THE DANGER OF AN IDEA—How Essay Writing Can Make History
WHY IS ESSAY WRITING IMPORTANT
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was born in England, tried his hand at a number of jobs and failed. He immigrated
to America in November 1774, headed for Philadelphia where he became the editor of a new magazine.
He was outraged by the April 1775 Battle of Lexington where the British killed American militiamen, he began
writing a pamphlet. It was published in January 1776 and sold an estimated 100,000 copies within a few
months. The pamphlet, Common Sense, denounced tyranny and called for American independence --
something hardly anyone had talked about until then.
Later in December 1776, Americans were discouraged by defeats, and Paine wrote a stirring essay. George
Washington read it to his men on Christmas. This inspired them to win a much-needed battle victory against
British forces in Trenton. Paine wrote more essays which became “The American Crisis”. In the 2nd essay, he
coined the term "United States of America." These writings inspired Americans to fight against Britain and
finally America became a free and independent nation.
Thomas Paine’s essays had forever changed the history of America.
In the Iraq War of 2003, America used pamphlets to convince Iraqi soldiers not to fight against them. It was
very effective and many soldiers gave up without fighting at all. This writing saved the lives of many soldiers
both US and Iraqi.
There are many examples like this throughout history. Even Florence Nightingale was inspired to go serve in
Turkey by the essays of William Russell, one of the first war reporters who wrote about the filth and terrible
conditions he saw in the army hospitals. Later, other essays made Florence’s work there famous and forever
changed the way people thought about the nursing profession.
Essays change people’s minds and hearts and can change the entire history of the world. English novelist and
dramatist Edward Bulwer-Lytton said, “The pen is mightier than the sword" and this is often very true.
Writing clearly and persuasively is not just important for school success. It is very important for success in
business, professions, politics and it is one of the most effective ways to change people’s hearts and minds.
This is the reason we are going to learn about writing essays.
ESSAY WRITING PROCESS
These are the simple steps to writing a good and strong essay:
1) DECIDE ON YOUR ESSAY TYPE, TOPIC............................................................................................. 2
2) COLLECT INFO.......................................................................................................................................... 2
3) MAKE AN OUTLINE OR DIAGRAM ..................................................................................................... 2
4) WRITE THE THESIS STATEMENT ....................................................................................................... 4
5) WRITE THE BODY & SUPPORTING PARAGRAPHS ........................................................................ 4
6) WRITE THE TITLE & INTRODUCTION PARAGRAPH .................................................................... 5
7) WRITE THE CONCLUSION—SUMMARY PARAGRAPH ................................................................. 6
8) ADD THE FINISHING TOUCHES ........................................................................................................... 6
SITES TO SEE EXAMPLE ESSAYS ................................................................................................................ 7
DESCRIPTIVE ESSAY-EXAMPLE 1--Something About Dr. Martin Luther King .................................... 7
STEPS TO WRITING AN ESSAY
If you’ve been assigned a topic and the type of essay, then skip to step 3
1) DECIDE ON YOUR ESSAY TYPE, TOPIC
Everyone hears and reads interesting stories and ideas quite often. Some topics or ideas may be very
interesting to you. Save interesting ideas that you would like to write on. If you haven’t been doing this
already, start doing it right away when you hear about your assignment.
Another helpful idea is to look on internet sites or in books for a few interesting topics. Then free associate
from the words you see or experiences you’ve had or things you’ve read. Write down any word you think of
that connects. For example:
*zoo, bear, Alaska, vacation, Thailand, trekking, thieves, passport, red tape…(I went to the zoo last week…I
saw a bear. Bears live in Alaska. Alaska is a great vacation place. I vacationed in Thailand. Trekking in
Thailand was awesome. But, thieves stole my passport. I had to go through a lot of red tape to get a new
You can also think of things that are really fascinating to you or things that you really dislike or look at
things that are problems around you. From these, you can get many good ideas to write about.
