In the Short Story Unit you experienced the fascinating world of suspense and
human conflict that is revealed through fiction. In the essay unit, you will study
selections in non-fiction Just as a short story has certain characteristics, qualities,
and elements, an essay has certain characteristics that you must learn.
Talented short story writers create escape or interpretive fiction, however essay
writers present their ideas, opinions and experiences in non-fiction. Essayists
may instruct, inspire, argue, persuade, describe, criticize, reflect, and even
satirize. They manipulate stylistic devices to create a strong impression. Even
though the short story has more action, the essay has more ideas. The essay is
a form of literature.
The Five Paragraph Essay
A simple model for the relationship between the introduction, the body, and the
conclusion is the old newspaper maxim:
"You tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em,
you tell 'em, and then you tell 'em what
you told 'em."
Your introduction begins with the general
and moves toward the specific, as the
sides of the triangle narrow toward a
point. Ask yourself how the specific
question you are addressing in the essay
relates to a greater issue or field. You lay
out a plan for what will follow.
The middle section (body) is a sequence
of paragraphs that support your thesis, or (in an expository essay) provide the
information you promised in your introduction.
What you say in your conclusion should match what you said when you
introduced the essay: it should be a restatement (but not a mere repetition) of
your thesis, ideally in a way that shows more fully and clearly what you have
been arguing. Present your thesis in its final, most persuasive form.
The important thing at this stage is to ensure that you construct paragraphs that
are unified: one topic per paragraph, each topic suitably and sufficiently
supported. If your outline has been carefully thought out, the sequence of
paragraphs will make logical sense.
Writing A+ Essays
1. “Clincher” statement that catches the reader‟s attention
2. Overview of what you plan on discussing in your essay
3. Thesis statement - state your POSITION
4. Transitions smoothly into first paragraph
1. Main idea of your entire paper
2. Expresses your position in a full, declarative sentence
3. Controls the focus of the entire paper
4. Points forward to the conclusion
5. Conforms to your reasons, examples, and evidence
A WORKING 3 PART THESIS
Opinion and Fact
Dracula was one of the better films this summer because if its setting, action,
Social ostracism, great expense, and personal hardship are three of the
unfortunate results of the most dangerous disease of the century - AIDS.
From my personal experience, I know that poor preparation, alcohol
consumption, and insect infestation can cause most family picnics to fail.
AVOIDING MISTAKES IN YOUR INTRODUCTION
Avoid a purpose statement, such as “The purpose of this...” “Now I shall
prove”, "in this paragraph I will tell you" SHOW -DON’T TELL
Avoid repetition of the title or text
Avoid complex or difficult questions that may puzzle your reader
Avoid simple definitions - EXPLAIN
Avoid artwork or cute lettering
A BEAUTIFUL BODY
A group of sentences that presents and develops one MAIN IDEA about a
These sentences work together to communicate one MAIN IDEA
the overall POINT of the PARAGRAPH that is conveyed in the TOPIC
USUALLY the first sentence of the PARAGRAPH that states the MAIN
IDEA stated in each part of the THESIS
This sentence CONTROLS the ENTIRE PARAGRAPH
It tells the READER what the reset of the paragraph is ABOUT
This helps the WRITER focus on the MAIN IDEA and not stray from the
This is more GENERAL than the SUPPORTING DETAILS that follow.
SUPPORTING DETAIL SENTENCES
Other sentences in the PARAGRAPH that give INFORMATION that
SUPPORTS the MAIN IDEA that was stated in the TOPIC SENTENCE
A paragraph with only 1-2 supporting details is NOT EFFECTIVE and
At least THREE details are NEEDED to provide STRONG SUPORT for
the MAIN IDEA:
Paragraphs should be AT LEAST 6 sentences, including TRANSITIONS
Sentences that DO NOT SUPPORT the TOPIC SENTENCE DESTROY the
UNITY of the paragraph!
The last sentence of each paragraph should reflect:
what you have just discussed in the paragraph
signal the change into the next paragraph
1. Restate the thesis
2. GO BEYOND the thesis by stating something worthwhile:
reach a judgment
endorse an issue
3. Leave the reader with a thought provoking statement
AVOIDING MISTAKES IN YOUR CONCLUSION
AVOID presenting new IDEAS
AVOID stopping at an awkward spot or trailing off into meaningless or
AVOID questions that raise new issues
AVOID fancy artwork or cute lettering
Devising a Thesis
Using A Canadian Writer‟s Reference read section C p. 3 to 35 (it can be
downloaded from the English 10-1 PDF Resources folder). Make your own notes.
