Essays are brief works written in prose, elaborating on a selected topic. The word ‘essay’ is derived from the French term ‘essai,’ meaning ‘attempt.’ The French writer Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592), was the first person to describe his works as essays. He published the first edition of his book entitled Essais in two volumes in 1580. Francis Bacon is hailed as the first English writer who wrote essays. He pulished his essays in book form in the years 1597, 1612 and 1625. Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walter Bagehot, George Orwell, E.B. White and Aldous Huxley are among the prominent essayists in English.
Essays may be literary or non-literary. They are used as a tool of evaluation at the academic level. Academic essays usually follow specific citation styles like the MLA, APA and Chicago styles. A well written essay should have a proper introduction, appropriate division into paragraphs, a proper development of the ideas discussed and a suitable conclusion. Different types of essays include argumentative, narrative, critical, expository, personal and persuasive.
An essay should ideally contain a thesis statement that will familiarize the reader with the topic being written about. The thesis statement has to be strong and positive in order to sustain the attention of the reader. The introduction of the essay should lead to the thesis statement. The thesis statement has the advantage of keeping the essayist and reader focussed. The body of the essay has to be divided into paragraphs that are an elaboration of the points thought of in the outline of the essay. Just as the introduction, the conclusion of an essay is a vital part. The conclusion will sum up the points discussed and highlight one’s view of the topic.