The Basic Essay
Title (centered or on the left)
(all words are capitalized, except articles and prepositions)
(The title tells the reader what you are going to say.)
Introduction (first paragraph, indented five spaces)
(The introduction tells the reader what you are going to say and gives a quick list of the topics you are going to cover.)
Body (several paragraphs, each indented five spaces)
(The body has one paragraph for each of the topics that you listed in the introduction. Each paragraph begins with the topic sentence. The rest of the paragraph explains or proves the topic sentence.)
Conclusion (last paragraph, indented five spaces)
(The conclusion repeats the introduction.)
Example of a basic essay: (It would pass ESL097, maybe not ESL098.)
Mass Transportation in New York Is Fast and Convenient [ESSAY #1]
Mass transportation is very fast, cheap and convenient in New York City. The subways take you almost anywhere you want to go very quickly. Buses run very often and go places that subways don't. The MTA lets you change between buses and subways for free.
Subways take you anywhere you want to go very quickly. They don't get stuck in traffic like taxis and buses. They go almost everywhere inside the five boroughs.
Buses run very often and go places that subways don't. They go to neighborhoods that don't have subway service, especially in eastern Queens and on Staten Island.
The MTA lets you change between buses and subways for free. The fare of $1.50 is very cheap. You can go from the Bronx to Rockaway Beach on the subway, or you can go from southern Staten Island to Jamaica, Queens with a subway and bus combination. In either case, the fare is just $1.50.
In conclusion, mass transportation is very fast, cheap and convenient in New York City. I like it very much. (172 words)
The essay on page one is all right for children. When students are learning to write for the first time, we often give them this format to follow, usually a five-paragraph essay, with three paragraphs in the body. However, for more advanced writers, including college students, this kind of essay is not sophisticated enough to pass college-level English courses.
The general concept of presenting an introduction, conclusion and body with supporting examples remains the same, but here are some suggestions for a more sophisticated essay:
The title often gives the reader an idea of what you will talk about, but not always the final conclusion. Sometimes a title is in the form of a question or a phrase of a few words.
The introduction should give an idea of what you are going to talk about, but you don't need to list each topic that you are going to discuss in your essay. Furthermore, you don't have to reveal exactly what you are promising to discuss, but you should LET THE READER KNOW MORE OR LESS WHAT OPINION YOU ARE GOING TO PRESENT. This can be done creatively, with a personal anecdote, a specific story from the news, a group of questions, or anything else that will give the reader a feeling for what will follow.
The paragraphs should each be about one topic, but it isn't necessary to start the paragraph with the topic sentence. A topic sentence (the main idea of the whole paragraph) can appear anywhere in the paragraph. Paragraphs should have SPECIFIC DETAILS, not just general statements, and they must be CLEARLY ABOUT ONE AREA. Sometimes one area has different elements which can be broken down into separate paragraphs. If a paragraph is long, it can probably be broken down into smaller ones. Paragraphs can be short, even a few sentences.
A conclusion shouldn't end with phrases like "In conclusion" or "To summarize." The conclusion should not be a simple repetition of the introduction. It should ADD SOMETHING NEW, often a larger philosophy, or a question or new problem that might need further discussion, or a personal observation, anecdote (story), prediction or suggestion. In any case, a conclusion must RELATE BACK TO THE INTRODUCTION in some way.
NOTE: TRY NOT TO REPEAT SENTENCES (unless it's for a poetic, creative effect). If you want to repeat an idea, find a new way of stating it. Repetition is usually a sign of a limited vocabulary.
The Joy of Mass Transportation [ESSAY #2]
In my own personal opinion, I think mass transportation is better than cars. It really is. I'm not kidding. According to my way of thinking, I truly and sincerely believe that mass transportation is faster and cheaper than cars, especially in the city. You can get around the city easily and cheaply with the extensive mass transit system that New Yorkers have enjoyed for a century. Cars have many disadvantages when you compare them to mass transit. I truly believe this. 
Cars eat money. You can't park a car in New York City. It's a big headache. Cars use gas, and the price of gas is always rising. Cars have accidents and need repairs. Cars cause a lot of stress because you have to avoid accidents and stay awake. Cars require auto insurance and garages for storage. Cars are so expensive that you often need a second job just to keep one. 
Subways are fast. Subways are efficient. You can go many miles on one subway train. You can transfer between two trains. Subways don't have traffic jams. Subways run every few minutes. Subways run all day and all night. The subway system never shuts down. The subway systems in other cities often shut down. They shut down at night. The subway system doesn't shut down at night in New York City. This is one reason that New York City is often called "the city that never sleeps." 
Buses add to the efficiency of subways. You can't go everywhere by subway, but you can transfer, for free, from a subway to a bus in order to get to areas not served by subways. There are no places in New York City that you can't get to for a single fare of $1.50. Sometimes buses break down, and that's a nuisance. 
In addition to subways and buses, New York has the Staten Island Ferry. This is quite good for people who live on Staten Island. 
Above all, the biggest pollution problem that we face today is global warming, and cars are the biggest polluters. The traffic in New York City adds tons and tons of carbon monoxide to the atmosphere, which causes increased heat and more cataclysmic weather. Floods, heat waves, tornadoes and hurricanes are increasing due to global warming. If we eliminated automobiles and trucks, we would do ourselves a big favor. 
Subways are relaxing and can even be fun. Subways are great places to do homework or read or listen to a Walkman. I often take a quick nap on the subway, and sometimes I do a crossword puzzle. When I'm with friends, we can travel in a big group and have a conversation while we're riding. Cars are stressful. You can't do most relaxing things while you're driving a car. You always have to watch the road. It's dangerous to read, talk on the phone and, obviously, take a nap. Driving is hard on your nerves. 