An important concept from these pages is that of the three point thesis:
Lesson 5: Objective 3
Sample Student Essay
The following is a sample of a student essay on fiction techniques and their
contribution to the effect of a short story, in this case, "The Veldt" by Ray
Bradbury. Students are often asked to write critically about the literature they
read. If fact, this is a favoured method of evaluation by English teachers. It is
important, therefore that you master the techniques used in this Sample Student
Notice the effective introduction, three point thesis, body paragraphs with topic
sentences, restatement of thesis in the conclusion and a citation on separate
page showing the source of the story used. Also, note the student uses the
present tense and cites his quotations within the essay in parentheses. Notice
how the quoted material fits in as part of his own sentence structure, using
ellipsis (...) to indicate words that have been left out. See page 257-268 in A
Canadian Writer‟s Reference for more help with quotations.
Effective Devices Used in "The Veldt"
Short story writers use many techniques to make their fiction come alive for the
reader. "The Veldt", a science fiction story by Ray Bradbury, relies on three
techniques or devices to create a successful story. He provides a futuristic
setting to give the plot a reality or plausibility that might not exist in a more
contemporary setting, an initial incident which sets up the conflict, and
foreshadowing which hints at the grisly outcome.
The reader's belief in the possibility of the strange plot relies on his acceptance of
the robotic home of the Hadley family. If Bradbury had tried to force this plot into
a traditional household, the reader might have rejected the premise that violence
and death might happen. Because the reader does not have rooms that come
alive like Peter and 's bedroom, it is necessary to suspend disbelief in order to
accept the macabre plan carried out by the children. Bradbury makes it clear
from the beginning
that the story occurs in the future as
"They walked down the hall of their soundproofed Happylife Home which had
cost them thirty thousand dollars installed, this house which clothed and fed and
rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them." (101)
Without the elements of setting such as the automatic switches, the
odorophonics, and the three dimensional screen, the reader might not accept the
plot and the story would be a failure.
The initial incident, the event which sets the action in motion, occurs when the
reader learns of the 'malfunction' in the nursery. George, the father, is unable to
make the African Veldtland disappear and utters, "the fool room is out of order. It
won't respond" (106). Programmed to be a peaceful, cheerful, nurturing
environment, the nursery has become a wild killing field. Before, the parents had
control of the room (and control over their children), but now, they seem
powerless. The initial incident begins the chaos and disorder which will escalate.
As a result, the reader's interest is piqued not only because the environment in
the room is so oppressive and ominous but because of the near panic of the
The third device which is a major tool used by the author is foreshadowing. The
screams that "sound familiar" (109) let the reader know that there is violence
behind the door. Also, both parents discover a personal article destroyed in the
play room which seems to seal their fate and let the reader know that what has
happened to George's wallet is also sure to happen to him. Peter's threat that his
parents had better not consider closing down the room (110) foreshadows the
lengths to which he will go to protect his newly-gained power.
Ray Bradbury's unusual setting, intriguing initial incident, and meaningful
foreshadowing help to make a powerful story. The reader plunges into a
modernistic household which has become a monster. The shock is strong and
complete at the end.
Bradbury, Ray. "The Veldt", Inside Stories. Ed. place: publisher, date. page
In the English language the word essay comes from the French term essai,
which means " to try". Essays are an author's attempt to express his/her opinion
on a subject. The degree of personal input determines the label that is applied to
the essay. When studying the essay as a literary form it is necessary to look at
two basic areas: essay subject matter and essay subject manner.
Types of Essays
Only general groupings can be followed for essays because essay form and
subject are so nebulous . However, certain forms are distinguishable, and
following are some of the major divisions. The amount of personality coloration in
essays varies widely, because they are written by individuals, and may range
from the almost pure impersonality of the encyclopedia article to the highly
personal expression of a writer's thoughts and beliefs in a diary.
There are two primary types of essays:
informational (expository ) essays
Depending on style and content, essays range from formal to informal and
display certain characteristics.
have a serious purpose
focus on significant subject matter
have a literary style varying from stylistically elegant to plain serious prose
reflect the writer‟s personality and interests entertain the reader
are written in a lively, light or humorous manner
use casual, conversational language
A. Informational Essays
The primary purpose of the informational essay is to give information, to teach, to
instruct, to explain. It may do this by presenting facts only, or it may present facts
backed up by observations of the author, hence adding elements of the author's
personality to what is still mainly an information-giving communication. To clarify
this further, informational essays may be divided into three categories.
