TWO POINTS TO HELP YOUR WRITING

I love to write essays, as such I have wrote down my top two “go-to” points that I always teach my students:

  1. When the essay is between two to three pages long, subtitles are not necessary. When you have more pages, you can use several systems: writing subtitles, or separating the meaningful parts of the essay with numbers (I call these kinds of essays “Chinese boxes”). You shouldn’t forget that all parts of the essay should be linked. Even if we divide the essay (with subtitles, phrases or numbers), the essay as a whole should be compact. If we divide an essay, the parts that come out should continue to have an interdependent relationship.
  2. My most important rule is the fundamental role of the genre for the exercise and development of thought. Through the essay we “order” our thoughts. When we write essays, we prove either our “lucidity” or our “mental clumsiness”. The essay takes science out of its “excessive formalism”, and puts logic within the reach of art. Professional essayists know that truth is provisional, all doctrines have an adversary, all systems contain a figure. And, the essay is a constant search, it does nothing but rummage or remove one by one those cracks in the structure. Let’s say that the essay, a pure thought exercise, is the mirror held up to your own thoughts.
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FOUR TIPS TO HELP YOU WRITE AN ESSAY

  1. An essay is a mix of art and science (this means that it uses creative, literary and logical elements to handle ideas). This dual essence in an essay (some will use this to say it’s a hybrid genre) is the origin of its power and difficulty. Because it’s a centaur, half one thing and half another thing, the essay can deal with all areas of knowledge and all topics. However, no matter what topic is chosen, the essay needs some “finesse” in its writing, so that it’s highly literary.
  2. An essay is not a commentary (writing about an opinion), but is rather a meditation, and it’s almost always derived from other people’s meditations (these people don’t necessarily have to be mentioned explicitly, although they’re usually mentioned in the footnotes or in the references). This is why the essay depends more on judgment and arguments (they’re not free opinions). The essay has to support the ideas. Better yet, the quality of an essay is measured through the quality of its ideas, the way in which they’re communicated, faced and taken into consideration. If there are no strong arguments, if they haven’t been developed beforehand, the essay becomes merely an assumption.
  3. An essay reasons. It’s a complete discourse. Good essays are linked in a coherent manner. It’s not about putting one idea after the other, because the addition of ideas does not constitute a good essay: you have to weave them in an organized manner, and you have to organize the ideas in a hierarchy, weighing them (let’s remember that ‘essay’ comes from ‘exagium’ which means, precisely, “weighing”). If there’s no logic in the composition of an essay, it will be difficult to get acceptable results, just as in music. This is why it’s important to make a plan, a map, a sketch – it works as a guide to write the essay.
  4. Just like a discourse, the essay requires a good usage of connecting elements (you have to keep a reserve of them). The connecting elements are like the hinges, the links that are necessary for the essay to not seem to be lacking cohesion. There are relationship connectors, consequence connectors and causality connectors. There are also connectors to summarize or emphasize. And, next to the connectors, it’s essential to have a perfect command of punctuation. Thanks to the comma and the semicolon (one of the most difficult-to-use punctuation signs), and thanks to the period, this is how the essay breathes, has a rhythm, a life. The inadequate or proper use of punctuation signs is what determines if our essay is monotonous or light, interesting or boring, flexible or tedious.