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How To Write Essays

Some helpful tips!


Contents

• Cut The Waffle


• Practise CTW
• Types Of Essays
• Literary – Quick Tips
• Literary – Long Tips
• Literary – Poetry Example
• Literary – Examples
• Common Literacy Errors
Cut The Waffle!
Before you begin to write an essay, refresh yourself on
how to make your language direct and to the point.
Or, to cut the waffle, rephrase that as:

blah
Before writing an essay refresh your conciseness skills.

blah
Being concise makes you sound:
•More academic
•More confident
blah
Being concise also:
•Makes your points more clearly
•Allows you room to make more points / expand on
your discussion
How To Cut The Waffle?
1. Get rid of certainty qualifiers. They make you sound unsure
of your points, they add nothing to the essential meaning of
your work, and they reduce the quality of your statements. In
an essay you should project 100% confidence.
I guess I think I know Almost certainly

Probably Perhaps Likely Probably not

Maybe

I suppose
Kind of

Obviously
Sort of

Could be
Possibly

No doubt
X
Seemingly Presumably Seemingly One can assume
How To Cut The Waffle?
2. Get rid of unnecessary words. You’ll be amazed how much
you can cut down your work by doing this, and how much
clearer your work will be as a result. (Certainty qualifier in red.)
Eg this: Never let your schooling interfere with your education.
Throughout your senior year you must remain at peace with your inner
self. Look for the path in life that is right for you and only then will you be
ready to be taught. When the pupil is ready to learn, a teacher will
appear. Remember this and you will find your path light up in front of
you, showing you the way into the next chapter of your life and
enlightening you for the rest of your days. (87 words)

Could be this: Never let schooling interfere with education. Throughout


your senior year remain at peace with yourself. Look for the path that is
right for you and will you be ready to be taught. When the pupil is ready
to learn, a teacher will appear. Remember this and your path will light up
in front of you, showing you the way into the next chapter of your life
and enlightening you the rest of your days. (74 words)
How To Cut The Waffle?
3. Cut redundant phrases and ideas. Have you repeated
yourself? Have you gone on a tangent? Did you spend so long
on a part you can’t bear to cut it? There are many reasons part
of what you’ve written is redundant. If it has to go, it has to go!
Eg this: Never let schooling interfere with education. Throughout your
senior year remain at peace with yourself. Look for the path that is right
for you and will you be ready to be taught. When the pupil is ready to
learn, a teacher will appear. Remember this and your path will light up in
front of you, showing you the way into the next chapter of your life and
enlightening you the rest of your days. (74 words)
Could be this: Never let schooling interfere with education. Throughout
your senior year remain at peace with yourself. Look for the path that is
right for you and you will be ready to be taught. When the pupil is ready
to learn, a teacher will appear. Remember this and your path will light up
in front of you, showing you the way into the next chapter of your life.
(66 words)
How To Cut The Waffle?
4. Rephrase sections and sentences to make them more
concise. Most people skip over this step because it takes work.
Don’t be lazy; it’s the step that reaps the most rewards.
Eg this: Never let schooling interfere with education. Throughout your
senior year remain at peace with yourself. Look for the path that is right
for you and will you be ready to be taught. When the pupil is ready to
learn, a teacher will appear. Remember this and your path will light up in
front of you, showing you the way into the next chapter of your life. (66
words)
Could be this: In your senior year never let schooling interfere with your
education. Remain at peace with yourself and look for the right path for
you. This will open you to education, and then a teacher will appear.
Remember this, and your path with light up before you, leading you to
the next chapter of your life. (55 words – 37% less than the original)

With this step be careful not to lose the original meaning.


Practise Cutting The Waffle
The task was: How did the poets studied this year convey their anti
war messages? Create a more concise version of this paragraph.

