Definition of essay

What is an essay and all you need to know before writing one

An essay is a text that is written in prose (that is, in natural language, not tied to verses or rhymes), it is a non-fiction text, and its objective is to provide a personal opinion on a particular topic.

The word “essay” is derived from the Latin “exagium” which means “Presentation of a case”.

An essay is a fairly short piece of nonfiction that tries to make a point in an interesting way. “
Frederick Crews – UCLA

Benefits of writing essays

There are innumerable benefits that you will obtain when using this literary genre, among which are:

  • Express your personal opinion freely about any topic you choose.
    To be able to choose your writing style. Like the tone, taking care that it is always respectful.
  • Expand your knowledge on topics that are of interest to you.
    It is an ideal exercise to enrich your lexicon, grammar and spelling.
    It is an exercise that will increase your dexterity in writing.
    The thematic variety that it offers will allow you to write about your position for or against (and even claim), about political, academic, literary, artistic, economic, etc. topics.
    Some types of tests
    Philosophical: is characterized by not only focus on making an exhibition of ideas or positions for or against a topic, but to sustain them deeply and analytically on their own, intimate, personal arguments.
    Reflective: it is subjective, since it involves the author’s feelings. This type of essay evidences your personal vision on a particular subject.
  • Critical: analyze a fact and interpret it by making a deep exploration of it. It is very important to understand that although it is a critical position that you acquire when you elaborate an essay of this type, in itself it is not a negative vision that you are going to capture.
    These are just some of the types of essay that you will be able to elaborate. Keep in mind that it will be you who decides to choose one or several to present your opinion. And it is also important that you have clear parts of an essay, in this way you can give the correct structure to what you want to communicate.
  • If you notice, they all have something in common and that is based on expressing your personal opinion as an author.

Characteristics of an essay

Brevity and concretion: one of the most notorious characteristics of the essay is that it can be read in a single session and this in turn is a quality that will allow you to attract more readers.
Thematic variety: you can choose to write an essay on any topic that you think can foster a debate around it.

  • Subjectivity: your personal opinion, look and posture will always be the main input.
  • Stylistic Freedom: allows you to choose the style of writing depending on the subject you focus on. You can vary the style as many times as you want to write different essays.
  • Persuasion: the primary objective is to persuade the reader with your position and analysis of a situation. The essay is an impeller of the ideas that the author expresses to convince his audience to acquire different positions in relation to certain facts.
  • Debate: the essays should invite debate, if it does not fulfill this characteristic it will not fulfill its primary function.
  • What qualities do you need to write an essay?
  • Have clarity in the language to be able to express themselves.
  • Have investigative capacity to gather more information about the chosen topic.
  • Have good writing and spelling.
  • Have a taste for reading.
  • Be an observer
  • Be reflective
  • Have a sense of belonging to the chosen topic. There must be taste and interest to be able to develop it properly.
  • Have dedication. While the essay is a short genre, dedication is essential to gather facts, contrast opinions and record personal reflections.
  • Ability to present ideas and express arguments.
  • The role of the reader in the essay
  • Usually the reader of the essay is located within a non-specialized audience, therefore the role of the author is to provide a clear and logical interpretation on a topic, based on their personal opinions. This is why it is very important that you have clear steps to make a trial, so you will achieve the goal of communication accurately.

And it is just the development of the essay, the one in charge of ratifying the opinion of the reader or of refuting it, in order to attract it to the opinion of the author. Hence, one of the fundamental characteristics of the essay is to persuade.

History of the essay

In ancient times it was the Greeks and the Romans who began using the essay as a means of expression, but it was not until the sixteenth century that it acquired the characteristics and name with which we know it today.

Some essays of antiquity:

  • Book of the proverbs of the Bible
  • The Dialogues of Plato
  • The Poetics of Aristotle
  • The Letters to Lucio de Séneca.
  • Some interesting data about the trials
  • In Japan, the Zuihtsu were the first essays that also sought to register and express the view of their authors about everyday life (11th century).

In Europe, it was the writer Michael de Montaigne who first coined the term “essay” from the year 1572 (Sigo XVI), when he began to write the records he used to make about his own thoughts and character traits.

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