The Importance of an Essay Writing Format

An essay is a short piece of nonfiction writing. An essay's primary goal may be to examine, speculate, analyze or interpret. Essays are one of the most widely employed forms or writing. In addition to being assigned as a part of academic requirements, essays are published in a variety of periodicals from newspapers and magazines, to blogs and literary journals. The essay format is a template used to give shape and organization to ideas.


The word essay has origins in the French word "exigere," which means to "to examine" or "to try." Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, a writer during the French Renaissance, was the first author to describe his work as an essay. Montaigne published a 107-page collection of short writings on specific topics, titled "Essais," in 1580. Seventeen years later, Francis Beacon published a series of essays in book form. Sir Thomas Browne, Jesuit Baltasar Gracián, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin and Charles du Bos are other famous essayist.

Basic Structure

Essay format includes an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Each of these sections may be one or a number of paragraphs long. Using this basic structure helps the reader understand the flow and logic of the author's thoughts. In the introduction, the writer attempts to communicate the main concern of the essay. She communicates this by stating the main ideas. Writing a thesis statement is one way to state the main idea of an essay. The body paragraphs come between the introduction and the conclusion. The body provides examples that expound upon, support or give more insight about the main idea. The conclusion of the essay can summarize ideas, explain possible applications or call readers to action.


Essays are defined depending on the primary goal of the writing. For example, in a personal essay, the main objective is to communicate something about the author's life. Usually this essay focuses on a particular experience. Conversely, in the expository essay, the main objective is to give information about a topic. Other types of essays include argumentative, cause and effect, literary, narrative, and research.


Using a conventional essay format gives a writer a mold into which her ideas can be shaped. Conventional essay format is predictable. Because a reader can anticipate where certain types of information will be housed in the structure, it is easier for him extract the needed information. For example, in an argumentative essay that uses a conventional format, a reader can look to the introduction and conclusion for the writer's position statements.


The five-paragraph theme is a structure used to teach students basic essay writing by requiring one introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs and one conclusion paragraph. This structure has several drawbacks, including the following:

  • It does not work well for editorials, magazine essays, scholarly articles, and other writing that contain more or less paragraphs.
  • It may not provide adequate context to allow the reader to understand the thesis or main idea.
  • It encourages repetition and places more emphasis on structure rather than content.
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