Writing a Basic Essay

Writing a Basic Essay

I teach English at a community college, and one of the biggest issues students face when it comes to writing a basic essay is how to put their ideas down on paper.  Or rather typing them in a word processor, which is my preferred way of receiving a paper.  I tell my students that the way to write a basic essay is to understand the basic parts that make up an essay.  These may vary from instructor to instructor.  Below is my list of items I require in each essay submitted in my class. 

Basic Essay Format

Introductory Paragraph –Introduce the topic of your essay.  Give some background information on why it is a timely topic or why it is pertinent to be addressed.  What is happening in the world that makes this topic something that needs to be address?   The last sentence should state what you will prove about the topic.  (The thesis statement is last sentence in introduction).

Body Paragraph 1 (First Major Topic)—Begin with a topic sentence, which addresses what the entire paragraph will be discussing.  Add supporting details.  Add a closing statement that transitions to a new point that will be addressed in next paragraph.

Body Paragraph 2 (Second Major Topic)—Begin with a topic sentence, which addresses what the entire paragraph will be discussing.  Add supporting details.  Add a closing statement that transitions to a new point that will be addressed in next paragraph.

Body Paragraph 3 (Third Major Topic)—Begin with a topic sentence, which addresses what the entire paragraph will be discussing.  Add supporting details.  Add a closing statement that transitions to a new point that will be addressed in next paragraph.

Conclusion Paragraph—Several methods are good to use here—give a restatement of thesis worded slightly differently from introductory paragraph.  Use a call to action for the reader to do something or stop doing something.  Sum up major points brought out in body of essay and close with an overall message to the reader.

In addition to these required items, students are to include their name, course, date, and assignment title in the upper left hand corner of the paper.  They are to include a title (centered) that represents the content of the essay.  They also should double space their essay and indent all paragraphs.  Following these steps can help students get off to a good start when writing a basic essay.

Suzy Barile Book Reading

It is always a treat to meet an author in person, especially one with which you have had only email contact for approximately five months.  I discovered Suzy Barile’s book Undaunted Heart: The True Story of a Southern Belle and a Yankee General on the North Carolina Writer’s Network, where both of us are members.  I emailed and asked if she would like to come to our community college to give a book reading as well as be the judge of our literary magazine, the Wilson Literary Review.  She graciously agreed to do both, and we began planning those events through only email communication. 

One thing I must say about Suzy is she is the consummate professional.  I have never worked with a person who is so dedicated to her craft and has the time to respond to every email within 24 hours or less–I never have.  This woman is also a community college teacher and is in the middle of moving into and renovating her new home, as well as traveling the state of North Carolina giving book readings.  Where does she find the time to do it all?  And the energy!

Suzy Barile held a book reading at our community college on March 18, 2010, discussing Undaunted Heart.   She is the great great granddaughter of Union General Smith Dykins Adkins and Ella Swain, daughter of David Lowry Swain, state governor and University of North Carolina President. 

According to Gita Schonfeld, Suzy Barile’s publicist, she says Barile refers to Undaunted Heart as an historic book, not a novel:  “Undaunted Heart is a non-fiction book (not a novel–though we hope it reads almost like one!).  It’s actually a history book; and the narrative strings together facts drawn from family letters, diaries, newspaper articles and other documents as well as oral history/ stories handed down through family and friends.  Excerpts from the original documents are integrated in the book’s storyline; (and one of Suzy’s goals was to separate the facts from the fictional accounts of her ancestor’s infamous story.)  I make the distinction because many readers looking for accurate historic information would not be interested in a novel or fictional work, even if that novel is based on fact” (Schonfeld).

The “infamous” story Schonfeld refers to is relationship that was formed between Ella and Smith during the South’s surrender in 1865 to Union troops who were ordered to capture the city of Chapel Hill.  Their scandalous relationship, Ella being from the South and Smith a Union General, did not set well with the residents of Chapel Hill who labeled them and Ella’s family as “turncoats.”  Ella and Smith managed to forge a relationship despite the political turmoil that faced the country at the time, eventually marrying and remaining “undaunted” in their commitment to each other.

It was a wonderful pleasure meeting Suzy Barile in person.  She sent a photo of herself ahead of time to be used for publicity purposes at our college, but she had never seen me in person.  When I met her, it was like meeting an old friend that I had not seen in years, yet kept in contact via email.  I have a good friend like that.  We don’t see each other often, but when we do, it is like picking up from where we last left off.  I can see Suzy being that type of person.  She is very personable and easygoing.  It was a joy talking with her and getting to know her in person.

If you get a chance to make one of Suzy  Barile’s book readings, please do so, and introduce yourself to her.  You will be pleasantly surprised at how down to earth she is. 

Keep up the hard work, Suzy!  I look forward to seeing Undaunted Heart on the big screen in the very, very near future.  Hint to all movie producers out there!

Click on these links for more info on Suzy Barile —  http://events.wnct.com/wilson-nc/events/show/104650065-suzy-barile-guest-lecturer-wilson-community-college . 

Click on this link to view pictures of Suzy Barile at a book reading at Wake Technical Community College —  http://news.waketech.edu/2010/03/15/civil-war-love-story-comes-to-life/