The word ‘Essay’ is derived from the old French word essai meaning attempt. An essay is an attempt at writing something about or on something. Montaigne, the famous French essayist, is said to have originated the style of writing. He wrote many compositions which were translated into English about the time Shakespeare was writing his greatest plays. They have had very great influence on other writers from that time. Shakespeare read them, as we can often see in the thoughts he puts into the mouths of his characters. And they were also responsible for the first great essay, we have in English-those of Francis Bacon(1566-1626), which are considerably shorter than Montaigne’s, sometimes only of one page.
These essays of Montaigne and Bacon are mainly meditations or reflections arranged in orderly ways. Since their time, the name ‘essay’ has been given to writings of very varying length, from a page or two to long ones like those of Macaulay and others. Nowadays ‘essays are generally short because they are written to fill a limited amount of space in a daily, weekly, monthly or a quarterly publication.
According to the Oxford Concise Dictionary, an essay is “a literary composition on any subject, usually in prose, and short.” Thus essay is the grouping together and presentation of ideas. The musician translates his thoughts into music; the painter uses his brushes and colors; the writer and the speaker must make use of language, both written and spoken, in order to give to others an idea of his thoughts.
Therefore, it follows that, just as there are many types of musical composition-operas, songs, and orchestral pieces also different kinds of pictures, viz. oil paintings, watercolors, landscapes, and miniatures so there must be many different forms of writing, dependent entirely upon the idea it is desired to convey and the impression to be made. Whatever may be the form of expression adopted, it must possess certain essential qualities.
- What is written must be perfectly clear; there must be no doubt in the doubt in the mind of the reader as to the meaning.
- It must be expressed in an attractive way; the language should fit in with the ideas: beautiful thoughts must be clothed in beautiful words.
- There ought to be a logical sequence in what is written; one idea should lead quite naturally to another.
- It is essential to keep to the topic about which it is intended to write. This is especially important in an essay for examination purposes. A composition on Cricket will be treated quite differently from an exercise on The Advantages of Cricket.
- Care should be taken with the setting out of the composition: the exercise must be a series of thoughts about the subject in question. Each distinct line of thought should be indicated by a paragraph. Let there be a margin of the left-hand side of the paper and each paragraph he denoted by an indent.
The writing of an essay in English is one of the most difficult tasks a Pakistani student has to undertake. Our problem is how to translate our thoughts and feelings into correct and living English. Mostly, the students complain that they have no material for a topic or the other. Some are shy, while others approach their teachers for guidance. The only guidance that a teacher can give his student is that he should:
From search, we mean that a research attitude should be developed in the students. The teacher can make use of the college library for this purpose. It has been observed that most of the students don’t get books from the college library because they don’t know how to consult the card files in the library. It is recommended that guidance programmes may be started in colleges for this purpose. The business of such programmes will be to assist the students to make a right choice of books they need and how to find them. In short, a student must always be prepared to hunt his material wherever he can lay his hand upon.
Reading is the most important requisite for writing. Reading will give you the material. But one has to make a healthy selection in reading for some hooks are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few of he chewed and digested.
There is a saying, One may lead a horse to water, but twenty cannot make him drink. This means a teacher cannot ask a boy to think. It is just a personal experience which cannot be forced on the students. The power of thinking can be cultivated and then developed through questions as suggested by Socrates.
4. Practice Writing
If you wish to write good English, reading is not enough you must practice. Do write something every day, even if it is just a paragraph. But write as well as you can so that you may be able to improve upon what only yesterday you regarded as your best.
Structural Principles of Essay
A sentence is a complete thought expressed in words. A paragraph is a collection of sentences. An essay is a collection of paragraphs. These three products, the sentence, the paragraph, and the essay, however much they differ, ought to have one factor in common is unity.
The student, before he begins to write, must note carefully the wording of the subject set, and convince himself that he has understood its scope, making it neither too narrow nor too broad, nor allowing his thought to wander away from the point.
The student must realize the relative importance of the different points of the essay and allot spaces to them accordingly. Each topic must have its appropriate space. Trifling :. matters, if at all introduced in the essay, should never occupy a large space. Important and weighty ideas, on the other hand, should occupy a prominent position and receive a duly elaborate treatment.
The paragraphs should be so arranged that, when the reader has gone through one paragraph, his mind will be carried forward by an easy, transition to the next one. The ideas must succeed in an that coherence of the whole essay may be secured. A proper logical order in setting forth the ideas can be ensured only by the use of an outline,
In drawing up an outline, the following general rules should be observed.
- First set down the principal ideas that suggest themselves and denote them by numbers, 1,2,3, etc. These are the main topics.
- Next set down under each main topic the subordinate ideas that follow from them. These are the sub-topics and denote them by letters (a). (h). (c), etc.
- Arrange both your main topics and sub-topics in their natural order.
- See that ideas contained in the sub-topics are in keeping with the ideas contained in the main topics.
- Word all your topics as briefly and compactly as possible.
Classification of Essays
Essays may be divided roughly into four classes:
1. Narrative Essays
Narrative essays are those that consist of the narration of some event. Such events may consist of the narration of some event. Such events may be
- Historical or legendary occurrences
- Stories either true or imaginary
- Biographical sketches of well-known personalities.
2. Descriptive Essays
Descriptive essays are those that consist of the description of some place or thing. These may be in
- Countries, island, mountains, seasons, rivers
- Aspects and phenomena of Nature
- Towns and buildings
3. Reflective Essays
Reflective essays consist of reflections upon some topic, which is generally of an abstract nature. These may be
- Qualities, habits, etc
- Social. political, and domestic affairs.
4. Expositor or Argumentative Essays
These consist of the exposition of a saying, or a thesis, as,
- A stitch in time saves nine
- Honesty is the best policy