An essayist is a lucky person who has found a way to discourse without being interrupted.
Argument seldom convinces anyone contrary to his inclinations.
It is one thing to write a good letter; to write a good essay is quite another matter.
An essay is a formal, coherent and usually quite lengthy piece of informative and/or argumentative writing, as are its 'cousins', the article and the report, to which I devote my main attention in the two chapters following this one.
All essays develop an argument and seek to persuade. The argument may be pre-provided, as in a student answering a title set by a teacher and an executive producing a study requested by the board of directors, or it may be the writer's own idea. Whichever one applies, the activity ought to be fun, bringing pleasure to writer and reader alike. As Charles Poore suggests, writing an essay is an arguably unique opportunity to hold forth for as long as you like on a topic that interests you and about which you have plenty to say.
If those remarks strike you as wildly idealistic, I can assure you that you're in good and large company! For while I stand by what I've just said, the fact remains that most people find essay-writing the hardest, most elusive and most frustrating skill to acquire, and that it takes a long time for them to look on it as remotely pleasurable; indeed, some never do.
Writing a good letter undoubtedly requires you to make an effort, and often puts you under a certain amount of pressure, especially if an important matter of business or finance is at stake. However, that seems very pale stuff when faced with writing an essay. Weeks of preparation, discovery and sheer hard work now require a product: it's 'crunch time', and you are aware of being under a glaring spotlight both intimate and very public. If it is true that the single most frequent phobia is that of speaking in public [more often cited than death, apparently!], then many would admit that the fear of writing in public is hardly less formidable. Moreover, the problem seems to have little to do with ability: in my experience the very bright student encounters just as many difficulties as does the moderate one.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Write in Style: A Guide to Good English. Contributors: Richard Palmer - Author. Publisher: Spon Press. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1993. Page number: 161.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.