If I were the mayor of New York City, I would ban traffic from this city. This place would be better off if it were a mass transportation town. Let people park their cars in Nassau or New Jersey! Cities are for people, not cars! We should make the city a livable place. It's time for car manufacturers to take orders from the citizens instead of the other way around!  (557 words)
Essay #2 that has no grammar errors, but it can still benefit from some revision:
Revising an Essay
There are four ways to revise an essay, represented by the acronym ADAM:
Add (put something in)
Delete (take something out)
Alter (change something)
Move (put something in another place)
1. Locate the unnecessary parts of paragraphs #1 and #4 and delete them.
2. Look at paragraph #7 (Subways are relaxing...). Divide paragraph #7 into two smaller paragraphs and move each new, smaller paragraph to a new location that feels appropriate.
3. Take something out of paragraph #2 and move it to a different one (such as one of the paragraphs that you created by doing step 2, above).
4. Flesh out paragraph #5 (about the ferry) with more development.
5. Rework paragraph #3 so that the sentences aren’t so choppy.
6. Add some transition phrases (linkers) to places where they seem logical to you (On the other hand, In contrast, What’s more, In addition, On top of that, etc.)
An Essay by a Native Speaker of English
The Joy of Mass Transportation [ESSAY #3]
I have a friend who loves his car almost as much as his children. He keeps it in the city, warm and safe in a garage where his monthly bill is almost as high as his rent. He feeds it the best gasoline he can find. He doesn't mind paying the price; nothing is too good for his darling Alero. More important, he refuses to give up the joy that his four-door baby gives him. He can go anywhere he wants, whenever he wants, and he doesn't mind the occasional problem. He doesn't mind getting stuck in traffic, risking a collision, spending a fortune on gas and insurance, or having people honk at him and cut him off and make his blood pressure rise.
As for me, I'm a mass transportation man. I have gladly sacrificed my friend's kind of "independence" in favor of the convenience and efficiency of joining my fellow New Yorkers in the largest human delivery system in the world.
Most cities with subways have very limited service, usually between downtown and just a few other important areas of the city. On the other hand, New York's subway tracks cover 134 miles! I can go from Shea Stadium to Yankee Stadium, from Rockaway Beach to Van Cortland Park, and from the Museum of Natural History to the Flushing Meadows Science Museum, all without coming up for air, and all for the single fare of $1.50. No city in the world has the miles of subway track that New York does. The system is 94 years old, and over the century it has grown, in stages, to become the most extensive underground transportation network anywhere.
While it was always a bargain, the system of mass transit has recently become cheaper than ever, due to a free transfer that was instituted this year. You can change from subway to bus, from bus to bus, or from bus to subway without paying an additional fare. If you buy the monthly or weekly pass called the MetroCard, you can even leave the subway and re-enter it (at the same stop or somewhere else) for no additional fee. You can travel 30 miles on the A train, non-stop, for less than the price of a slice of pizza!
With buses and subways working together, there is almost no corner of the city that you can't reach through mass transit. Even Staten Island, which has no subway, has buses crossing the island, and a free ferry ride that connects that borough to the rest of the city. In Manhattan, where I spend most of my time, I can add a bus to a subway to quickly get to neighborhoods that have no subway line nearby, including a swimming pool near the East River, and the Circle Line dock on the Hudson.
I know taxis and cars are faster than subways in some cases, and they obviously provide door-to-door service that subways and buses don't. However, in many situations, subways are faster than cars. You can't drive from Baker Field, at the top of Manhattan, to Battery Park, at the bottom, without hitting traffic along the way, but subways don't have traffic, not even at rush hour. At 5 PM on a Friday afternoon, you can cross the length of Manhattan (12 miles) without risking a traffic jam. Furthermore, nobody blasts their horn at you; nobody makes a quick left and cuts in front of you. Collisions are almost non-existent on subways. Furthermore, you can read, do a crossword puzzle or even take a nap on a subway. Subways can reduce stress. Cars can only increase it.
I smile every time I go to the bank and realize that none of my money in checking is going to go to a car salesman or mechanic or auto insurance salesman or carwash attendant or garage cashier. None of my money is going to be used to buy food for the hungry monster, whose constant trips to the gas station wipe out a huge percent of anybody's paycheck. The money I save by using mass transportation goes into my happy hobbies. I can see more movies, more Broadway shows, and more concerts. I can buy more records, more video tapes, more books and magazines. I can even travel (by Amtrak or Greyhound, of course!) to see other parts of the country.
Cars used to be a modern miracle. People were thrilled by the convenience of the automobile. Of course, they had horses that needed constant care and feeding, so a car promised more freedom and less of a burden. Nevertheless, times have changed. With congestion and pollution, cars are no bargain. They are an outmoded method of movement. They waste energy, make our bodies sicker and cause stress (and death) everywhere, every day. People who care about the future will eventually put cars where they belong, on the trash heap of history, and they will make society invest its money in the modern miracle of mass transportation. I can't think of any better way to show our love for our children. (841 words)
In addition to its length, what makes Essay #3 feel more fluent and native-sounding than the first two?
What are some elements that make it more interesting to read than the first two?
What kinds of sentences do you find?
Do you feel that the writer has made a convincing argument in favor of mass transportation? If so, how did he accomplish this?
[ESLprof.com/handouts/Comp/expositoryessay.doc, Rick Shur, LaGuardia CC]