From Gerald R. Lucas
📝 English Composition Writing FAQ 11011102📖

The Essay Is the King of College Writing . . . Still

In college writing, an essay is a piece of writing that presents an argument or perspective on a topic. It typically consists of an introduction that presents the main idea or thesis of the essay, a body that develops and supports the thesis with evidence and examples, and a conclusion that summarizes the main points, restates the thesis in a new way, and looks beyond the scope of the essay. Essays can be formal or informal, academic or personal, and can range in length from a few paragraphs to many pages. They are often used as a way for writers to communicate their ideas and opinions on a topic in a clear and persuasive manner.

There are several types of essays that students may be asked to write. Here are some of the most common:

  • Narrative Essay: This type of essay tells a story or recounts an experience. It often includes sensory details and dialogue to engage the reader.
  • Descriptive Essay: A descriptive essay is a type of essay that uses vivid language and sensory details to describe a person, place, or thing. The purpose is to create a picture in the reader's mind.
  • Expository Essay: This type of essay presents information or explains a topic in a clear and concise manner. It may include definitions, examples, or analysis to help the reader understand the topic.
  • Persuasive Essay: A persuasive essay is a type of essay that aims to convince the reader to adopt a certain viewpoint or take a particular action. It often includes evidence and logical arguments to support the writer’s position.
  • Argumentative Essay: Similar to a persuasive essay, an argumentative essay aims to persuade the reader to take a certain position on a topic. However, it also involves presenting and refuting counterarguments.
  • Compare and Contrast Essay: This type of essay compares and contrasts two or more things, such as ideas, people, or events. It may include similarities and differences, as well as the significance of these comparisons.
  • Cause and Effect Essay: A cause and effect essay explores the relationship between two or more events, identifying the causes that led to a particular outcome and the effects that result from it.

Essays are often called “creative nonfiction” and can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from fiction or short stories. Indeed, sometimes, like in the case of George Orwell’s famous “Shooting an Elephant,” the distinction remains ambiguous. Generally they are unique genres with key differences:

  • Purpose: The purpose of an essay is usually to persuade, inform, or explain, while the purpose of a short story is usually to entertain or evoke emotions.
  • Structure: Essays generally follow a structured format with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion, while short stories have more flexibility in structure and may use different techniques such as flashbacks or multiple narrators.
  • Characterization: Essays typically do not involve character development or extensive description of characters, while short stories generally rely on detailed characterization to convey the story.
  • Plot: Essays may have a central argument or thesis, but do not necessarily have a traditional plot with rising action, climax, and resolution. Short stories, on the other hand, usually have a clear plot and narrative structure.
  • Length: Essays can vary in length from a few paragraphs to several pages, while short stories are usually longer and require more time to read.

Overall, the main difference between an essay and a short story is their purpose and structure. Essays are more focused on conveying information or making an argument, while short stories are more focused on telling a story and evoking emotions in the reader.


There are many famous essays that can serve as models or inspirations for your own writing. Indeed, perhaps the best way to become a strong writer is to be a strong reader. Here are a few examples:

  • Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson: This essay encourages readers to rely on their own intuition and beliefs rather than following the crowd.
  • Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau: In this essay, Thoreau argues that individuals have a duty to disobey unjust laws.
  • The Death of the Moth” by Virginia Woolf: This essay is a meditation on life and death, using the image of a moth to explore these themes.
  • Why I Write” by George Orwell: Orwell reflects on his own motivations for writing and the importance of honesty and clarity in writing.
  • Notes of a Native Son” by James Baldwin: In this essay, Baldwin reflects on his experiences as a Black man in America and the role of race in society.
  • A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift: This satirical essay proposes a shocking solution to the problem of poverty in Ireland, highlighting the absurdity of the social and political conditions of the time.
  • The Myth of Sisyphus” by Albert Camus: This philosophical essay explores the human condition and the search for meaning in a world that is often absurd.

Reading these essays can not only provide inspiration but also help you to develop your own writing skills by observing the techniques used by these great writers.

Written: 2002, 2022; Revised: 04-8-2023; Version: Beta 0.7 💬