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What are the criteria for writing a good essay and how long should the evidence elaboration be?

Quick answer:

You need to explain, with examples, how you came to your conclusion.

Expert Answers

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This is one of those areas where it really depends on the teacher, unfortunately. In general, I suggest three solid paragraphs, 5-7 sentences. These should not be fluff. There is a topic sentence, and the rest is all evidence, elaboration and explanation.
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I like to focus on the following 4 points in my classes for effective essays.  Effective essays:

  1. Have Focus: are cohesive
  2. Flow: logical organization
  3. Support and Elaborate on the thesis: show, don’t tell
  4. Have Style: sentence variety and purposeful vocabulary

Of course, grammar, spelling, technical correctness, and basic formatting are included as mechanical points, rather than content points.

I also like to teach a formulaic body paragraph.  This formula is by no means binding, and mastery of it typically ends in manipulating it, but it is a great place to start.  A well-written body paragraph should look something like this:

Sentence 1: topic sentence
Sentence 2: concrete detail (fact, example, illustration)
Sentences 3-4: commentary (elaborate on or explain CD)
Sentence 5: more CD
sentences 6-7: CM specific to sentence 5

Following this for 3 body paragraphs and adding an effective 3-4 sentence introduction and conclusion will in approximately 25-27 sentences for the entire essay.

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Unfortunately, there is no generic formula for how long any essay must be.  This is very dependent upon the breadth of topic (how large it is in scope) and how detailed you need your answer to be.  The expectations, in general, for a good essay are:

  • A recognizable structure with a clear introduction with specific thesis statement,
  • solid paragraphs that support your thesis (the body of the essay) and
  • a strong conclusion that ties everything together.

The most important thing to remember when considering the length of the body of your essay, is the assignment you were given.  Often, your teacher will give you a word-count range or page length that he/she wants.  You should use this assigned length to figure the length, in general, that the body of your essay should be.  The body, generally speaking, should take up the majority of space in your essay.

Here, listed below, are two links to help you get started.  Good luck!

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