What is an essay?

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nyggus

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Hi all,

I don't need to hear the dictionary definitions - those I can learn from dictionaries. What I want to is learn how you see what an essay actually is. Is it rather a personal piece of writing, showing an author's point of view, or more the objective picture of a topic? Is it rather a shorter piece of writing or its length makes no difference? Is anything else coming to your mind right now?

Please share your ideas and thoughts and comments with me. I want to know how you, people, understand what an essay is, but not what its definition states.

I will be grateful for any replies, including those from learners and teachers, readers and writers, young and experienced. Anyone.

Thanks in advance,
Nyggus :cool:
 

susiedqq

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An essay has a subject matter. So unless I know that, I cannot comment on your question.

Usually, the teacher will assign the topic for the essay. Then the student has an idea of how to proceed.

What kind is it? A Personal Essay? An Informative Essay?

What is the purpose of the essay?

What is the topic of the essay?
 

Anglika

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Hi all,

I don't need to hear the dictionary definitions - those I can learn from dictionaries. What I want to is learn how you see what an essay actually is. Is it rather a personal piece of writing, showing an author's point of view, or more the objective picture of a topic? Is it rather a shorter piece of writing or its length makes no difference? Is anything else coming to your mind right now?

Please share your ideas and thoughts and comments with me. I want to know how you, people, understand what an essay is, but not what its definition states.

I will be grateful for any replies, including those from learners and teachers, readers and writers, young and experienced. Anyone.

Thanks in advance,
Nyggus :cool:

Surely that depends on the context for the essay? Essays can be highly personal or utterly objective, depending on the intentions of the author. Length is relatively irrelevant - some great essays are really quite short, others are lengthy.

Do you have your own view on this?
 

nyggus

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Many thanks, Susiedqq and Anglika, for your replies.

First of all, it was my mistake not to underline I did not have school essays on mind but those others, which are published or spread among possible audience in any other way.

I don't have any particular topic on my mind; for the sake of simplicity let's limit ourselves to science.

I see it that in any case there's some viewpoint of the author; without this an essay becomes a different kind of prose, losing one of its most important features. Can it, then, be purely objective?

It can be both short and long (the latter not agreeing with what I found in some dictionaries), but not too short. I don't think a piece of 200 words could be called an essay, but one very long, say of 40 000 words, could.

It can be both formal and informal, of course, though if this is science the essay is to be about, the level of informality should be limited. Slang, for example, should be avoided though in particular situations (e.g., in examples?) it might enhance the writing by adding some unexpected value, making it more lively and intriguing. I don't think that the language should be of too high register, calling for the use of seventeen or so technical dictionaries; it should rather be understandable and clear, with energy or peace, depending on the topic; and it should flow smoothly like the Athabasca river, though its contents should be more clear and transparent.

And the topic. I don't think it should be written like a science article, since then it would be an article, not an essay. It should not offer some novel technical solutions or the like, which does not mean it must not be novel or touch upon anything that is unknown to the audience. I rather see it as an critical or discussion piece of writing, in which the author shows what he or she thinks about the topic. The author may also present some new viewpoints on or understandings of a particular problem, criticizing other (old or relatively new, recently brought to light) approaches toward the problem, proposing something new, or both.

How the author attacks the above issues--plus a number of others, including how it is written and organized--constitutes the heart of an essay. In my eyes an essay must be pleasant in reading, must call for the readers' thinking, and most of all must be interesting. I do believe that a well-written, lively essay on less interesting topic can be much better than that which deals with a hot topic, but does not have this flow I would expect from it. Hence this is rather how one attacks the essay which gives it life and power (which should not be understood as the hummer power, but rather as a power of getting into the readers' minds and hearts), and not necessarily the topic it describes. Of course, both these features, that is hot topic and the powerful writing, would create a great essay.

That's how I see it. Do you agree with me or have any other viewpoints or ideas?

Thanks,
Nyggus :cool:

PS: Is my reply not an essay?

PPS: Let it be a lesson that Nyggus should not be asked any questions. Long replies is what should be expected then.
 
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susiedqq

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Yes, your reply could be an essay. (persuasive, informative, personal, educational)

Well done; it seems you have a personal grasp of the definition.
 

Anglika

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I agree - you have a good idea of what constitutes essays.

Do you have favourites?

I love Francis Bacon's "Of Gardens" and Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal".
 

nyggus

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I agree - you have a good idea of what constitutes essays.

Do you have favourites?

I love Francis Bacon's "Of Gardens" and Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal".

Well, actually I don't. Most of my reading I've spent on books, but now am approaching the essay times! Once I have, I'll share my favourites with you.

Best,
Nyggus :cool:
 
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