While focusing on particular thematic consequences of war, each


poet expressed the theme of stolen youth from soldiers in war. The
theme of loss of innocent youth is consistent throughout the poets’
work, causing unavoidable emotional upset. ‘The child’ is a motif
most readers are able to visualise, and the loss of their life in a
ruthless mechanical way is sickening for the reader. Pluck, by Eva
Dobell, is thematically focussed on the ‘innocent youth’ in the war, “A
child- so wasted and white… To march, a man with men and fight
while other boys are still at play.” Similarly, Thomas Crosland’s Slain,
as Pluck does, focuses on the effect of war upon soldiers “Who were
so strong and young”, however the poet particularly concentrates on
removing the glorified notion of war. Youth references result in the
reader detesting war, as it kills young men who deserve a better life.
(151 words)
Waffle follow up

Types Of Essays
This is not an exhaustive list, merely a run through of the most
common types of essays.
The Expository Essay – You need to explain, or to acquaint
your reader with, a body of knowledge. By explaining a topic to
the reader, you are demonstrating your own knowledge. An
example topic is: The benefits of euthanasia.
The Persuasive Essay – You must defend your side of an
argument. You are no longer merely showing, you are
convincing. You must choose a side, make a case for it,
consider and refute alternative arguments, and prove to the
undecided reader that the opinion it presents is the best one.
You must be aware of other sides and be fair to them;
dismissing them completely will weaken your own argument.
Types Of Essays
The Argumentative Essay – The art of argumentation is not
an easy skill to acquire. Many people might think that if one
simply has an opinion, one can argue it effectively, and these
folks are always surprised when others don't agree with them.
Additionally, writers of argumentation often forget that their
primary purpose in an argument is to "win" it – to sway the
reader to accept their point of view. It is easy to ignore the
point of view or research of others, and to accept one's own
opinion as gospel, even if the writer has not checked their
premise or, as is the case for many young writers, never
questioned the beliefs inherited from others. One of the first
things you must do is become an expert on the issue. Care
should be taken that if you read one side, you also read the
other. Far too many individuals only read the side that they
already believe in.
Types Of Essays
The Review – Your goal is to evaluate a work. Your opinion
plays a significant role in the process, but a certain objective
standard needs to be maintained and, as in a persuasive
essay, your assertions need to be proved. The formality of the
review will be determined by how much of the essay is
analysis, how much is summary, and how much is your
reaction to the work you are reviewing. Newspapers and
popular magazines tend to review in terms of finance: is this
record or film worth spending money on? Critical journals will
attempt to determine whether a new novel or play has
achieved something new and significant. A good review will
discuss both the qualities and the importance of a given work.
Types Of Essays
The Research Essay – Writing a research paper involves
going to source material and synthesising what you learn from
it with your own ideas. You must find texts on the subject and
use them to support the topic you have been given to explore.
Because it is easy to become lost in a wilderness of outside
material, you must take particular care to narrow your topic.
The greatest danger inherent in the research essay is
plagiarism. If your paper consists of a string of quotations or
paraphrases with little input of your own, you are not
synthesising but copying, and you should expect a low grade.
If any of the borrowings are unacknowledged, you are
plagiarising, and the penalties are severe.
Types Of Essays
The Exploratory Essay – You start without an end in mind.
You don’t necessarily know how what you want to say about a
subject, you allow the research to determine the outcome. This
is writing to learn rather than writing to prove what you know.
You need to look at and contribute to a range of arguments,
widening your vision to the whole conversation. There are two
main ways to compose an exploratory essay. The in process
method produces immediacy, while the retrospective method
produces more artistically designed essays. Exploratory
essays consider the strengths and weaknesses of solutions to
perplexing problems.
Types Of Essays
The Literary Essay – You are exploring the meaning and
construction of a piece of literature, focusing on such elements
as structure, character, theme, style, tone, and subtext. You
are taking a piece of writing and trying to discover how and
why it is put together the way it is. You must adopt a viewpoint
on the work in question and show how the details of the work
support your viewpoint. It may be your own interpretation,
based on your reading of the piece, or a mixture of your
opinions and references to the criticism of others, much like a
research paper. Be wary of plagiarism and of letting the
opinions of more experienced writers swamp your own
response to the work. If you are going to consult the critics, you
should reread the literary work you are discussing and make
some notes on it before looking at any criticism.
Types Of Essays
The Explication Essay – You take the text you are examining
apart to see how it works. You examine it, dissect it, explore
the effect of language, and put it back together in such a way
that your reader shares your understanding of the text.

