Guide To More Complex Writing by John Frank

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The Essay

What is an essay?

  • An essay is a group of paragraphs that are written in response to a given topic.
  • The number of paragraphs varies, but a standard essay usually contains five.

How do we begin?

  • We begin by getting a writing topic.
  • For example:
  • “What is your favorite holiday?”
  • Now that we know what our topic is we can begin our planning stage.
  • Believe it or not, this stage is where you’ll spend most of your time, not the writing stage.

Thinking Maps

  • The first thing we need for planning is this nice donut shaped circle.
  • Inside
  • The small
  • Circle, we
  • Write our
  • Topic: In this case I have chosen Christmas as my favorite Holiday
  • Christmas is my favorite Holiday
  • Inside the large circle
  • we start writing down
  • everything we can
  • think of in one or two
  • minutes, on the topic.
  • (write down one or two
  • words only for each idea)

Inside the large circle:

  • Let’s say that inside the large circle we wrote down the following ideas:
  • Santa, carols, decorations, snow, presents, trees, lights, wreaths, family, friends, cards.
  • We have a great list here. But we’re not going to use everything on it.
  • Even though all the ideas are great, we want to choose just three to write about.
  • We’ll save the others just in case we have trouble with one of our choices. We’ll have great ideas to fall back on.
  • Remember, this is the planning stage, we can make lots of changes here.

Our choices:

  • Santa
  • Family
  • Decorations
  • Now we have it narrowed down to three. Let’s figure out what order we’re going to put them in.

The order:

  • 1. Santa
  • 2. Decorations
  • 3. Family
  • I’ve chosen to write about them in this order. Your order may be different. Any order you choose is fine.

The next step:

  • The flow chart:
  • ____ ____ ____
  • ____ ____ ____
  • ____ ____ ____

Using the flow chart

  • We put our choices in the boxes, in the order we chose them. The lines under the boxes are for adding details.
  • Each detail will help support the idea listed in the box.
  • You add details in one or two words per line. (still no need for sentences yet)

Example 1

  • Santa
  • Red Suit
  • Sleigh
  • Reindeer

Example 2

  • Decorations
  • Lights
  • Colors
  • Indoor/outdoor

Example 3

  • Family
  • Reunion
  • Dinner
  • Catching up
  • Believe it or not, we actually have the body of our essay figured out.
  • Now that we know what are body paragraphs are about, we can safely begin writing our opening paragraph.
  • The opening paragraph is only going to be four sentences long. (we’re not writing a book)

The opening paragraph:

  • The first thing to do is address the original topic for the essay. Next we need to just mention the ideas that we have chosen to write about (the things in the boxes).
  • Remember, we aren’t giving details here. That will come in the body of the essay.
  • Let’s look at a simple example…….
  • Christmas is my favorite holiday. It is the time of year when we wait for Santa. Everywhere you look, you see lots of decorations. For most of us, it is a time to share with family.
  • (This is a good, short paragraph)

Now on to the body:

  • Christmas is the time of year to look for Santa. He is always easy to see in his red suit. Sometimes you can see him traveling in his shiny sleigh. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get to see his reindeer.
  • (We have one sentence that mentions Santa. And one sentence for each of our details. Four sentences in all.)
  • I love seeing all the decorations at Christmas. You can find pretty lights everywhere. Decorations come in every color imaginable to brighten the holiday. Flashing lights and colors are found indoors and outdoors during this season.
  • (Once again, a sentence for each.)
  • For me, the best part of all is time with my family. It is sort of a reunion, seeing people we don’t see all year. We always have a great dinner and everyone brings something. After we eat, we spend the evening just catching up.
  • (OK, getting the idea now?)

The Closing:

  • Now we’re ready for the closing paragraph. We don’t want to say everything we already said over again, so we’ll do something a bit different.
  • We’re going to try to fit the following things into our closing paragraph: an opinion, an emotion, and a wish/hope.
  • Fitting these three things into a paragraph may seem difficult at first, but lets look at how easy it really is.
  • (Note: I said to put these things in your paragraph, but I didn’t say to use the words themselves).
  • My favorite holiday will always be Christmas. I think it is the best holiday of all. I love all the sights and sounds that go with it. I wish it could be Christmas all year.
  • Sentence two is an opinion.
  • Sentence three shows an emotion
  • Sentence four shows a hope/wish
  • Now that really wasn’t so hard was it?
  • Lets recap:
  • Opening paragraph = 4 sentences
  • 1st body paragraph = 4 sentences
  • 2nd body paragraph = 4 sentences
  • 3rd body paragraph = 4 sentences
  • Closing paragraph = 4 sentences
  • Can it be that we have just written a really good five paragraph essay and we only wrote 20 sentences?
  • Is that possible?
  • It is not only possible, it is probable when you follow the format you’ve just seen.
  • Essay writing should not be hard.
  • By following the steps presented here, your essays will be awesome. You’ll find it almost impossible to get off the topic. Each paragraph will have a topic sentence and supporting details. All of your sentences will be good, solid, easy to write, and most importantly, short and to the point.
  • Ok, what are you sitting there for. Let’s start writing.

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