All the young Jedi apprentices groaned when Master Yoda announced, "You will an essay write."
Once upon a time, everything was made by hand. Each item had to be crafted individually; it took forever because there was no standardization. When Man grasped the concept of using patterns, templates and molds to mass-produce identical parts for later assembly, manufacturing efficiency took a great leap forward. Whether making furniture or automobiles, once people had assembled the first model, building additional copies was a piece of cake. They could be certain that the parts would fit together.
Why can't the same process be applied to writing essays?
Many folks would argue that writing an essay is not the same as building a car. An essay written by one individual will always differ from that of another. Conventional Wisdom says, "Essays defy standardization, so of course there is no way to make writing them easy." As a result, students believe that they must start from scratch all over again on each new essay assignment. The prospect causes great consternation. "What will I write? Where will I begin? If only there were some kind of essay writing system..."
The perception that no part of the essay writing process can be "systematized" (i.e. repeated over and over again) is flawed. It overlooks the fact that the structure of virtually every type of essay follows the same format. American high school English classes focus almost exclusively on the content of an essay. Since each essay assignment deals with new subject matter, students assume that all essays are different. They don't realize that "topic" is an irrelevant factor. There is very little discussion about the format of a properly structured essay.
Too bad! Most students don't learn the secret that makes writing essays easy - all they have to do is follow the same format every time. Usually the topic of the essay assignment is posed in the form of a question. There is never any doubt about where to begin - the first sentence of the essay should answer the question! After that, list some reasons supporting the answer. In the following paragraphs, provide details to back up those reasons. Each paragraph should deal with only one reason. Come to a conclusion.
It's a morceau de gateau (piece of cake). There is no need to feel confused. When students follow the format, writing an essay becomes like painting by the numbers. The formula never changes. Follow the yellow brick road and always stay on the path. If high school English teachers would devote three measly days to teaching this concept (and only this concept), most students would no longer have to panic when they hear, "You will an essay write."
c. 2009 Michael Strong