The Craft of Writing Essays

The Craft of Writing Essays
Essays fall into three general categories but all are expressed in the first person. The first type of essay presents opinions and is written to “instruct” the reader. Though frequently less than a thousand words, opinion pieces are considered essays. The other two classifications are the literary essay and the personal essay.
The primary function of the literary essay is to convey information and knowledge, often accompanied by a message, in a piece that may be as long as 8,000 words. Though the subject may be narrow, the literary essay is designed for a wide audience and to deliver a universal message. If you want to write a literary essay, you need not be an expert in the subject but you must project a voice of authority that is best accomplished by a command of the facts. Though the writing should be literary and the material well supported, you can still write in a personal tone.

You may make use of a personal experience and personal reflections in writing a literary essay. However, do not allow the personal experience to become the center of the piece and do not let your personal ruminations dominate the narrative, or you risk transforming it into a personal essay.
Personal essays (sometimes called “memoirs”) take one or more related personal experiences or memories, dwells upon it, and brings forth a universal message or at the very least, something to which many readers can relate. As with all nonfiction, the personal essay must be of interest to the reader and not only to family and friends if you are seeking publication. Generally, personal essays run between 1,000 and 4,000 words. If longer, you are approaching the final nonfiction category — the memoir.

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