Essay

Part 1: The Basics of Essay Writing
Part 1: The Basics of Essay Writing

essay article1

It’s time to stop thinking about essays as school assignments; instead, use them as your personal avenue for self-expression.

An essay assignment can be tedious…or it can be magical once you see it as an opportunity to express your thoughts and emotions. Essays give you a tremendous amount of freedom – they can be based on a personal viewpoint on current issues, a detailed observation of people in your life, something completely fictional or a stylised combination of all these and more.

So how do you get started?

There are many different ways to approach an essay; start by choosing a topic that will be the main subject. It can be a person, an object or an event; no matter what you choose, remember that even a mundane, everyday topic can be transformed into a captivating essay if you can offer a different point-of-view.

If the topic is very familiar to you, start thinking about how you can bring it to life; if it’s a new area, it’s important for you to conduct some research first. Often, when you have trouble writing, it’s because you don’t have enough information to work with so don’t skip this step. In addition, doing research gives you the chance to offer your reader some useful or interesting information, which gives them incentive to continue reading.

Your essay for the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing & Photo Contest 2015 needs to reflect the theme “EMPOWERING YOUTH FOR A BETTER ASEAN” and address the subject matter: Leadership Lessons or Volunteerism, depending on your age group. When choosing a topic or subject for your essay, you need to find a youthful perspective to showcase the lives and activities of young people.

Everybody has a different approach to writing. You may prefer to just start and let the words flow or you may feel more comfortable with a detailed outline before you begin. Whichever works best for you, your essay needs to draw the reader in immediately so let’s start at the beginning…

Every essay needs an introduction. Just like meeting someone for the first time, you need to make the right first impression so that readers will continue reading. A bland introduction will only cause them to turn the page and read something else, so make your first words count and grab the reader’s attention.

Next, let the story unfold. Once you have their undivided attention, draw them into your essay with rich detail. If you find it difficult to do so, try to conduct more research on your topic. The more vividly you can describe things, the easier it will be for the reader to picture things and have a better understanding of what you are trying to say.

Lastly, end with a strong conclusion. This is the last thing that the reader will see, so your essay needs to close with something memorable.

A few things to remember:

  • Avoid complicated words unless you know how to use them correctly; similarly, avoid technical terms unless they are relevant to the topic.
  • Stay away from trite, over-used words or phrases as these are boring to read. This includes words such as ‘amazing’, ‘interesting’ and ‘awesome’, and phrases like “at the end of the day” and “in conclusion”.
  • Don’t be afraid to make it personal – the best essays are unique in their individual viewpoint while conventional storylines are often predictable and thus less interesting for readers.

Submit your essay to the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing & Photo Contest 2015! Open to all Malaysians from 13-21 years. There are two age categories: 13-17 years with essays between 350-500 words and 18-21 years with essays between 750-1,000 words. Multiple entries are allowed; submit essays via the official online contest submission form found on www.MaybankPerdanaContest.com. For more information about the Perdana Leadership Foundation, visit www.MaybankPerdanaContest.com, or www.facebook.com/PerdanaLeadershipFoundation.

Part 2: Choosing Your Essay Style
Part 2: Choosing Your Essay Style

There are many different ways to approach your essay; here, we explore four common styles.

Every essay has a purpose – you may want to argue a point, compare two different options, present a well-thought-out hypothesis, describe something in great detail or simply tell a story.

Your essay for the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing & Photo Contest 2015 needs to showcase the lives and activities of young people, in keeping with the contest theme “EMPOWERING YOUTH FOR A BETTER ASEAN”; depending on your age group, your chosen topic should address either Leadership Lessons or Volunteerism.

Before you begin, think about how you want to approach it – which style brings out the best of your topic? No matter what style you choose, your essay must be clear, concise, purposeful and interesting to read.

Argumentative / persuasive

An argumentative or persuasive essay requires you to present a topic, which can be a controversial one, and provide clear evidence either in support or in opposition of a specific point-of-view. Because you need to prove your point, research is essential for you to do so convincingly.

For example, if you wish to argue that written examinations are out-dated and no longer a relevant part of the education system, you need to gather information from reliable sources, such as educational experts, that support your argument.

In such a case, you need to state your point-of-view (written examinations are no longer relevant) followed by the rationale (because experts in the field of psychology and learning have found that other modes of learning such as A, B and C are proven to be more effective) followed by evidence (in countries where written examinations have been phased out, academic performance is higher and dropout rates lower) and a strong conclusion (therefore it is time for the examination format to be revised).

Comparative

To write a good comparative essay, you need to explore the differences and similarities between two things; the subject can be things, people or places. It’s often helpful to organise this type of essay by comparing the subject by category.

For example, you may want to compare life in Kuala Lumpur with life in a small town. To do so clearly, you can choose several categories with which to compare them against the other, such as entertainment, crime level and pollution.

Readers will appreciate the comparison more when you provide extreme differences between the two locations, such the early morning traffic congestion in Kuala Lumpur and the cool and peaceful mornings in a small town, or how people in the city often invest in heavy-duty locks or security systems to prevent break-ins while people in a small town often leave their doors unlocked so neighbours can drop by to visit.

Descriptive

A descriptive essay sounds easy – after all, you only need to describe something, right? However, to create a vivid description you need to have a clear and detailed idea plus a strong command of the language; this will bring your essay to life.

Be sure to appeal to all the readers’ senses; try to describe smells, the feel of something on the skin, flavours and emotions. While a descriptive essay allows a great deal of freedom and creativity, remember that the descriptions are there to enhance your essay; a series of descriptions that don’t have a point will leave readers lost.

To help readers imagine things more clearly, you could say “she looked like a supermodel, perfectly dressed with flawless make-up and styled hair” rather than simply saying “she was very stylish”. Or you could describe how something felt, such as “the coarse fabric made her skin itch while the crude shoes hurt her feet”.

