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An essay is a brief piece of writing which comes from the author’s personal viewpoint. However, essay definitions may be a bit ambiguous, as many essays may also be considered to be articles or short stories. Essays may contain a range of elements, such as literary criticism, political thought, “educated” arguments, musings on daily life and/or recollections and reflections.

Typically, these essays are crafted in a prose style; however, there are a few shining examples of essays which have not been crafted via prose. Examples include legendary poet, Alexander Pope’s, “An Essay on Criticism” and “An Essay on Man”.

Students May Need to Write Longer Essays

Short essays are the norm, except when it comes to secondary and post-secondary education. In these cases, students may be asked to provide longer essays. Students who perform essay assignments will need to follow essay structure guidelines in order to hone their writing abilities. In addition, colleges, universities and other facilities of higher learning may request brief (or very involved i.e. lengthy) essays in order to choose suitable applicants.

Essays are usually thought of in terms of words on a page, or, since the advent of the digital age, in terms of words on a computer screen. However, the term “essay” has taken on other meanings within other mediums and art forms. For example, a film essay will trace the arc of a particular theme or concept (usually, within the confines of a documentary filmmaking style). A photo essay will be utilized in order to illustrate many facets of one topic, via carefully selected photographs. As well, this type of essay may feature words, in the form of captions.

Primary Essay Types

There are four primary essay types which are most commonly used today, and these are expository, persuasive, informal and literary.

With expository essays, the tone will be objective, and referencing will be needed. The purpose of this essay type is to inform the reader.

Persuasive essays are utilized for the purpose of persuading the reader to believe in a specific concept or opinion. This type of essay will also have an objective tone, and referencing will generally be used in order to add weight and gravity to statements and facts.

With literary essay types, an objective tone is also recommended. Referencing is suggested, and the purpose of this sort of essay is to analyze literature.

The last common essay style, the informal essay, is written with a subjective tone, and it doesn’t require referencing. The purpose of this type of essay is to communicate with the reader.

Famous Essayists

There are thousands of esteemed essayists. However, some, such as British writer, Martin Amis, set themselves apart due to the singularity of their writing styles i.e. their “voices”. Amis employs a post-modern, acerbic sensibility to his essay work. By adding dark wit, he succeeds in pleasing a particular type of audience. However, others, such as modern Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood, bring more heartfelt emotion and earnestness to their essay work.

Other examples of famous essayists, past and present, include British author, Anthony Burgess, who also penned the novel, A Clockwork Orange, English philosopher Francis Bacon and political activist, Noam Chomsky. Throughout the centuries, the essay has provided writers of all stripes with a convenient method of expressing thoughts, emotions and opinions and then sharing them with audiences.

Essays May be Published in Different Ways

Essays may be published almost anywhere, from magazines that feature literary criticism to online websites to literary anthologies. You may also find these literary works in newspapers and mass-market magazines (the “glossies”). In fact, almost anywhere that words are published, there will be a market for well-crafted essays.