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How to write a Literature essay

What Comes Under the Term “Literature&rdquo

The word “literature” covers a broad range of written works, especially those depicting the superior, artistic, and unmatched quality of writings. It includes writings related to a variety of topics such as art, intellect, wisdom, philosophy, humor, storytelling, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc. A fine, superlative, and engaging piece of literature is considered the one which conveys a positive and constructive message. It tells an involving story to its readers and grasps their attention regardless of the genre or class to which that piece of writing belongs.

Moreover, it stays in the memory of its readers due to a variety of literary aspects. To meet the best standards of writing, the plot of the writing, the topic being discussed in the essay, and the characters being portrayed must be equally engaging.

Literature essay is one form of short writing in the literature that, too, covers a broad range of literary works and can be related to several different literary aspects. A formal literature essay always has an organized and well-ordered structure that starts with a rather generic and informative approach about the topic being discussed. It then goes on to specifically cover the relevant topic and enlighten the reader about it. Every formal essay is related to a specific literature topic. However, the writers can sometimes and generally do include their points of view in them relevant to the subject being discussed. As earlier said, the literature essays can cover a broad range of topics. Sometimes, the humor and satire are depicted in an essay to convey a certain message or express the writer’s opinion about a subject. Other times, a rather serious and completely philosophical approach is taken to present facts or opinions relevant to the subject of a literary essay. On the contrary, a blend of these two approaches has been seen as well, depending upon the matter being discussed in the essay and the writer by whom the writing on that matter is penned down.

A Brief Look into the History of Literature

Essay writing in English literature dates back to the 16th century when Michel de Montaigne, a famous English Essayist, coined the term “essay” to name his short literary writings. Since then, it has been an almost impossible task to limit this form of literary writing to one precise or exact universal definition. Some of the earliest and pioneer essayists of English literature have defined this term in some interesting, yet most realistic, ways. Aldous Huxley refers to an essay as "a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything" as well as the continuation of "One damned thing after another." Huxley's definition or description of an essay is almost in agreement with aplenty of other writers’ concept of this form of writing. For instance, Francis Bacon refers to it as "dispersed meditations," Samuel Johnson describes it as "a loose sally of the mind", and Edward Hoagland calls it a "greased pig." Similar to that old-time and an era centuries ago, the writers still agree on essay writing being a highly diverse and loose form of writing. According to them, the essay includes a philosophical kind of short writing to humor - and fiction-based literary pieces of writings.

Moreover, the literature essays’ topics cover real-life problems, political situations, science, and technology-related literature compositions under its umbrella. Broadly speaking, it is categorized into formal and informal types since the Post-Montaigne era. The formal kind is expected to remain highly systematic, impersonal, and relevant to the facts without involving any humorous or relaxed type of writing. The other kind, named informal, however, sticks to being conversational, relaxed, humorous, or impersonal. It is often expected to depict or define the tone or shape of a literary piece of writing, or sometimes both.

Importance of Planning in Pre-writing Phase of a Literature Essay

Regardless of which of these categories an essay belongs to, there is a certain structural and organizational criterion it follows, especially the formal one. It has to project, on the readers, the writer’s opinions and ideas about a particular matter to shape their thoughts and beliefs. Therefore, an essay has to be built on a smooth and steady line of flow that coveys its theme without making the topic and discussion vague and absurd. That is why there are several literary techniques and guidelines that an essayist follows to appropriately communicate the theme and gist of his writings to his audience.

The pre-writing phase of an essay is extremely important to have a vivid and crystal-clear idea of what the writer is about to construct. This is something a writer needs to bear in mind before going into the details of the guidelines or techniques that must be considered while writing an essay.

First of all, the intended topic or theme of the writing must be clearly understood, and specific points related to it must get clarified in the writer’s mind. The writer should ask himself/herself about the key points and main ideas to be covered in the writing.

Moreover, the main argument and the line of reasoning he is going to build and the intended audience of the literature must also be kept in mind by the writer. The next crucial point is to answer these questions, which is only possible through relevant literature reading. Readability is the heart or gist of writing a good piece of literature. This is because it helps to clarify doubts and ambiguities and aids in building a clear storyline of writing. But most of all, it provides a variety of ideas, relevant material, and literature to mold one’s ideas and opinions into words and writings.

The third important pre-writing step is planning, where the writer begins to plan his line of action. It mainly includes how, when, and where different points and ideas of the essay have to be conveyed. Here, the writer should begin to pen down the format of his essay, starting from the introduction. Then he should continue to the body paragraphs where the gist or central ideas of the topic are to be discussed. Ultimately, he should reach a comprehensive conclusion where the whole writing is summed up, and its concluding point is presented.

