Essay Lab Glossary



Essays, defined in the broadest sense, can be about anything. Hope you’re not a huge fan of narrow parameters. (If you subscribe to Narrow Parameters Weekly, this probably includes you.)

Essays are always nonfiction (which is why you won’t often come across an Argument Essay defending sasquatch rights) and always in prose. More often than not, they promote the writer’s viewpoint or position or explain something the writer has observed or discovered. They can vary greatly in subject matter and style, ranging from the serious to the humorous and from the accessible to the erudite. How does a reader know if an essay aimed at the erudite is for them? If they don’t know the meaning of the word “erudite,” they can probably move along, little doggie.

The essays you write in school, which are called academic essays, are less varied. Aw, man. Here come those “rules” again.

Your teachers will give you certain topics or questions that your essay has to answer and ask you to write your essays in a pretty specific way. It’s a little restricting, but nothing to warrant quoting the FREEDOM! speech from Braveheart. Let’s try to stay rational about this.

Here’s what you need to know about the academic essay in a nutshell: it makes a point and then proves that point. Simple enough, right?

The point is typically called a “thesis statement,” which comes toward the beginning of an essay. Everything that follows is supposed to prove the thesis. That “everything” usually consists of supporting “body paragraphs” that each make a single point in support of the thesis. The thesis statement is like Beyoncé, and the body paragraphs are like all of her back-up dancers. You’re going to see Beyoncé, but the show just wouldn’t be the same without those other peeps wiggling and jiggling.

Also see: Five-Paragraph Essay.