Essay Format

All essays, regardless of type, should follow the basic format outlined below:

Introduction: Goes from general to specific (Approx. 3-4 sentences)

  • Grabber: use a quote, make a general statement (Oftentimes, people....), define an important term or concept, use the question by rewording it
  • Background information: in a literary essay, this is where you include the title (underlined when it's a long work like a novel or a play, quotes when it's a poem or a short story) and the author and say something a little more specific about how the work relates to the topic of the question. In an argumentative or narrative essay, you're just giving more information that is a bit more specific than what you already said and is leading to your argument or main point.
  • Thesis statement: The last sentence of your opening paragraph. It states what you are proving in your essay by answering the question. I like 3 part thesis statements which means you answer the question and list the reasons why without getting into it just yet. That helps you organize your body paragraphs. Thesis statements must be ARGUABLE POINTS. Your thesis cannot be something that is clearly true and something that everyone would agree with because then you're not proving anything at all. NEVER SAY: IN THIS ESSAY I AM GOING TO...Never say the word ESSAY in your formal essay.

Body Paragraphs: (3 for a 5 paragraph essay) (Approx. 10 sentences each body paragraph)

  • Topic sentence: This states your first reason for whatever your answer was in your thesis statement.
  • Details and examples: Details and examples might be quotes from a text or just evidence that will help you prove what you are focusing on in this body paragraph. It all must support your topic sentence which ultimately goes back to what you are proving in your thesis statement.
  • Explanation of your details and examples: You must explain how your details/examples/quotes support your argument. Here is where you make connections and really drive home your point so that the person reading your essay understands your argument. You may never quote two in a row because if you do, you are missing this all-important step.

Conclusion: Goes from specific to general (Approx. 3-4 sentences)

  • Restate your thesis statement using different words (we don't want to sound redundant)
  • summarize your main points (this is really done when it is a long paper, like a research paper...otherwise it sounds repetitive)
  • end with a clincher sentence or a call to action. The compound noun, "clincher statement," comes from the word "clinch," which means to "settle an argument" or "finalize a deal." So to write one effectively, look at your thesis statement again and come with a sentence that settles the argument...the last word you want to leave the reader with about your argument. The call to action is your final thought to your reader about what you want them to do/think/feel about whatever topic you argued for or against in your argumentative essay. You may be trying to evoke a strong reaction or encourage action from your reader.