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The Sixth Paragraph: A Re-vision of the Essay

Lynch, Paul
Series Edition: 
Vol. 2

The English word “essay” comes from the French verb essai, which means something like “to try” or “to attempt.” Originally, essays were thought experiments, and an essay’s author did not worry about having a main point or a formal structure. This chapter explores this history and describes the difference between what the essay once was and what it has sometimes become in academic writing, such as, the 5-paragraph form with a thesis and three supporting points. By helping students understand that “essay” once meant something far less formal, in fact, the opposite of school writing, this chapter can help you teach your students that an essay may be an informal piece of writing that concentrates on personal experience as much as citations from books.


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