The types of essays you will write most commonly in English:


•The Expository Essay
•The Persuasive Essay
•The Argumentative Essay (your Sem 1 CAT task)
•The Review
•The Literary Essay (what we are about to practise)
•The Explication Essay (your Mississippi Burning essay)
Literary Essay – Quick Tips
In General
•Keep it formal.
•Remember it’s ok if your ideas are original or different, so long as
you develop them clearly, use evidence intelligently and argue
persuasively, your point of view will be respected.
•Titles in italics.
•Verbs go with the author.
•Do not retell plot at all. Always assume the reader of your essay has
seen/heard/read the text.
Introduction
•Be brief.
•Give some suggestion of the direction in which you intend to take
your essay.
•Indicate the aspects of the text you intend to deal with.
Literary Essay – Quick Tips
Paragraphs
•Devote one or two paragraphs to a specific point.
•Make smooth links between paragraphs.
•Produce evidence to prove the comments you make about
characters, themes, style, etc.
•Use a quote (or quotes) every paragraph.
•Answer the question! When you have finished a paragraph read it
through and ask yourself, “How does this contribute to answering the
question / addressing the task?” If it doesn’t, change the paragraph
so that it does.
Conclusion
•Draw all the strands of your various points together.
•This is the part of your essay which answers the question /
addresses the task more directly.
Literary Essay – Long Tips
Stick To The Set Task
When you are arguing it will not help your case to talk about
something which has nothing to do with the topic. Similarly
when you are writing an essay, you will get no marks for
discussing an aspect of the text you have studied, but which is
irrelevant to the given task.

Remember, an essay will only ask you about a small portion of


your total knowledge of a text. How well you answer on this
small area will indicate to whoever marks the essay how well
you understand all that is not asked.
Literary Essay – Long Tips
Essays Have A Clear Structure
•A formal essay follows a standard structure which ensures
that your points are logically ordered and your argument is
clear. Essays should be carefully planned. By following these
steps you should find essay writing a painless and intellectually
enjoyable exercise:
•Read the set question carefully a number of times and
underline key words. Consider what portion of your knowledge
of the text you are being asked to discuss. Jot down the points
you could make which are relevant to the task. Look up any
words you don’t know. Find synonyms for words you’re going
to use a lot. Check if there is more than one section to the task.
Make sure you know EXACTLY what’s being asked of you.
Literary Essay – Long Tips
•Write a plan. Write down all the points you can think of. Look at
the word limit and work out how many you need. Go through your
points and pick the strongest ones. Arrange your points in a
logical sequence. For example if you need to present ideas for
and against a statement, you could jot down the points which
support the statement first and then those which go against it.
Sometimes essays will have more than one part, so make sure in
your plan that you give sufficient weighting to all parts.
•Write your introduction. In it you rewrite the given task in your
own words and give your standpoint. You then briefly summarise
the points which led you to this standpoint. The main purpose of
an introduction is to make it clear what the essay is about and, in
effect, give a short answer to the essay task. The introduction is
best written last.
Literary Essay – Long Tips
•Make your first point. You will now write a series of paragraphs
which explain and prove your argument. (See How To Write
Paragraphs for more detail of how.)
•Continue your argument, allowing a paragraph per major point.
Sometimes you may refer to two or three details in order to support a
major point. Your essay as a whole should make about four to six
major points (depending on your word limit), each building up your
argument.
•Write a conclusion. This should draw all your points together and
give your final position on the argument. You should leave the
reader in no doubt what the essay is about. Without it, at the end of
your essay your reader would ask, "So what?"
•Draft your essay. Even if the computer, your friend, your parent has
looked at it, you have to draft it. It's your essay and you are the one
getting the marks!
Literary Essay – Long Tips
Finally some Handy Hints for essay writing:
1. Write in Formal English. No slang and no abbreviations. Eg:
Instead of this:Write this:
Reckon believe
up himself self opinionated
it's it is
1/1/90 1st of January, 1990
56 fifty six
etc. and so forth
2. Do not write “I think…” “I believe…” or any other such statement.
Obviously you think whatever you are writing, it is your essay! Do not
use I at all. Eg instead of, “I found the protagonist to be lacking in
courage.” say “The protagonist was lacking in courage.”
Literary Essay – Long Tips
•3. Answer the set question and show the relevance of every point
you make. Have the question in front of you at all times, and
ensure each paragraph has a concluding sentence that links the
point directly back to the task.
•4. Back up every point with concrete evidence.
•5. Major essays require references. If you have consulted other
works and used the ideas in your essay, you must provide
references, otherwise you have committed plagiarism (cheating).
How to reference: http://www.slasa.asn.au/org/index.php
•6. Draft. It is not just your ideas which count. You are in the job of
communicating and that means you need no spelling errors, no
grammatical errors and clearly explained, well expressed points.