What kind of essay do you want to write? Are you writing an informative essay or a persuasive essay? Are
you writing an overview or a specific analysis (if it’s an analysis, make sure your topic is very specific and
For example, the topic "KENYA" is a general one. If you want to write a general overview, this topic is
suitable. If you plan to write a specific analysis, this topic is too general. You must narrow it to something
like "Politics in Kenya" or "Kenya's Culture."
Think about these questions: Who is your audience? What are they interested in hearing? What do they
need to hear? What should they think about? What will help them see things in a new way? You should
know some things about your audience to be effective in your essay.
2) COLLECT INFO
“Everyone has a photographic memory, some just forgot the film.”
This means that most of us forget things easily. So, unless you’re Einstein or something, whenever you see
some interesting topic or article, SAVE IT (and save it in a way that you can find it easily again).
Computers and some e-mail programs (like Eudora) are ideal for this, but you can also do it by using folders,
etc. This will help you have many ideas for your essays and it will make your essays much more interesting
and persuasive (This is also a good idea to use with good jokes or stories you hear, great party ideas, stories
to illustrate important truths well and more.)
As soon as you decide your topic, make sure to read books, articles and internet sites on the topic that you
are planning to write on. Save useful quotes, examples, illustrations and ideas. Write down ideas that you
think about while reading.
3) MAKE AN OUTLINE OR DIAGRAM
It is helpful to see the big picture and direction you are going when you are writing. So, write an outline or
diagram. There are different ways to do this.
For any method you will need to put your ideas into categories. If you are trying to persuade, you want to
write your best arguments. If you are trying to explain a process, you want to write the steps that should be
followed. You will probably need to group these into categories. If you have trouble grouping the steps into
categories, try using Beginning, Middle, and End. If you are trying to inform, you want to write the major
categories into which your information can be divided.
Put your TOPIC inside a circle in the middle of the page. Put your main points in boxes around the circle.
In each square, write the main ideas that you have about your topic. You can write subpoints in the boxes
under the main point or on lines around the square.
EXAMPLE OF METHOD A:
FEWER TESTS MANY GAMES
Tests are stressful. Games help us learn.
We can’t sleep. Games have repetition.
Tests don’t help us learn Games are fun.
HANDS ON EDUCATION/TALKING STUDYING IN NATURE
If we only listen, we forget a lot. Nature is a good teacher.
We learn a lot through doing We get exercise.
things and talking with friends and We make better friends.
Write your topic at the top of the page. Next, write the Roman numerals I, II, III…, spread apart down the left
side of the page (or A, B, C…). Next to each Roman numeral, write the main ideas that you have about your
topic, or the main points that you want to make. Under each Roman numeral, write A, B, and C down the left
side of the page. Next to each letter, write the facts or information that support that main idea.
EXAMPLE OF METHOD B:
MY IDEAL SCHOOL
I. FEWER TESTS
a: Tests are stressful
b. We can’t sleep.
c. Tests don’t help us learn
II. HANDS ON EDUCATION/TALKING
a. If we only listen, we forget a lot.
b. We learn a lot through doing things
and talking with friends and teachers.
III. MANY GAMES
a. Games help us learn.
b. Games have repetition.
c. Games are fun.
IV. STUDYING IN NATURE
a. Nature is a good teacher.
b. We get exercise.
c. We make better friends.
When you have finished , you have the
basic structure for your essay and are
ready to continue. Here is one more
example of how to organize your essay before you write.
4) WRITE THE THESIS STATEMENT
Usually somewhere in the first paragraph, an essay will have a thesis statement. This is one or two
sentences that answers the questions “What’s the issue?” and “What should be done about it?”
Maybe your topic is about “media”. You need to make a statement.
“Media has lots of violence these days.”
This tells your subject and also it is also something people have different opinions on. Now you need to
take a position on the topic. For example:
“We should control the amount of violence that is allowed in media.”
