How to Write an Essay: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Write a Non-fiction Book: A Beginner’s Guide, How to Write a Novel: A Beginner’s Guide, How to Write a Poem: A Beginner’s Guide, Uncategorized
When I was in Glasgow University (that enormously prestigious and much brouhahaed institution which was founded in 1451), I had to write essays for both the English Literature and Religious Studies Faculties. These small irritants (the essays not the faculties, although…) were a normal part of my student life. In my previous existence as a theology student in London, England, all of my exams were oral exams and quite frankly, despite the nerve-wracking possibility that you could get asked anything contained in the syllabus for each subject, I preferred this oral torture to its death-by-footnote alternative. If only every course did away with essays and concentrated on the verbal talent of practiced and seasoned BSers, the world would be a happier place.
Unfortunately, that Nirvana of academia is never going to materialize and essays, for good or ill, are part of every high-school and college course in the world. The problem is that very few teachers ever tell you how to write an essay. It’s an art that is somehow magically supposed to appear in your skill set as you cross the threshold of the school. The consequence of this is that even if you are prodigy at the subjects you are studying, even if you happen to know more about the subject than your teacher, even if you can talk knowledgeably for hours about any aspect of the course, if you can’t write an essay competently, then you will never achieve the grades you deserve.