So you’re either writing an essay or need to write an essay in the future. The biggest problem with essays is that many writers mistake them for other genres of non-fiction writing.
Many people use them interchangeably with reports or even articles. This assumption is dead wrong. And if someone asks us to write an essay, it is just as essential for us to understand what essays are not as what they are.
You are probably reading this because you are unsure what is expected when assigned to write an essay. Actually, this is very common with people, and the reason for it is pretty common as well.
As we learn to write in elementary school, many of our teachers likely used the term “essay” very liberally. She may have said something like, “You’ll need to write an essay about the book you read last week.”
Indeed, there was nothing wrong with using the term in that particular setting, but as we progress through our education levels, essays take on more meaning and become more literal.
Comparing Essays Writing to Other Writing Genres
Perhaps the best way of understanding how to write essays is to compare them with the other three writing genres. This way, we can ascertain the difference for ourselves.
Writing essays vs. writing creative fiction
When you write an essay, the last thing you will do is compose stories and let your imagination run wild. You must control the rhetoric and adhere to a strict structure. An introduction is done in its proper way, as is the conclusion.
The content between those beginning and ending paragraphs is the meat of the essay. And some specific patterns and styles are conventionally used for this main content. Regardless of its particular structure, the middle part of your essay will make factual statements supported by current research. Those facts are reported as they exist and are not bent in any way.
Conversely, most fiction involves painting a picture within the minds of readers. These pictures are the entire essence of what fiction is all about. This is a good thing but has no place in writing essays.
Writing essays vs. writing articles
Another form of writing pertains to articles. This probably represents the lion’s share of online content as everyone is writing articles, it seems. But they are nothing like essays, and it would be helpful to separate the two formats.
The first area in which these two genres differ pertains to their structure. Unlike an essay, articles pack as much essential information into the headline and the first paragraph as possible because the writer wants to attract the reader’s attention.
By far, the biggest asset for article writers is the headlines they craft. Today’s reader living in the information age is lambasted with content from sunrise until bedtime. They habitually skim through current headlines and read only the content of the headlines that interest them.
And then when they get to the article – what do they do? Yep – they then skim through the article and read through the headings and subheadings. Therefore any successful article writer will tell you that their best work needs to go into writing the headline, the headings, the opening paragraph, and then the main article – in that order.
This construct does not burden essays because they are not needed. You don’t need to worry about getting anyone’s attention. Essays usually come at someone’s request and that someone wants to hear about the facts. There is no need for any words of influence or persuasion.
In the conclusion of your essay, you need only furnish an answer to the main issue mentioned in the introduction. Your goal is to generate a resolution for that main issue if at all possible.
Writing essays vs. writing reports
The writing of reports has more in common with writing essays than any of these three writing genres. In fact, there are two glaring similarities right off the bat:
Both reports and essays have similar styles as they both have a primary objective and are quite focused. Their purpose is clear, and their paragraphs flow from one to the next in a logical manner.
Both reports and essays rely on research and its data to support their objective. And their conclusion is based on their findings.
There is no denying that the difference between essays and reports is exceptionally subtle. Here are the purposes of writing each one:
Purpose of a Report
Whenever you are asked to write a report, you will need to present an analysis of research results. Pretty much every report will begin with the topic background, the research aim, and an objective to furnish the details that your report intends to examine.
Your report will need to have a clear hypothesis whenever testing a proposition for the research data. Depending on the topic, your report may also need to include separate sections for future recommendations.
Purpose of an Essay
On the other hand, an essay must find answers to questions using the researcher’s own evaluation of current theories. An essay typically doesn’t include any practical research as it will refer to existing data.