An essay is a short composition about a particular topic that is usually written from a personal perspective. Many students balk at essay writing; the mere thought of starting the assignment brings stress and anxiety. Students and instructors have identified common pitfalls experienced or encountered in the writing process. A frequently cited difficulty is writer’s block, a generic category which springs from various causes. Other weaknesses involve content, organization and grammar issues.
Treatment of Topic
Students may claim that the assigned topic is boring, vague or tough. The rebuttal is to be resourceful and creative. Look for an interesting angle. Scale the subject down to a manageable chunk or tweak it to a comprehensible level. On the other hand, if they’re given a choice of topic, students may be undecided, or keep changing their minds and take too long to make a final decision. The practical solution is to pick a topic with which they are familiar, or about which they are passionate or curious to learn more.
Planning and Preparation
Another deficiency lies in inadequate time and effort spent in organizing the outline, conducting research and writing the draft. Too often students dash off the writing assignment at the last minute just to meet the submission deadline. Some students go the other extreme by being perfectionists. They get overwhelmed with too much research and information overload, bogged down with unnecessary detail, or stuck with revising their work over and over. With proper guidance and mentoring, students can strike the right balance to devote just enough attention and energy to the essay.
Content and Value
The substance and quality of the essay can suffer for various reasons. For example, an essay in an argumentative genre requires supportive evidence to prove the writer’s point. The lack of authoritative sources, factual data or concrete examples weakens his position. He fails to convince the readers of the truth of his assertion or persuade them to his point of view. Poor choice of words can also affect the overall impression that the written work makes. Bland, safe words such as “nice” or “good” lack the rich nuances of meanings that imaginative rephrasing can improve. Cliches that have outlived their punch rob the essay of originality. The trick is to research and rewrite.
Organization and Structure
In a coherent essay, the central theme is clearly established in the introduction, developed in the body and synthesized in the conclusion. Without a smooth transition and logical progression of thought from one section to the other, the essay becomes a rambling work, lacking clarity of purpose and focus. Another danger is a lame ending that falls short of nailing down the concepts. These concerns can be resolved by reviewing and revising to achieve the essay’s objective and create a strong impact.
Grammar, which encompasses language rules from syntax to spelling, presents a host of problems. Sometimes the fault lies in simple carelessness. Neglecting to proofread or to pay attention to detail deducts points from an otherwise articulate work. The rubrics of subject-verb agreements and spotting dangling modifiers may not be a student’s strong suit, but with patience and practice he can master these intricacies.
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