Planning an outline and sketching the pathway to complete a literary essay is the first step towards the accomplishment of quality writing. These two practices will help a writer to successfully formulate his ideas and opinions into words. Additionally, they will also keep him from getting distracted and lost into the irrelevant and impertinent details that will negatively affect his writing skills.

Dividing an Essay into Different Sections Might Help

While writing an essay, there are several things a writer should consider to stay clear, concise, concrete, relevant, and factual. They are important since they keep the readers remain engrossed in the topic and capture the theme completely and correctly.

An essay can be divided into different sections based on the points and ideas to be discussed in each one, allotted in the planning section of the pre-writing phase. A skillful and adept writer should know these points. For instance, the introduction section is generic and gives the background and preliminary ideas associated with the topic. This section is essential since it educates the readers about the topic that will be discussed in the essay. Therefore, the writer must plan this section according to the same format to make it a preamble to the essay.

A general way to remember as to what should be discussed in the preamble of a literature essay is through the abbreviation HATMAT. It was first presented by the University of Colombia for constructing the outline of a literary essay. It stands for ‘Hook the reader’, ‘Author’, ‘Title of the Essay’, ‘Main Characters discussed in the literature’, ‘A Short Summary of the Essay’, and ‘Thesis’. It is extremely important to capture the attention of the reader in the beginning so that he stays with the writer throughout the whole essay. That is why it is important to make the preamble interesting by stating the gist or summary of the essay and background of the topic in the most concise and engrossing way possible.

Next, the body section is the soul of the entire literary piece of writing, where the main supporting arguments and the central ideas are to be presented. So, a writer is expected to formulate it in such a way as to cover or sum up the whole idea behind the writing. This section should be written to cover all the points related to the theme and subject of the essay. It means that after reading the body paragraphs, a reader must be able to shape or structure his opinions based on the ideas presented by the writer. Moreover, it should enable a reader to identify and perceive the persona of the essayist and his notions about the subject he has discussed. Before starting to write down the main body paragraphs of an essay, the bigger picture must be kept in mind. After each body paragraph, the writer must read the previous and current para to make sure that the points are connecting to each other well. Otherwise, if the body paragraphs lose connection in between them, the whole theme of the essay will become confusing and unclear.

On the same lines, the conclusion must be written to sum up the complete writing and present the culminating point of the writer’s reasoning and arguments about the subject. It should not introduce any new ideas and points into the essay and must restate the main argument or theme, which is discussed in detail in the body paragraphs. However, excessive repetition should be avoided. Moreover, the conclusion should be written such that after reading it, the reader comes in a state of exclusively agreeing or disagreeing with your point of view.

Structural Aspects to be Considered

The other important aspects to be kept in mind while writing an essay are related to the structural format of the essay. The writer must carefully plan the breakdown of the material in each paragraph. The reason is that stuffing too much detail in one paragraph and including too little in the next will surely disrupt the flow of the essay. Therefore, it is crucial to wisely allot details into each section.

Furthermore, there must be a link or connection among successive paragraphs, that is, the ending of one should be related to the beginning of the next one. A reader losing track of the gist or theme of the essay while switching from one paragraph to another indicates that the writer lacks the technique of creating connectivity while transitioning among paragraphs. Maintaining flow is another critical aspect of the literature essay, and it also needs to be the most taken care of at the transition between paragraphs. Using transition words is one way to help maintain that flow. Moreover, there must also be a logical and rational link between the two paragraphs. That will help as well to maintain the flow and avoid the abrupt transition from one paragraph to another.

Another important structural aspect of the English Literature Essay is the argument or main idea presented through it. A quality literature essay is the one that represents several possible aspects or sides to a given topic and does not only focuses on just one scenario that suits the writer. A writer should not be biased or prejudiced while presenting facts and details about a particular topic. He must lay out the argument in a thought-provoking and lively manner when discussing them in a literature essay. The style of writing must persuade and convince the readers or audience to explore different aspects related to the subject being discussed in his essay. For this purpose, it is necessary to state all the details and facts subtly, keeping various possible aspects in view.


To conclude, it can be said that a literature essay requires careful and wise planning of the ideas and themes to be discussed. It requires a catchy introduction, a division of the ideas and arguments to be presented in different body paragraphs. Moreover, a sound and clear conclusion gives readers a choice to agree or disagree with the arguments the writer has stated in it. In addition to these, certain important structural and organizational techniques are also crucial to properly organize the essay.

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