This type of informational essay is based on fact, and fact only. Technical or
scientific explanations, textbooks, instructions, and 'how to' articles all fall into
this category. Very little if any of the writers' personalities will be disclosed in this
type of essay since it deals with fact and attempts to clarify meaning. It is
organized according to process, classification, or comparison -contrast and uses
reasoning by induction, deduction, definition, cause and effect, and analysis.
This type of informational essay is also based on fact, but the essayist goes
beyond this by trying to prove a case or develop an argument. It tries to convince
the reader that a specific theory or premise is true or false. It is usually organized
from specific facts to a conclusion or conversely from a generalization to specific
Informational essays of persuasion are again based on fact, but the essayists
deliberately try to get the readers to take a particular point of view or accept a
particular opinion. Their approach will be a mixture of appeal to reason and
emotion. Because they have moved beyond using straight fact to include their
own personal method of strengthening their argument ,or persuading their
readers to agree with them, their personalities have been inserted.
As the essay moves from purely informational to purely personal, the personality
of the author becomes almost as important as the information presented.
B. Personal Essays
The primary purpose of the personal essay is to entertain by making the reader
"feel at home" with the author, whose person is revealed through his/her writing.
They as individuals, are inextricably interwoven among the threads of their ideas,
which make up their essays. Personal essays may also be grouped into broad
The author gives unique reactions to experiences and contacts in his/her own
life. It may in this way be autobiographical in nature.
This portrays individuals, emphasizing particular qualities which the author
deems important. It may be written with a moral purpose in mind.
This describes a scene or object , usually using a spatial arrangement. The
things chosen as part of the description are coloured by the outlook and
personality of the author.
It is similar to the descriptive, but in the narrative essay the essayist arranges
material chronologically, developing the narrative or the events as they happen in
time. Also it is similar to the descriptive in that the events which the writer selects
to develop the narrative express his/her personality.
This is extremely subjective, with the author passing judgment on such things as
artistic works, individuals, historical or contemporary events, and social
6. Philosophic or Reflective:
This type of essay presents the personal reflections of the essayist on such
subjects as morals, religion, education, and history. The essayist wishes the
reader to reflect on the subject, although the reader may or may not agree with
the author‟s thoughts.
Satire may be defined as ridiculing or poking fun at something, with the
underlying idea of bringing about a change. This type of essay may be directed
at any subject, and its success depends largely on the personality of the author
and how it is presented in the essay.
An essay will seldom be a pure example of one of these categories and may fit
into two or three. Usually its main development can be identified and it can, for
convenience, be placed under one of the above.
Levels of English
Formal English is used by educated people for formal occasions, e.g.
graduations, opening ceremonies, formal essays, etc. It has the following
bookish tone, not conversational
many figures of speech
complex language not commonly used in conversation
wide use of allusions
long, complex sentences
strict grammatical correctness:
no short cuts such as contractions (can't, won't, etc,)
no ellipses [a part omitted and implied, e.g. I am taller than Chris
use of many rhetorical devices (rhetorical questions, parallel structure,
balanced sentences, repetition for emphasis, etc.)
Informal English (Colloquial English) is comfortable English used by educated
people in conversation and informal writing. It‟s characteristics are as follows:
o conversational tone, light and personal
o relaxed, simple sentence structure
o few allusions and figures of speech
o use of many "ordinary" words such as contractions, abbreviations
o occasional use of slang (limited)
Non standard English has the following characteristics:
abundance of slang
simple or long sentences joined by 'and' or 'then'
The choice of words in an essay, its diction, contributes to its purpose.
Connotative and Denotative Words
Words in the English language may be classified into words with denotative
meanings and connotative meanings. The denotative meaning of a word is its
dictionary meaning. A "house," for example, is defined as "a building intended as
a dwelling for human beings." The denotation of a word means what the word
stands for. It is the precise, literal, factual meaning. A "cat," defined literally
according to Webster's New World Dictionary, is "a small, lithe, softfurred animal,
domesticated since ancient times and often kept as a pet or for killing mice". A
writer will use words with denotative meanings if the purpose is to present exact
Those houses were built in the early '50's.
That cat was nearly hit by an automobile yesterday.
