Writing Like a Pro: Essay
Making one’s voice heard and persuading others of one’s arguments are essential skills in a career of a diplomat. By writing opinion essays we aim at two birds with one stone: perfecting and polishing your language and developing critical and analytical thinking skills.
There are three main items to care about while writing your essay:
Argumentative essay expressing opinion has the following structure:
• Traditionally, rhetorical questions, quotes, personal anecdotes have been used at length as hooking techniques. Given the academic style of an essay and the range of topics dictated by the professional focus, the most feasible plan for a good hook is to find a case which would illustrate the topic and start your essay with it.
e.g. The essay entitled “Personal Qualities in Leadership” can be started by the case of a charismatic leader winning over the public with his eloquence, like Churchill, or personal example, like Ghandi.
• A thesis statement presents a claim on the issue that you are to prove rather than merely raises the topic or restates some general truth.
Tips on how to make a successful thesis statement
• Avoid merely announcing the topic; your original and specific «angle» should be clear. Your thesis must be arguable; it must assert or deny something about your topic, i.e. it must be a statement with which people may disagree.
e.g. Original thesis: Oratory art is in decline in modern politics.
Revised thesis: Despite the fact that modern politics is witnessing an obvious decline in oratory, this ancient art should not be lost and forgotten.
• Make sure the thesis is neither too broad, nor too narrow. It should be limited to what can be accomplished in the specified number of words (300-350).
• Continue to refine your thesis while developing the arguments. Start with a tentative(примерный) thesis and revise it as your essay develops. Compare this original thesis of an essay on the topic “Mass Media and Their Effect on Society”, which is too general, with the possible revisions that look at the topic from different angles.
e.g. Original thesis: The mass media have a negative effect on society.
1. The mass media play an important role in shaping public attitudes, but instead of serving the social good, they fuel social tension and escalate conflict.
2. Since the mass media have enormous potential to influence society, they have been increasingly used as a tool of manipulating public opinion.
• Be as clear and as specific as possible; avoid vague words. For example, the superficial ‘society’ can be substituted by more precise ‘both genders’, ‘men and women’, ‘the young and the old’, ‘Russian/ British/…’, ‘taxpayers and legislators’, etc. depending on the focus of your paper.
• Indicate the point of your paper but avoid sentence structures like, “The point of my paper is…”, which will make it simplistic.
• Make use of complex sentences to formulate a more complex, comprehensive thesis.
• In the thesis of an essay expressing opinion you can make assessment, suggest solutions, predict consequences or outcomes.
e.g. Original thesis: US-Russia relations can be improved.
Revised thesis: US-Russia relations can be improved if both countries exercise enough political will.
Common pitfalls in formulating a thesis:
• A thesis which is too broad or doesn’t need to be proved: e.g. The US-Russia relations can be improved.
• A thesis which is descriptive: e.g. The current US-Russia relations have hit a historic low.
• A thesis which is too narrow: e.g. Diplomatic cooperation in the UNO can improve bilateral relations between Russia and the USA.
• A thesis worded as a question: e.g. What can be done to improve the current US-Russia relations?
• A thesis which contains words that lead to faulty generalizations (all, none, always, only, everyone, etc.): e.g. Diplomatic effort is always needed to improve bilateral relations between the countries.
• A thesis that starts with ‘In my opinion’ or ‘I think’, as they make a thesis sound simplistic, thus weakening the author’s position: e.g. I think that US-Russia relations can be improved if both countries exercise enough political will.
Body paragraphs convey the arguments you put forward to substantiate your thesis. They should be robust and compelling. Before writing your essay, it is a good idea to brainstorm for arguments that substantiate your take on the matter. Write down as many as you can. You can draw a mind map (see above) to structure your ideas. Then, shortlist the most compelling ones — two to three would do. These will be the ones you will lay out in your essay.
Traditionally, one argument equals one paragraph and reflects the following structure: CLAIM – REASON(S) – EVIDENCE. In the first sentence of a paragraph you put forward an argument (i.e. you make a CLAIM), then you develop it (provide REASONS and explanation), and, finally you provide examples, statistics, or expert opinion (EVIDENCE).
