When I was in Glasgow University (that enormously prestigious and much brouhahaed institution which was founded in 1451), I had to write essays for both the English Literature and Religious Studies Faculties. These small irritants (the essays not the faculties, although…) were a normal part of my student life. In my previous existence as a theology student in London, England, all of my exams were oral exams and quite frankly, despite the nerve-wracking possibility that you could get asked anything contained in the syllabus for each subject, I preferred this oral torture to its death-by-footnote alternative. If only every course did away with essays and concentrated on the verbal talent of practiced and seasoned BSers, the world would be a happier place.
Unfortunately, that Nirvana of academia is never going to materialize and essays, for good or ill, are part of every high-school and college course in the world. The problem is that very few teachers ever tell you how to write an essay. It’s an art that is somehow magically supposed to appear in your skill set as you cross the threshold of the school. The consequence of this is that even if you are prodigy at the subjects you are studying, even if you happen to know more about the subject than your teacher, even if you can talk knowledgeably for hours about any aspect of the course, if you can’t write an essay competently, then you will never achieve the grades you deserve.
A friend of mine was complaining about this some time ago. He teaches theology in a seminary in Detroit and he mentioned that very few students had a handle on how to write argumentative essays. Then he uttered the magic words: “I wish you would write a book about how to write an essay.” (I had already written a number of “how-to” books, including How to Write a Poem: A Beginner’s Guide, How to Write a Novel: A Beginner’s Guide, and How to Write a Non-fiction Book: A Beginner’s Guide which sell reasonably well. (see how subtly I advertise by own books?)) So that started me thinking. There must be a great demand for knowledge of this type, so potentially the sales of a book on the subject could be not just incalculable but well-nigh infinite. I set to work right away and within a few weeks I had come up with a working manuscript for the book. I also canvassed the opinion of my wife, who had been a high-school English teacher, and also I got input from the Writing Tutoring Director at Concordia University, Ann Arbor, both of whom were very helpful in focusing the book on the real-life experiences of students. The resultant book is entitled (wait for it) How to Write an Essay: A Beginner’s Guide and is now available in online bookstores.
Here’s what the book’s blurb says:
This is a practical book. By the time you finish reading it, you will have all the tools you need to write well-structured, logical and convincing essays. It is the only guide to essay-writing you will ever need and is ideal for high-school and college students This book provides detailed instructions on the four main essay types: argumentative, expository, descriptive and narrative. “How to Write an Essay: A Beginner’s Guide” explains all the necessary techniques to enable your essay to be a success and achieve top grades.
The book is cheap ($6.99 for the paperback, $2.99 for the digital versions), relatively short (a mere 78 pages) and to the point, and gives a blow-by-blow description of how to write each of the four categories of essay. It goes into detail on how to carry out research, how to organize your notes, how to format footnotes and citations and also gives general advice about such practical matters as writing style, grammar and punctuation. The only drawback in selling it is that so far it has not received any reviews, so the reading public have no idea how brilliant it is… yet.
So if you happen to know someone who is struggling in the Slough of Despond with regard to essay-writing, please do them the favor for which they will be in your debt for years to come and buy them a copy of How to Write an Essay: A Beginner’s Guide. It’s available in paperback, Kindle and EPUB reader formats. Better still, buy the book and write a stellar, five-star review that will shoot it to the top of the bestsellers list! (You’ll get your cut of the proceeds later.)