Teachers are there to help. Ask for help when you need it.
Literary Essay – Long Tips
Remember not to trust the spellchecker on your computer. It
will often not recognise typographical errors such as 'from'
instead of 'form', so proof read personally. In the poem below
there are no spelling errors a computer will underline in red.
Also, the spellchecker on your computer uses American
spelling, which is not acceptable.
Know More Miss Takes
I have a spelling checker.
It came with my PC.
It plainly marks four my revue
Miss Steaks I cannot sea.
I've run this poem threw it,
I'm sure your please to no.
It's letter perfect in its weigh;
My checker tolled me sew.
Literary Essay – Poetry Example
1. Understand The Question
You must make sure that you understand the question before
you begin the essay. Any misinterpretation of the question will
mean that you won’t succeed.
Pretend my essay question is: ‘Poets use poetry as a means of
expression. How has the poet expressed their idea(s) in one
poem you have studied?’
My understanding of this question is:
•I only pick one poem to study.
•I have to identify the idea being expressed by the poet.
•I have to identify how they expressed the idea - that means I
have to find the poetry techniques used and understand why
the poet used them (how did it get the idea across?).
•I have to focus on techniques and the poet's intentions.
Literary Essay – Poetry Example
2. Plan The Essay
Now that you understand the question, make an essay plan
based on your understanding.
Pick one poem to study- My Busconductor by Roger McGough.
Identify the poet’s idea - The poetry text book I got it from says,
"The busconductor in the poem knows that he is at the end of
his life and consequently he savours every aspect of daily
living." After reading the poem, I understand that to mean that
because the busconductor knows he is going to die (imminent
kidney failure) his love of life is renewed and he tries to live
each moment to the full because it could be his last, and the
poet wants the reader to understand that we should too,
regardless of whether we are dying. We could die at any time -
don't waste life.
Literary Essay – Poetry Example
Identify the techniques and why the poet used them (500-700 word
essay, so 4 or 5 is a good number):
Technique Why poet used them
Repetition - "One day he'll clock on and never Creates a strong rhythm that sounds like time ticking away. The message in the two lines that
clock off / or clock off and never clock on." the bus conductor could die any day creates a sense of time running out. A strong reminder
that we are all drawing closer to our own deaths.
Rhetorical question - "The sameold streets look Directs the reader to consider whether the sky has always looked so blue. Answer is yes, but
different … as through new glasses. / And the sky / the previous statement that the same old streets look different as though through new glasses
was it ever so blue?" tells us that it is the bus conductor's new perspective on life that makes things look different.
It challenges the reader to think about the things in their life that are beautiful, but are taken
for granted, and appreciate them fully.
Joining words together - "busconductor" Creates a sense of being in a rush. It is as though the narrator in the poem is in a hurry to tell
"busticket" "gasmeter" "factorygirls" "oldman" the story of the bus conductor, because there is so much to do in life. The narrator's words are
"passby" "sameold" “deepdown” "busshelter" hurried. It reflects the message that we should be appreciating life, and living it to the full.
Simile – “puts the shilling in his bag / as a child Compares the excitement of a child when they are allowed to put the coin into the gas meter,
into a gasmeter.” with the bus conductor putting a shilling into his coin bag. For the child, it would be one of
the first times they were allowed to; they are excited at the prospect of this new and ‘adult’
activity. It reminds us that this childlike joy becomes worn over time as we repeat tasks. The
message to the reader is to remember the childlike joy, and learn to enjoy even the most
repetitive tasks.
Metaphor – “And all the time / deepdown in the The word “And” indicates a change of tone here, which indicates that while the bus
deserted busshelter of his mind / he thinks about his conductor is enjoying life to the full, deep down he is constantly thinking about “his journey
journey nearly done.” nearly done”. The bus shelter in his mind is deserted, as there are no more buses coming on
the route of his life, he is on his final trip. The reader is reminded that there are a
limited number of things that they can do in one lifetime.
Essay Planner – Box Framework
Introduction Point 1 Point 2

Introductory Sentence: Topic: Topic:

Your points Explanatory notes: Explanatory notes:

Concluding Sentence: Evidence I can use: Evidence I can use:

Point 3 Point 4 Conclusion


Topic: Topic: What, essentially, have I been trying to
prove?

