What’s an essay? Well, ideally, it isn’t that random collection of thoughts spewed on a page. Ideally, the essay is a well-crafted piece of thought with a particular purpose: to inform, to persuade, to argue, or simply to entertain. Articles in popular magazines can be thought of as essays, whether the magazine is Vibe or Time. Is someone telling you why hip-hop is dead? That’s a persuasive essay. Are you being educated about just why our economy went wrong? That’s an informative essay, or perhaps an argumentative one, given the state of the economy today. The bottom line is that you probably read essays all the time; you just don’t realize it.
But of course, reading and writing are two different things. Yet, if you think about it, the essay can actually be one of the most enjoyable types of academic writing students are expected to create while in college or university. Why? Because essays offer you the chance to express an opinion.
So, how can you write the thing? Well, first you need to know your purpose: inform, describe, persuade, and so forth. Then you need to choose something interesting to write about. The trick is to choose something that not everyone else will choose (like why basketball is great) but that you’re still interested in. For example, if you must stick with basketball as your general topic, how about talking about the new school versus the old school? Persuade your reader why new school players are superior to their predecessors; inform your audience about the difference between the two schools; describe the different styles of playing.
Next, make an outline. Yes, everyone is sick of hearing that, but then again, if you play basketball, you’re probably sick of drills, but you do them anyway because it is the only way to get better. Outlines are like road maps. They get you where you need to go, and since essays can easily wander all over the place, you need a way to structure your thinking and writing.
Then have fun with it! Fill in the blanks under each outline heading, ensure you have strong transitional sentences between sections, and when you are done, go back and write a strong introduction and conclusion. Now you have your essay, one two three. See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?