The 500-Word Essay
What a thing of beauty is the well-written 500-word essay. In some ways, it is the perfect length to express knowledge about a particular subject. It is long enough to allow the writer to show familiarity, and possibly expertise, regarding her chosen topic. But it is not a length that requires copious amounts of research. When sufficiently motivated, one can manage to research, write, and revise such an essay in an hour or two. Given the fact that students will write dozens, if not hundreds, of essays in their high school and college careers, it is advantageous to become familiar with the mechanics, tools, and resources associated with essay writing.
The mechanics of a paper include such elements as accurate spelling, correct grammar, and proper formatting. The conscientious writer does not simply rely on spell check to make sure his paper does not contain misspellings. A thorough proofreading will catch mistakes that spell check misses. For instance, spell check might not know the difference between homophones such as “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” A careful review by the writer (or a friend) should catch these errors. Using correct grammar in all its forms – the parts of speech, subject-verb agreement, and punctuation – can ensure that brilliant writing is not overshadowed by careless or sloppy mechanics (Writing Mechanics). The “look” of the paper is important as well. High school teachers and college professors alike appreciate readable papers with a consistent appearance. This means using the Times New Roman font, size 12, and double-spacing the body of the essay. The title should also be a size 12 font, center justified, with the first word, the last word, and other important words all capitalized. The default margin settings of one inch at the top, bottom, left, and right, give the paper a professional look.
While having a crisp, clean look is valuable, the substance of the paper is of the greatest importance. Supplementing one’s own personal knowledge with well-researched material is the key to a terrific essay. A 500-word essay is not going to require as much research as a six- or ten-page paper. The individual assignment and the topic will determine where to seek out information. But once the research is done, the bibliography (or Works Cited list) can be assembled quite easily using EasyBib (EasyBib). What used to be quite a laborious task – putting sources in the correct MLA format, then alphabetizing them all – is now a fairly automatic process using this handy website.
Some students are intimidated when given a writing assignment. Hopefully, the hints given in this essay will make it easier for students to get started on their own essays. Becoming fairly automatic about formatting a paper prevents too much time from being wasted “reinventing the wheel.” Using viable, trustworthy websites and resources for research will help writers supplement their own knowledge. Knowing how to organize these resources into a coherent bibliography will cap off the paper quite nicely. Using these “tricks of the trade” should help students concentrate on the composition of their papers, and not obsess on the minutiae.
“The Free Automatic Bibliography and Citation Maker.” EasyBib. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. http://www.easybib.com/
“Writing Mechanics & Grammar.” Time4Writing. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. http://www.time4writing.com/writing-mechanics/
When you read a textbook, the news, magazine articles, or any other types of publications, you are reading expository writing. When you write answers for an essay test, you use the expository form.
In an expository paragraph, you give information. You explain a subject, give directions, or show how something happens. In expository writing, linking words like first, second, then, and finally are usually used to help readers follow the ideas.
This paragraph, like any other, organizes itself around three parts. A topic sentence allows the reader to understand what you are writing about. The middle part of the paragraph contains supporting sentences that follow one another in a logical sequence of steps. The concluding sentence closes your subject with an emphasis on the final product or process desired by the topic.
Remember that all paragraphs should contain a topic sentence. It may be even more important in the expository paragraph because this is where the main idea of the paragraph is expressed. This topic sentence lets the reader know what the rest of the paragraph will discuss.
Going to college can be expensive. First, college tuition and room and board can cost anywhere from $2,000 to more than $10,000 per semester. Other expenses make going to college even more expensive. For example, books typically cost between $100 and $500 each term.Second, materials are also very expensive. Paper, notebooks, writing utensils, and other supplies required often cost more at the college bookstore than at any local discount department store. For instance, a package of notepaper costing $2 at a discount store might cost $5 at a college bookstore.Finally, there are all kinds of special fees added onto the bill at registration time. A college student might have to pay a $50 insurance fee, a $20 activity fee, a $15 fee to the student government association and anywhere from $500 to $100 for parking. There is another fee if a student decides to add or drop classes after registration. The fees required to attend college never seem to end.
The topic sentence in the example lets the reader know that the paragraph will talk about the expenses of going to college. Immediately following the topic sentence is the first supporting sentence (underlined) and two detail/example sentences. Each support sentence and its two detail/example sentences are shown in different colors so you can see where one ends and the next begins. Finally, the closing sentence neatly ties back to the topic sentence by rephrasing it.
Notice the use of transitional words to help the reader follow the ideas. Also, notice the use of third person point of view in this paragraph. The third person point of view (he, she, one) is most commonly used for expository writing, technical writing, and any other sort of writing that has a business-minded or persuasive intention or purpose. For our purposes in this class, you will always use third person point of view when writing expository paragraphs, unless otherwise directed. This means there should be no “I” or “you” words anywhere in the paragraph.
Time4Writing provides practice in this area. Sign up for our High School Paragraph Writing course or browse other related courses to find a course that’s right for you.