Essay writing is both an art and a science. It is an art in that the writer must come up with a good idea, put thought behind it, choose provocative words and entertain while informing the reader. Good essays take a fair amount of creativity and style, and many of them even successfully tweak the science part of it without doing any harm. However, there is a basic science to writing a successful essay that flows, and all good essayists, from E.B. White to Joan Didion, had the science down before they were able to creatively manipulate it.
Good essays are comprised of sentences that are arranged in a certain logical manner. For writing to flow best, it contains some kind of arguement, whether implied or stated outrightly. An arguement by definition is logical, so for beginning essay writers, it is crucial to practice writing logical arguements.
By “argument” we mean the point one is trying to express: it could be something like, “I support a certain political view,” or on the other hand, it could be something like, “snowy days make me feel sentimental”. Both are arguements which contain an implicit logic, and to express this logic, an essay should flow in a certain proscribed way.
First, introduce your subject. An introduction should be provocative, containing a sentence or two about the subject. For beginning essayists, it’s best to learn to draw before you learn to paint; therefore, the introduction might be a single paragraph that segues into the thesis. In an introductory paragraph, one might describe the relevance of the essay being written, why you are writing it, and why you value to subject at hand. Or, if you are writing about snowy days, it might simply be a description of a snowy day.
Secondly, write a thesis paragraph for the entire essay. The thesis is the point you are trying to get across. After describing a snowy day in your introduction, your thesis sentence or paragraph might be something like: “Days like this make me feel sentimental.” The rest of the essay will substantiate this thesis.
Thirdly, structure each of your paragraphs around a subpoint. Your subpoints serve your thesis. So in our imaginary essay, a subpoint might be: “Snowy days remind me of playing in the snow as a child.” Structure a paragraph around that sentence; every sentence in the paragraph should have something to do with that sentence. You might describe building a snowman with your dad, finding a carrot for the nose, watching it melt with sorrow as summer approached. Scratch out any sentence in that paragraph that doesn’t apply to remembering how you played in the snow as a child. Your next paragraph might be centered around the sentence: “Snowy days make me think of Christmas.” All the sentences in the subsequent paragraph will substantiate this idea, and so on.
So, once you write an intoruction, a thesis, and paragraphs centered around subpoints which support the thesis, your outline will look like this:
1st paragraph–Introduction: Description of a snowy day
2nd paragraph–Thesis: Snowy days make me feel sentimental
3rd paragraph–Subpoint 1: Snowy days remind me of playing in the snow as a child.
4th paragraph–Subpoint 2: Snowy days remind me of Christmas…
Once you have written three or more supporting paragraphs, it is time to write a conclusion. This may be where you drive your point home, telling us precisely why playing in the snow, Christmas, etc., all make you feel sentimental.
Upon writing the conclusion, you have produced a successful essay that is guaranteed to flow. It will flow because it is logical; it isn’t necessary to be a great writer or to come up with impressive words.