This is controversial and people will want to know why you think this way. It is important to use specific
language in your thesis statement. And make some kind of claim or proposal in your thesis statement. So,
you might revise it to say.
“Because of the effects of watching violent media, countries are experiencing a serious crime
wave. Media companies must limit the level of violence to prevent crime.”
This thesis statement answers the question of “What’s the issue?” and “What should we do about it?”
5) WRITE THE BODY & SUPPORTING PARAGRAPHS
In the body of the essay, you write out your ideas, passions, inspiration. Now is the time to explain, describe, or argue the topic
you have chosen.
Take 1 of the points that you wrote in the squares or the Roman numbers I. II. III. Each of these will become one of the body
paragraphs. Write down these points and then write sentences about them. What’s the problem you see? What is interesting
about this point? What are the opportunities you see? How should we solve the problem? What should your readers do or think?
These are questions that you need to answer in the body and it’s supporting paragraphs.
Write it out something like this:
MAIN POINT 1: ___________
POSSIBLE SENTENCE ONE:______________________________________________________________________________
Then paragraph 2 and other paragraphs and supporting ideas in the same way.
If your topic is “Protecting the Environment” and one point is "Stop Hunting”, you might say this:
Rhino horn can be sold for over $20,000 dollars in some countries. For a family that only makes $20 a month, this is a
fortune that they can’t ignore. And so hunting and poaching are very common problems worldwide.
If someone was writing about visiting “Korea”, and a main point was “Pusan”, they might say:
Korea, the land of the Morning Calm. Well..at least in history. But, these days, there are subways, buses, trains, cars and
taxis zooming everywhere. Pusan in the south has many beaches where people enjoy walking, swimming, surfing and other
things. Korea has many mountains. You can often see “ajamas” and “ajashis” hiking through the mountains…sometimes in
suits. Even in the mornings, it’s not every calm. You’re sure to hear some fruit or vegetable seller announcing their products.
Korea today is not calm. It’s a fast moving and modern nation.
Another writer was writing about the “Iraq War” topic. His point was “Reasons Against Going to War”:
Don't get me wrong. I am not defending Saddam. From all accounts he was an evil man, and probably needed to be removed
from power. But that was not what this war was about when it started. It was all about those non-existent Weapon's of Mass
Destruction, and the threat they posed against America.. The whole war was based on a lie, and our invasion of Iraq, in my
opinion, was an act of terrorism.
Write out your main points and the supporting information for each point. Or you can write each main point and then its
supporting points and supporting information and then go to the next point.
1. List the points that develop the main idea of your essay.
2. Place each supporting point in a new paragraph.
3. Develop each supporting point with facts, stories, details, and examples.
To connect your supporting paragraphs, you should use special transition words. Transition words link your paragraphs together
and make your essay easier to read. Use them at the beginning and end of your paragraphs.
Examples of transition words that can help you to link your paragraphs together:
For listing different points: First, Second, Third,
For counter examples: However, Even though, On the other hand, Nevertheless
For additional ideas: Another, In addition to, Related to, Furthermore, Also
To show cause and effect: Therefore, Thus, As a result of, Consequently
6) WRITE THE TITLE & INTRODUCTION PARAGRAPH
Now that you’ve got most of the information written, it’s a good time to choose the title. What do you think will
catch people’s interest? People are very busy these days? How will you attract them to read your essay? Which
titles below would attract you? Make a title that has unusual words or puns. Something that makes people stop and be
“Let’s Be Boring”, How to Train a Parent”, “Are you a Genius”, “Tahiti, Island Paradise”, “Little Tyke, A
Vegetarian Lion”, “Dream Team Loses Dream at Olympics”, “Finding your Dream Girl/Guy”
Now, you need to write the introduction. What is an introduction paragraph? The introduction paragraph is the first
paragraph of your essay. What does it do? It introduces the main idea of your essay. A good opening paragraph
captures the interest of your reader and tells why your topic is important.
How do I write one?