Opposing point of view is indispensable for an academic essay and demonstrates your awareness of the existing approaches to the problem you are covering in your essay. The very fact that the writer has arrived at his/her conclusion despite an array of opposing arguments strengthens the author’s position (provided the author explains clearly why they are wrong) and makes the readers feel that they are provided with an unbiased, rounded view. The opposing view should be refutedto ensure a smooth transition to your own conclusion.
Conclusion summarizes the author’s arguments without adding any new ideas, and restates the thesis.
Writing an essay gives you a wonderful opportunity to sport your language. It reminds, in a way, of painting a picture: if you use only basic colours, you may end up with a rather primitive drawing, but if you add subtle shades and hues, you stand every chance of creating an impressionistic piece of art.
Aim high, use a dictionary! Synonyms give the language of your essay more colour and more precision.
E.g. instead of using tedious combinations of very + adjective, go for brighter adjectives:
very bad — adverse, dreadful, appalling, hideous
very good – amazing, positive, brilliant, outstanding
very careful – meticulous, thorough, fastidious
very useful – an invaluable tool, key to, etc.
Make use of the appropriate connectives where necessary:
Addition: above all, additionally, also, as well as, at the same time, besides, equally important, furthermore, in addition, likewise, not only… but also, what is more.
Cause and effect: as, as a consequence of, as a result, because, consequently, due to, hence, in response, so, since, therefore, thus.
Comparison: as, equally, exactly as, identically, in comparison, in much the same way, in relation to, like, of little/no difference, parallel to, resembling, reminiscent of, same as, similar to, similarly.
Concession and qualification: admittedly, after all, although, despite, even so, for all that, however, in spite of, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, still, though, yet.
Conclusion and summation: all in all, in conclusion, to conclude, to recap it all, to sum up, to summarize.
Contrast: by contrast, in contrast to, on the one hand/on the other hand, on the contrary, opposite to, unlike, just the reverse.
Generalization: by and large, as a rule, generally, in essence, in most cases, on the whole.
Emphasis: above all, clearly, certainly, chiefly, each and every, especially, extremely, indeed, increasingly, more and more, more importantly, moreover, undoubtedly.
Illustration/exemplification: as an example, as illustrated by, as revealed by, for example, for instance, in other words, in particular, in simpler terms, namely, such as.
While writing an argumentative essay expressing opinion, you are supposed to adhere to an academic style, avoiding contractions and informal vocabulary. For example, instead of writing the spoken ‘last time I checked’, better opt for the written ‘in my experience’ or ‘to (the best of) my knowledge’.
- Think of a good introduction – a case illustrating the topic, a quote, or a rhetorical question.
- Formulate a good thesis: an opinion, a statement which needs to be proved,
- e.g. “Despite the obvious cultural benefits, preserving minority languages can cause controversies in many societies.”
- Brainstorm for arguments to support your thesis. You can use mind mapping to help you organise ideas.
- Formulate your argument as a CLAIM.
- Substantiate each claim with good reasoning and support with facts and examples.
- Refute the opposing viewpoint, otherwise it would be difficult to make a good transition to the conclusion.
- Restate the thesis and sum up all the main points made in the essay.
- Get hold of a good dictionary and a thesaurus to search for synonyms, which will make your writing colourful and precise.
- Proofread your essay and do the word count
- Start with empty, vague phrases which convey no meaning e.g. “Nowadays people are getting more and more concerned with the problem of…”
- Restate commonly known facts in your thesis,
- e.g.“Minority languages play an important role in the cultural development of society.”
- Recycle the same idea throughout the whole of your essay.
- Mistake examples for arguments.
- Skip any part of the argument development.
- Forget to refute the opposing point of view.
- Introduce new ideas in the conclusion. Forget to sum up the arguments provided in the essay.
- Use dull words, such as good, bad, interesting, important, very, etc.
- Skip proofreading.