Any good essay begins with an introduction. And the introduction has a specific purpose: to catch the reader’s attention in order to have them continue reading, and to set up your purpose for writing the essay. The best way to accomplish both these goals is to keep your introduction focused and short. (No rambling!) A dose of humour or an interesting statement or quote can gain the reader’s attention right away – especially if you go on to explain how that statement or quote matches your purpose for writing the essay.
In order to structure the rest of your essay, you need to continue thinking about your purpose. Are you trying to persuade the reader? Inform? Entertain? Each type of essay will utilize a different format. For example, a comparative essay might have more paragraphs – but smaller ones – in order to show similarities and differences between two things in a few selected areas. If you are trying to persuade someone to follow your line of thinking (and agree with it) you might have three to four body paragraphs of you essay with straight-forward topic sentences and very specific examples to back up your point of view.
When writing an essay, you may find the RAFTS model of planning a valuable tool. This helps to set up a purpose for you writing, and helps you to stay on track. It might even pinpoint the structure you need for your essay. RAFTS is an acronym for the words role, audience, format, topic, and strong verb. Before writing your essay (or after if you want to double check your work) you can consider who you are writing for, what your topic is, and the appropriate vocabulary and structure needed for this essay.
When writing an essay, often people overlook the conclusion. They see it as an unnecessary part of the essay structure – when really it is one of the most important. The conclusion is a summary of what you have already said, but only the key elements are revisited, to make your position or themes very clear. The conclusion should not introduce new information, for this will confuse the reader and could interrupt the flow of the writing, but it can offer predictions and even offer another dose of humour – just like the introduction. Remember, just as the introduction to the essay sets up the purpose for writing and encourages the reader to continue investing time in what you have written, the conclusion refocuses the reader and leaves him with a final impression.