What is an essay?


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What is an essay?


The very definition of what exactly the term "essay" is is difficult even for people thoroughly familiar with "essays." This is because there is no absolutely precise definition. The term "essay" can encompass any number of different styles - from the intent to persuade someone to a very personal telling of one's own life story.


The breadth and subjectivity of the concept of "essay" is already evident in the work of the French writer Michel de Montaigne, the first author to think of his writing as "essays." His works cover all possible aspects of life, from proper forms of education to literary criticism. Since an essayist can use a variety of styles to write and can write about a variety of topics, perhaps the most fundamental characteristic of any essay is its subjectivity - a statement expressing an opinion. Most English-language sources place the characteristic of an essay somewhere between a scholarly article containing clear details or involving fact and fiction, a fantasy-world story. The essay is thus a literary bridge between the concrete and the imaginary.

The "heart" of the essay must be the main or controlling consideration. It is the foundation on which the essay must be built. A weak or ill-defined basic idea will result in an essay in need of structural adjustment comparable to fixing a crumbling cathedral.


The main subject must be a generalization of some sort, but not too extensive, several pages in length. The main idea must be an opinion of significance, not an indisputable fact. Facts supporting the validity of the main idea are not even a necessity.


The essay as a way of testing the student or as a means of persuasion

If the testing is by means of an essay, then the statement must also contain the correct answer to the relevant test question. However, another type of essay may also aim to achieve the desired personal impression (e.g. with members of a selection committee).


Needless to say, formulating a successful controlling idea is like balancing on a tightrope. You need to provide the right mix of perspectives and evidence and not let the reader get lost in a maze of arguments without relevance or broad generalizations without sufficient justification.


Personal Essay X Academic Essay


But to make it not so simple - generalization is mainly used in essays that are academic or polemical. On the contrary, the main idea for a personal essay should rather be a specific character trait or a unique life event described further in the form of a personal story.


Although the main idea is the "heart" of the best essay writing service, the subjective nature of the thinking process allows for its further development. Whereas an argumentative essay requires a strong logical elaboration aimed at developing related arguments, including the refutation of any objections, an essay in the form of a personal narrative usually uses a more meandering and loose flow of ideas, containing even major deviations from the main idea, but always returning to the main event or person so as to re-emphasize the connection to the main idea.


A simple informal rule to keep in mind regarding following the controlling idea closely is this: the more academic or formal the assignment, the more likely you must prove your generalization factually or logically when writing the essay.


For simplicity's sake, we can make most essay forms

  • into two broad categories easily remembered as personal
  • and academic. The uniqueness of each category is due to the need for different
  • content. What distinguishes the two types, however, is the focus of the main idea,
  • usually contained at the end of the introductory paragraph.

More information:


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