your everyday conversation, you make all kinds of points or assertions.
You say, for example, “It’s
not safe to walk in our neighborhood after dark”; “My boss is a hard person
to work for”; or “Poor study habits keep getting me into trouble.”
The points that you make concern personal matters as well as, at times,
outside issues: “That trade will be a disaster for the team”; “Lots of TV
commercials are degrading to women”; “Students should have to work for a
year before attending college.”
people you are talking with do not always challenge you to give reasons for your
statements. They may know why you
feel as you do, or they may already agree with you, or they simply may not want
to put you on the spot; and so they do not always ask, “Why?” The people who
read what you write, however, may not know you, agree with you, or feel in any
way obliged to you. So if you want
to communicate effectively with them, you must provide solid evidence for any
point you make. An important
difference, then, between writing and talking is this: In writing, any idea that
you advance must be supported with specific reasons or details.
of your readers as reasonable persons. They
will not take your views on faith, but they are willing to accept what you say
as long as you support it. So
remember to support with specific evidence any statement that you make.
Much of your college writing will be in the form of six-hundred-word essays – papers of several paragraphs that support a single point. An essay typically consists of an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. The central idea, or point, developed in an essay is called a thesis statement rather than, as in a paragraph, a topic sentence. A thesis appears in the introductory paragraph, and the specific support for the thesis appears in the paragraphs that follow. The supporting paragraphs allow for a fuller treatment of the evidence that backs up the central point than would be possible in a single-paragraph paper.
Mastering the essay form will help, first of all, on a practical level. For other courses, you will write specific forms of essays, such as the report and research paper. Many of your written tests will be in the form of essay exams. In addition, the basic structure of an essay will help in career-related writing, from a job application letter to the memos and reports that may become part of your work.
Contents modified from:
Langan, J. (1993).College Writing Skills with Readings (third ed.) New York: MacGraw Hill.
created by Premala Balasubramaniam 2001