic, etc.
Mood
56

Mood
 how
the subject matter is supposed to make the
reader feel.
 The
essayist’s tone should be directly responsible for
the audience’s mood.
 It’s
how he/she wanted the audience to react.
Voice
57



In reading and analyzing essays, it is important to
identify the essayist’s voice and examine its impact
on what is being said.
There are times when a writer may adopt a persona a character other than him/herself - in order to add
another dimension to his/her writing.
In other words, there is a split between the surface
meaning of the text and the deeper meaning - the
writer’s real message. This method is particularly
useful in writing satirical pieces.
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