What are the characteristic features of a good essay?  

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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A good essay consists of three elements of composition: content, structure, and mechanics. If the writer deals effectively with each of these, the result will be an essay that expresses the writer’s thinking in an effective, interesting, and organized manner.

Content.  The content of the essay is the writer’s message. Good essays develop the writer’s main points through thorough discussion and by the use of specific details. General is boring; specific is interesting. A good essay includes specific details to support the writer’s explanations.

Structure.  The structure of the essay is its organization. An effective essay is organized with an introduction, main body, and conclusion. The introduction should begin in an interesting way that gains the reader’s attention; it should then lead the reader into the writer’s thesis statement: one sentence that states the writer’s position, what the writer will explain and support in the essay.

The main body should consist of several well developed paragraphs. The conclusion should “wrap it up” by giving the reader a sense of closure.

Finally, the writer should use transition words and phrases to move the reader smoothly from one idea to another within a paragraph and from one paragraph to another.

Mechanics.  “Mechanics” refers to the use of language. A good essay is well written and carefully edited in terms of grammar, punctuation, word usage, and spelling.

edcon's profile pic

edcon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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An essay puts forth a viewpoint, so think of it as structuring an argument.

1.  Begin by writing an introduction that is general and introduces the topic. In your introduction, include a thesis statement that makes your position clear.

2.  Write as many paragraphs as you need to make all the points of your argument.  Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that does two things: supports your thesis and controls the content of the paragraph it heads.

3.  Be sure to establish your credibility.  This is called ethos. Make your audience aware of what qualifies you to speak on the subject.

4.  Make sure your position is reasonable, logical, and supported by factual information.  This is called logos.

5.  Engage your audience by appealing to the appropriate emotions for your subject.  This is called pathos. The words you choose (diction) create your tone, and it, too, should be appropriate to your subject.

6.  In your concluding paragraph, don't simply restate your main points.  This is a bit insulting to your reader.  A more effective way to end is to once again turn to more general terms, but rephrase your thesis.  Rephrase, but don't repeat, to cement your argument.

7.  Be sure your grammar, usage and mechanics are clean.  Proofread carefully and seek an edit from someone you know to be a good writer. Be open to their edits and willing to revise.





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