Explanatory notes: Explanatory notes:

Evidence I can use: Evidence I can use:


Literary Essay – Poetry Example
3. Write The Introduction
•Give the title of the poem and the name of the poet.
•Rephrase the task in your own words.
•Introduce all parts of the question in an interesting manner.
•Make sure your introduction matches your essay.
•Always have the essay task out in front of you.
Poets use poetry as a means of expression. How has the poet
expressed their idea(s) in one poem you have studied?
Poets use poetry as a means of expressing what is important to
them. In the poem My Busconductor Roger McGough expresses
a powerful message, varying from his usual nonsense poetry,
about appreciating life. He effectively conveys the idea that life
should be lived to the fullest; that every moment, no matter how
mundane, should be treasured. McGough uses a range of
powerful techniques to communicate his idea to the reader.
Literary Essay – Poetry Example
4. Write The Essay
•Maintain recognition of the poet – they are conveying the
message, they are using the techniques.
•Aim to have at least one short, relevant quote per paragraph.
Once you have said the author’s name you can then use their
surname (eg McGough) but never their first name (eg Roger).
•Every point you make must clearly address the essay task.
•Go in depth with your analysis. The following just covers the
basics: “McGough used a simile in the poem to create a picture
of how beautiful simple things can be.” The following is in more
depth: “McGough used a simile to evoke the beauty of simple
objects. He chose an item as mundane as a coin to convey the
remarkable beauty of everyday objects to the terminally ill.”
•Don’t address the reader of your essay. Ie “You can see that
McGough ties words together to make one word.” needs to be
changed to : “McGough ties words together to make one word.”
•Have the essay task in front of you to ensure you directly
answer the question, link your points back to the task.
Literary Essay – Poetry Example
Poets use poetry as a means of expression. How has the poet
expressed their idea(s) in one poem you have studied?

My Busconductor ends powerfully with the lines, "One day he'll


clock on and never clock off / or clock off and never clock on."
McGough’s repetition of the word “clock” in these lines creates
a strong rhythm which represents the sound of a clock ticking.
The sound of time ticking complements the message of the
lines that the bus conductor could die any day. The reader is
left with the sense that time is running out. It is a strong
reminder by McGough that we are all drawing closer to our
own deaths and we should live each moment as though it's our
last.
Literary Essay – Poetry Example
At one point McGough asks the reader the rhetorical question,
"And the sky / was it ever so blue?" The reader is directed to
consider whether the sky has taken on a new quality, or
whether the sky has always looked so beautiful but the bus
conductor had not appreciated it before. The statement
previous to this question, "The sameold streets look different
… as through new glasses.” tells the reader that it is the bus
conductor’s new perspective on life that makes things look
different, not that the sky is any bluer. Through the use of this
rhetorical question McGough challenges the reader to consider
the things in their life that are beautiful, but which they have
taken for granted, and appreciate them fully. McGough clearly
expresses the idea that all aspects of life should be valued, not
simply taken for granted.
Literary Essay – Poetry Example
Throughout the poem McGough has joined words together to
create single words. For example, “factorygirls” and “sameold”.
The use of this technique creates a sense of being in a rush. It
is as though the narrator in the poem is in a hurry to tell the
story of the bus conductor, as they are aware that time is
running out. The narrator's words are hurried, trying to tell as
much of the story as they can in as small a time as possible.
By doing this, McGough creates the sense that not a moment
in life should be wasted as there is so much to do. He
expresses the message that life should be appreciated and
lived to the full while there is still time.
Literary Essay – Poetry Example
Within My Busconductor McGough uses powerful imagery to
convey his idea that each moment in life is precious. The simile
“He … puts the shilling in his bag / as a child into a gasmeter.”
compares the excitement of a child when they are first allowed
to put the coin into a gas meter, with the bus conductor putting
a shilling into his coin bag. For the child, it is a novel
experience and they are excited at the prospect of this new
and ‘adult’ activity. This simile reminds readers that this
childlike joy for all things becomes worn over time because
they become repetitive. The bus conductor would have put
money into the bag countless thousands of times of his career,
yet has now learned to be a child again and enjoy this action.
The message McGough expresses is that it is important to
remember the childlike joy for simple pleasures, and learn to
enjoy even the most mundane and repetitive tasks.
Literary Essay – Poetry Example
Another powerful image used by McGough to express his idea
about the value of life is the metaphor, “And all the time /
deepdown in the deserted busshelter of his mind / he thinks
about his journey nearly done.” This image is preceded by the
words, “And all the time.” The word “And” indicates a change of
tone, and the reader is told that while the bus conductor is
enjoying his life to the fullest, “deepdown” he is constantly
thinking about “his journey nearly done”, that he is coming to
the end of his life. The bus shelter in his mind is deserted, as
there are no more buses coming on the route of his life; he is
on his final trip. The reader is reminded by McGough that there
are a limited number of things that they can do in one lifetime,
and that one day their bus shelter will also be deserted.
Literary Essay – Poetry Example
5. Write The Conclusion
•Don’t introduce any new information.
•Make sure the conclusion summarises what the essay has
been about.
•Don’t simply make it a mirror of the introduction – don’t say
what has been discussed specifically, keep it general.
•End on a sentence that simply sounds good – this last
sentence must give a sense of finality to the essay.