The connotative meaning of a word is what the word suggests. The word
"home," for example, though it means the same as "house," suggests something
more than "a building intended as a dwelling." It means in its connotative sense
"a place where an individual's affections are centred." The word cat has also the
connotative meaning of a spiteful woman. Two words, therefore, may share the
same denotative meaning, but they may have connotative meanings quite
different. Consider the words in the following list. Observe the shades of meaning
around the denotative meaning.
imitate, copy, forge, mirror, counterfeit, reproduce
small, little, stunted, puny, dwarfish, tiny
stout, corpulent, fat, obese, plump, chubby, fleshy
thin, slender, slim, lean, lank, gaunt, emaciated
dog, mongrel, pup, puppy, mutt, canine, whelp
What do the following words connotate to you personally?
church oily mother honesty rose ocean
snow love eternal youth test examination
General and Specific Words
Words may be classified also as general or specific. A general word names a
group or class. A specific word names a member of a class or group, i.e. a
particular object, quality, or event. The word emotion, for example, names a
class. The words joy, love, hate, jealousy, sorrow, on the other hand, name a
particular emotion. Identify the general and specific words in the following
Those animals are very hungry.
Those lions are very hungry.
Most students who applied for that position were well educated.
Most of the graduate students who applied for the teaching assistantship were
working for their doctorate.
In the yard were some trees and many flowers.
In the back yard were an oak tree, a towering pine, and three chestnut trees.
There were also several pots of roses and three beds of violets.
There's this diner over in Newport News, the Blue Star. They have all these neon
signs, which are really cool. And they're open most all of the time. I like eggs. I
think they might serve them there. The House of Eggs serves eggs 24 hours a
day--breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But it doesn't have all the chrome like the
diner. My sink has lots of chrome. But my sink is dirty. And it doesn't have eggs.
A platypus is the only mammal that lays eggs. But this is a digression; rather, the
Blue Star is in such a pretty part of town. The House of Eggs is on Military
Highway. I'm really hungry. You?
What are we talking about? It's hard to tell. The reason? We have no thesis
statement (or main idea). This opening paragraph, disjointed as it is, could lead
into a discussion of values and aesthetics, such as what constitutes the ideal
diner or how much chrome is pleasurable. It could also become an evaluation, or
perhaps a comparison and contrast essay. It could even be an argument: an
argument to go to the Blue Star Diner for a late-night snack. Without a thesis
statement we'll never know. Hence, we can see that a thesis is of some valuable
use, if not entirely necessary.
A thesis statement is a sentence, two sentences, or a number of sentences,
which provides a focus for an essay. It will generally be found within the closing
lines of the first paragraph of an essay, but it can also occur in the second
paragraph or even on a later page. Its primary purpose is to convey the author's
purpose and attitude.
Truly effective thesis statements are specific. For example, what does "Gun
control is essential" do as a thesis? It's so broad that the reader has no idea what
to expect in the rest of the paper. Also, it offers no sense of the author's angle;
there are many reasons why gun control could be essential. The reader needs to
know which one (s) the author espouses. Strive to be specific when developing
your thesis statements. Also, a thesis statement should be NARROW enough to
be proved within the confines of whatever length you intend to make your essay.
For example, a thesis of a 3-page paper and a 20-page paper are going be
different. The 3-pager will have to be much narrower.
Whatever you call it, a thesis statement may take any number of forms; it may, in
fact, be carried over through an entire paragraph or developed over a number of
pages, but you must consider the over-all length of your essay. If you are writing
a fifty page paper you might have room to write a three page introduction that
conveys a sense of your thesis; however, if you are only writing a three or four
page essay it will be very important to keep your introduction concise and well
within the first or second paragraph.
Further, it may not always be useful to think of "Thesis Statements" as the name
for that controlling statement. It might imply an amount of weight that can make it
more difficult to compose the essay. Perhaps a better way to consider your
"thesis statement" would be as an "introductory statement" or a "topic sentence"
(or sentences). In any case, there are certain things it must do and, generally, it
is necessary for something approximating a thesis statement to occur.
But consider: all effective writing has some sort of controlling idea, but not all
writing has an explicit thesis. For example, memoirs and reflection papers will
have some sort of main point, but that main point may not necessarily be stated.
Whether or not you state the thesis depends upon what type of writing you're
The thesis statement serves three functions:
1. The thesis narrows the topic to a single idea that you want readers to gain
from your paper.
2. The thesis names the topic and asserts something about it, conveying
your purpose, your opinion, and your attitude. Make sure your thesis does
more than simply state an opinion or generalization; it should introduce
elements that offer an explanation of your beliefs.
