An essay is, as Bacon said, “a loose sally of the mind”. It is, as such, nothing but a series of paragraphs, each dealing with a distinct aspect and so arranged as to form a connected whole. In a word, an essay is an exercise in original composition, intended to test the expression of one’s ideas in suitable words.
1. Selection of subject:
Selection of the essay is one of the most difficult tasks for a student. Students are generally given the option to choose one essay from a list of about five or six. They should exercise great care in making this choice, and when they have once made up their mind, they should stick to the subject selected and should not waver. They must choose such subject about which they can gather maximum ideas.
2. Development of ideas:
Having chosen the subject and formed a clear idea of it, the next step will be to search one’s brain for the ideas bearing on the subject.
Try to be simple yet original. Because it is much better to be original than to put in great and high-flown ideas borrowed from others. Therefore students must think closely and properly before having to get help from any others since.
This will eventually lead to the development of ideas. Students should, then, link one idea to the other to form a sort of a chain. Development in ideas can be cultivated by constant practice and discussion in the class-room. In short, one should never write an essay without thinking over what one can say on the subject and without ability to supplement one’s ideas.
3. Drawing up the outline:
Once a student has formed a clear idea of his subject and collected in this mind more ideas to supplement the original idea, he should make the bare outline of the whole essay in his mind. He should discord irrelevant ideas and arrange the relevant ones under suitable headings. This arrangement of the headings should be logical and continuous so that the essay should give the impression of a continued whole running like a stream from beginning to end.
4. Ideas should have direct connection with the central theme:
Having drawn the bare outline, the student should begin filling up with ideas bearing on each heading, and having a direct connection with its central idea. Great care should be taken to put each idea under the right heading so that logical distribution of ideas may not be destroyed. There must not be any repetition of ideas or other irrelevancies.
5. Writing the essay:
Having thus your entire material ready the student should set about writing the essay. The language used must be the student’s own. It should be simple, idiomatic, clear and straightforward. The expression should be original except, of course, for quotations. The student should mind his spellings, punctuation and grammar as well.
This part of essay writing is very difficult. Little care is taken in schools to make students write their own language. Often teachers give dictation of essays in the class and students just memories them. Some students actually copy sentence after sentence from books and other sources. This is very wrong and kills the initiative. To check this, students should be asked to write essays in the classroom under the teacher’s eye and never at home.
6. The conclusion:
The concluding paragraph of the essay must be as striking as the first paragraph. It should wind up the whole idea in a natural way. It should not end abruptly. It should give the impression that nothing else remains to be said.
7. Revision of essay:
Lastly comes the revision of the essay which should be thorough and critical so that any mistake which might have crept in should be rectified.