In the poem My Busconductor Roger McGough has clearly


expressed the idea that life is precious. His powerful use of
techniques leaves the reader in no doubt that it is important to
value all moments in life. They are strongly encouraged to live
life to the full as one day they too will “clock on and never clock
off or clock off and never clock on.”
The Literary Essay - Example
http://www.visionsofadonai.com/bc/wwwriters/sentiment.h
tml
Common Literacy Errors
Confusing Which, Who, and That
It is (unfortunately) acceptable in English to refer to your dog
as a pet that likes people. It is not correct to refer to people as
that: Instead of “The man that was in line in front of me,”
making him an object, say, “The man who was in line.” The
word which is often erroneously used in place of that. Use
which when the meaning of the sentence would be incomplete
without a following phrase. Otherwise, use that. “The house,
which needed work, sold for much less than expected.” “The
house that needed work sold for less than expected,” means
that house as opposed to the other one that didn’t need work.
Comma Splices
A comma splice occurs when two complete sentences are
strung together, connected by a comma without a conjunction.
“We went to the store, we bought milk,” could be correctly
written, “We went to the store. We bought milk,” or, “We went
to the store, and we bought milk.”
Common Literacy Errors
Misplaced or Omitted Commas
Always use a comma when directly addressing someone, as: “Hi,
Ann.” Use a comma when combining two sentences into one with
a conjunction. “We went to the store, but we didn’t buy milk.
Tense Shifting
Any shifts in time must be intentional. “The team huddles around
the Quarterback, who was deciding the next play.” is incorrect. It
should be, “The team huddles around the Quarterback, who is
deciding the next play.” or “The team huddled around the
Quarterback, who was deciding the next play.
Modified Adjectives
We are developing a habit of saying such absurdities as ‘very
unique’, a physical impossibility. Unique means one of a kind, so
how can something be more unique? Or more complete. More
perfect. More unanimous. Less absolute. Less fatal. For these
terms was the word oxymoron was invented.
Follow Up Waffle
1. Get rid of certainty qualifiers.
While a tad claustrophobic, the daily lift trip was something I had
grown accustomed to.
2. Get rid of unnecessary words.
Original: The ambient temperature of the bay dropped to ice cold
in an instant.
New: The bay was ice cold in an instant.
3. Cut redundant phrases and ideas.
In a story about someone being stuck in a lift that has broken
because the building is on fire, then finally escaping: There would be
no way out through the stairwell. The lift was broken too.
4. Rephrase sections and sentences to make them more
concise.
Original: Without thinking my body began to dart towards the door.
New: My body automatically darted towards the door.