Narrative

The narrative essay can take the form of a story or a report. A story would make your essay a work of fiction with a character and plot (which will be discussed in a separate article) while a report tells the reader what happened over a specific period of time.

You can choose to take a personal approach, using a first-person perspective (this means you can use ‘I’ if you wish) or you can play the role of a storyteller or observer instead. A narrative essay requires some level of description so the reader can picture things for themselves, but does not require as much detail as a descriptive essay.

For example, if you were to narrate what you observed or experienced, you could say that “the crowds dissipated as the skies darkened with the threat of a heavy downpour” or “I saw shopkeepers struggling to cover their wares; within minutes, the bustling market was still and silent as everyone headed indoors to wait out the rain”.

A Few Things to Remember

  • Essays can test your vocabulary as you try to find more interesting ways to describe something; make sure you use any unfamiliar words correctly.
  • Practice your essay-writing skills by giving yourself small assignments, such as describing the scene at your neighbourhood coffee shop or writing a report about a family event.
  • Pay attention to school debates to gain a better understanding on how to argue or persuade effectively.

 

Submit your essay to the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing & Photo Contest 2015! Open to all Malaysians from 13-21 years. There are two age categories: 13-17 years with essays between 350-500 words and 18-21 years with essays between 750-1,000 words. Multiple entries are allowed; submit essays via the official online contest submission form found on www.MaybankPerdanaContest.com. For more information about the Perdana Leadership Foundation, visit www.MaybankPerdanaContest.com, or www.facebook.com/PerdanaLeadershipFoundation.

Part 3: Reviewing & Editing Your Essay
Part 3: Reviewing & Editing Your Essay

The work doesn’t end when you type in the last line. Now, you need to make it better.

Having to review and edit your essay is a necessary step for any writer. This doesn’t mean your essay wasn’t good – even the most famous writers around the world have experienced rejection or felt such despair and frustration that they ripped up their work and started all over again.

Knowing this, see this process as an opportunity to fine-tune your language, make improvements and enhance your work from something that’s ‘good enough’ or ‘not bad’ to something you can be proud of.

The Big Picture

Make sure your essay fulfils the requirements. In this instance, you are writing an essay for submission to the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing & Photo Contest 2015. In keeping with the contest theme “EMPOWERING YOUTH FOR A BETTER ASEAN”, your essay needs to showcase the lives and activities of young people. You also need to check that you’ve met the requirements based on your age category.

Is your essay well-structured? As mentioned in Part 1: The Basics of Essay Writing, your introduction must grab your reader’s attention and your conclusion is what makes your essay memorable.

Check to see that your essay style is consistent – if you are writing a persuasive essay, have you made your points clearly with sufficient evidence to persuade the reader of your argument? Does your narrative, comparative or descriptive essay contain enough detail to convey your ideas clearly? Remember to reference any facts or statistics; these must come from credible sources.

Overused or lengthy phrases can be made more concise, and you can vary your sentence structure for more interest. Instead of ‘She likes flowers. She also likes pizza and movies’ you can say ‘Flowers, pizza and movies are her favourite things.’ 

THE Finer Points

There’s more to editing than just spell-checking, which only corrects misspelt words. There are occasions when spell-check misses a word because it’s still an actual word, just not the one you wanted to use. For example, spell-check may not notify you if you typed ‘faeces’ when you actually meant to use ‘faces’ or ‘conman’ when you wanted to type ‘common’. In other words, you can use spell-check to weed out the obvious errors but you should still do it the hard way after.

Check your grammar. Make sure your subjects and verbs are in agreement (for example, ‘He bakes bread’, not ‘He bake bread’) and that you are consistent in your use of past or present tense.

Sentences should make sense; long, complicated sentences (also known as run-on sentences) can confuse readers while sentence fragments are sentences that are incomplete or don’t make sense on their own.

Make your essay stronger by removing weak, redundant, overused or repetitive language. For example:

  • ‘He tried to think very hard’ can be revised as ‘He thought very hard’
  • Instead of ‘said’, you can convey a similar meaning by using words like ‘explained/argued/suggested/claimed/insisted’
  • ‘At the end of the day, the decision was made by the committee’ can be shortened to ‘The committee decided’.

Simple Suggestions for Editing

  • Put aside your essay for a few days before reviewing and editing so you can gain fresh perspective.
  • Read it aloud. Sometimes your ear catches awkward words or phrases more easily than your eyes do. This also helps to catch words that are repeated too many times.
  • Mistakes are normal! That’s what editing is for, so don’t panic.
  • Get a friend to read your essay; if they are confused, have questions or need to clarify what you mean, then you know you need to work on the clarity of your writing. This can involve rearranging the facts or the flow of your essay, breaking up long sentences or using more accurate words.
  • Make it easy on the judges – use a consistent font, size and format which will make your essay easier to read and understand. Remember, they have hundreds of essays to get through!
  • Make every word, fact or description count – if it doesn’t make your essay stronger, more interesting or more convincing, leave it out!

Submit your essay to the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing & Photo Contest 2015! Open to all Malaysians from 13-21 years. There are two age categories: 13-17 years with essays between 350-500 words and 18-21 years with essays between 750-1,000 words. Multiple entries are allowed; submit essays via the official online contest submission form found on www.MaybankPerdanaContest.com. For more information about the Perdana Leadership Foundation, visit www.MaybankPerdanaContest.com, or www.facebook.com/PerdanaLeadershipFoundation.

FaLang translation system by Faboba

Organised by

 
Maybank Foundation
Perdana Leadership Foundation

Media Partners

 
New Straits Times
Berita Harian
Metro

Supported by

 
MOE
MPH