1. CATCH THE INTEREST: Begin the paragraph with a story of action or some surprising information or a mystery.
Introduce a problem. Tell an opponents view briefly. Give some background information about your topic. You can
use interesting facts, anecdotes, jokes, quotations and more.
2. WRITE THE THESIS: What 1 idea do you want people to remember from your essay? This idea should be made
into a single sentence called the thesis statement. Everything you write should contribute to your idea and help people
support your thesis sentence.
INTRODUCTION PARAGRAPH EXAMPLES:
(from an essay on land rent economics at: www.progress.org/geonomy/thinkers.html)
Geniuses often disagree. Yet regarding one of humanity's thorniest problems: how to share land fairly. Some of
our best minds have come to a similar conclusion: users pay compensation to those they exclude. They reached
this conclusion, reasoning from the uniqueness of land.
(from Hero Tales, true stories of great people in history) As pastor John Newton greeted the people after church,
a stranger in a heavy coat approached him and slipped an envelope into his hand. “Sir,” the man whispered,
“allow me to give you this. It is very important.” And then the man was gone. (the man turned out to be William
Wilberforce who was asking Newton to help him find God’s plan for his life. Newton and Wilberforce began
working together to stop slavery in England after that letter.)
(from “Facing Your Future” by Rick Warren, No matter what the pollsters, pundits, and prognosticators claim,
no one can accurately predict all that is going to happen in the next 365 days. Our best forecasts are just educated
guesses. Changes in our society have not only increased in speed and intensity but also in their unpredictability.
Doing business in this environment is what Michael Annison calls "Managing the Whirlwind." How can anyone
succeed when the future is so uncertain? The Bible suggests three timeless principles for facing your future (the
essay goes on to talk about 1) Include God in Your Goal-Setting, 2) Enjoy life one day at a time and 3) Don’t
procrastinate—do it now.)
7) WRITE THE CONCLUSION—SUMMARY PARAGRAPH
What is a summary paragraph?
The summary paragraph comes at the end of your essay after you have finished developing your ideas. The
summary paragraph is often called a "conclusion."
What does it do?
It summarizes or restates the main idea of the essay. You want to leave the reader with a sense that your essay
How do I write one?
1. Restate the strongest points of your essay that support your main idea.
2. Conclude your essay by restating the main idea in different words.
3. Give your personal opinion or suggest a plan for action.
Overall, the changes that occurred in hockey have helped to improve the game. Hockey is faster and more
exciting as a result of changes in the past 120 years. For these reasons, modern hockey is a better game than
hockey in the 1890s.
8) ADD THE FINISHING TOUCHES
You have now completed all of the paragraphs of your essay. Before you can consider this a finished product,
however, you must give some thought to the formatting of your paper.
Check the order of your paragraphs.
Look at your paragraphs. Which one is the strongest? You might want to start with the strongest paragraph, end
with the second strongest, and put the weakest in the middle. Whatever order you decide on, be sure it makes
sense. If your paper is describing a process, you will probably need to stick to the order in which the steps must
Check the instructions for the assignment.
When you prepare a final draft, you must be sure to follow all of the instructions you have been given.
Are your margins correct?
Have you titled it as directed?
What other information (name, date, etc.) must you include?
Did you double-space your lines?
Check your writing.
Nothing can substitute for revision of your work. By reviewing what you have done, you can improve weak
points that otherwise would be missed. Read and reread your paper.
Does it make logical sense?
Leave it for a few hours and then read it again. Does it still make logical sense?
Do the sentences flow smoothly from one another?
If not, try to add some words and phrases to help connect them. Transition words, such as "therefore" or
"however," sometimes help. Also, you might refer in one sentence to a thought in the previous sentence.
This is especially useful when you move from one paragraph to another.
Have you run a spell checker or a grammar checker?
These aids cannot catch every error, but they might catch errors that you have missed.