3. The thesis statement provides a concise preview of how you will arrange
your ideas in the essay. Thesis and organization can go hand-in-hand
from the beginning. You can use your thesis to set up the entire paper.
Also, a thesis statement shouldn't be a FACT. What are you proving, if it's
already widely accepted? Further, your thesis statement should not say, "My
paper is about. . .", as it is already abundantly clear that your paper is about a
particular topic if, in fact, the paper is written. You do not need to tell the reader
that your essay is about what it already tells.
Some Questions For When You Consider Your Thesis
Does your thesis do more than just provide a fact?
Does your thesis say something new, innovative, or interesting?
Where have you located your thesis? Why?
Is your thesis appropriate to the length of your essay?
Could you be more explicit or specific?Are you using broad
generalizations to cover for a lack of knowledge?
A good transition looks backward to the previous paragraph and forward to the
next paragraph. In doing so, it shows the relationship between the two
paragraphs (amplification, evaluation, contrast, conclusion, etc.)
However...(contrasting aspect of topic)
But...(questioning an assumption in the previous paragraph)
Yet...(previous statement is limited in some way: counterargument, clarification,
On the other hand...(the other side is about to be represented, often the weaker
By contrast...(signals contrasting aspect of topic)
It is not the case that...(signals disagreement)
Aggregative transitions (A good aggregative transition shows how the new
subtopic is related to the general topic.)
Consider...(illustration of topic; invites reader to join in withwriter)
As for...(signals minor addition to topic; sometimes used ironically)
X did not simply do Y; he/she/it also did Z...(signals additional item which is
related to the main topic in a different way than previously discussed items)
For example...(illustration of topic)
X is...("X" being a codeword for the major topic)
What gets less attention, however,...(signals that commonly or deliberately
ignored aspect of topic is about to be emphasized)
It is my view that...(signals shift from description to explicit authorial opinion or
The mistake here is...(signals coming critique of items or events in last
Similarly...(parallel example follows)
As is the case with X, so it is with Y...(begins an analogy)
In much the same way...(completes an analogy)
Next...(next step in a temporal sequence)
In the future...(signals consequences or authorial proposal coming up)
Once X had happened, Y was inevitable...(connects past event with event about
to be discussed)
Hence...(signals conclusion of argument; use sparingly)
This X shows that Y...(paragraph will elaborate upon the significance of the last
If X, then Y...(signals logical reasoning; the completion of a syllogism)
When X, then Y...(emphasizes consequences of X)
Working with Quotations
Quotations that constitute fewer than five lines in your paper should be set off
with quotation marks [ “ ” ] and be incorporated within the normal flow of your
text. For material exceeding that length, omit the quotation marks and indent the
quoted language one inch from your left-hand margin. If an indented quotation is
taken entirely from one paragraph, the first line should be even with all the other
lines in that quotation; however, if an indented quotation comes from two or more
paragraphs, indent the first line of each paragraph an additional one-quarter inch.
If quotation marks appear within the text of a quotation that already has the usual
double-quote marks [ “ ” ] around it (a quote-within-a-quote), set off that inner
quotation with single-quote marks [ „ ‟ ] . Such a quote-within-a-quote within an
indented quotation is marked with double-quote marks.
The usual practice is to place periods and commas inside quotation marks,
regardless of logic. Other punctuation marks — question marks, exclamation
marks, semicolons, and colons — go where logic would dictate. Thus, we might
see the following sentences in a paper about Robert Frost:
The first two lines of this stanza, "My little horse must think it queer / To stop
without a farmhouse near," remind us of a nursery rhyme.
(Note, also, the slash mark / (with a space on either side) to denote the poem's
line-break.) But observe the placement of this semicolon:
There is a hint of the nursery rhyme in the line "My little horse must think it
queer"; however, the poem then quickly turns darkly serious.
Pay close attention to the placement of commas and periods in the use of
Preparing a Works Cited Section
Once you have found the sources you intend to use, you will need to identify
them for your reader. For each BOOK you use, write a separate listing (on an
index card or in some handy format available in your laptop computer or your
notebook — whatever is convenient and cannot be lost), giving:
1. the name of the author or authors;
3. editor, translator, compiler, if any;
4. edition, if it is not the first (i.e., 2nd ed., rev. ed.);
5. place and date of the book's publication; and
6. the name of the book's publisher.