SITES TO SEE EXAMPLE ESSAYS
Descriptive: http://www.topics-mag.com/edition17/memory-places-page.htm, http://www.topics-
mag.com/edition11/descriptive-writing.htm, http://litsite.alaska.edu/uaa/workbooks/legler.html ,
DESCRIPTIVE ESSAY-EXAMPLE 1--Something About Dr. Martin Luther King
By Katelyn B, from http://www.youthonline.ca/kidsessays/
Second Grade, January 22, 2002
I got to stay home from school on Monday. That night, a movie came on the TV, and I wanted to stay up and
watch it. My mommy told me it was too late, but I told her it was about Martin Luther King, Jr. and that he was
a good guy. I wanted to know why I got to stay home from school that day, so she let me stay up late and watch
this show. It was really sad and I cried several times.
There was also a man named Father Jonathan Daniels. The man named Jonathan died, but at the end of the
movie, there were some words that told about what happened to those people in the movie, and it said that
Jonathan was made a Saint a few years ago.
I learned in the movie that they sprayed some kind of gas that could blind you and make you cough a lot and
you could not breathe. But, the gas would rise up and you could breath again. Dr. King told the people this
before they went on their march, to try to keep them safe.
I said to my mother, "Why couldn’t they just go and vote? Why did they have to march?" My mother said that
the police and the government where these people lived would not let them just go and vote back then.
That night, I could not stop thinking about it. I did not know it was so violent then. I was crying so much that it
was hard to breathe, because I couldn’t understand why they were treating people this way. My mom said it
was ok to cry, that if I wanted to, I could write about what I was worrying about.
I really did not like watching all the people die, like Jimmy Lee, he was Jonathan’s friend. He was trying to get
people to sign up to vote. But Martin Luther King, Jr. did not die in this movie. But it told about some little
girls getting killed at a church that got bombed. I saw a little girl who went over to the white drinking fountain
and she was black and a man came out and he pushed the cups out of the little girl’s hand. He said, "Leave, this
is only for white people!" This part made me very mad!
Three men went down to the church where that little girl went and they and burned a cross. I did not understand
why they did that, though. My mom said it was to scare the people from signing up to vote. This made all the
people sad when they got up that morning and saw God’s cross burning.
It was a really, really, really good movie. It made me sad, though. I liked it because it made me think about
things. I thought about Mr. King all night. It was sad and it was happy, too. Me and my mom and my brother
watched the movie together and talked about it. We’re going to record it the next time because I want to learn
more about Martin Luther King, Jr.
On one part of the show, when some of the people were being mean, Mr. King told the others to stay, but to not
fight. Even if they were told to go home and not vote, they stayed. They said they were going to stay until they
really got freedom. They did not get freedom until the end of the show, and they were very happy. I am happy
too, because I get to be with all of my friends at school, and it doesn’t matter what we look like, because God is
colorblind! I am glad I didn’t live back then, because I wouldn’t have liked it at all.
I thank God for giving me a home and school and a church where it is ok to love everyone because I think that
is the way it is supposed to be.
A teacher, a student, and a member of the town council appear on a local TV talk show and debate whether
television does more good than harm, or the reverse. The program's host invites his home audience to write in
Links used: http://iasweb.com/ODP/Kids_and_Teens/School_Time/English/Writing/Essay/,
One writer’s topic was about anger. He wrote:
Unfortunately, anger permeates our society. In a culture that often operates under a "what have you done
for me lately" mindset, we are bombarded by the consequences of uncontrolled, selfish anger. School
shootings, road rage, domestic abuse, and terrorism are a few. Sometimes it's easy to look at these
extreme examples and believe that all forms of anger are sinful; however, that simply is not true.
Commuters appreciate the cost savings of taking public transportation rather than driving.
Less driving time means less maintenance expense, such as oil changes. Of course, less driving time means savings on gasoline as
well. In many cases, these savings amount to more than the cost of riding public transportation.
(essay graphic from: http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/t/2/t2l/outlstru.htm)