Center for Writing Excellence
© 2009-2010 Apollo Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Overview of How to Write an Essay
Writing essays is a major element of your education at the university level. Effective writing
gives you the ability to express your ideas, theories, arguments, and projects clearly. The skills
you acquire at the university level through writing essays will be aimed at practical business
applications that you will be able to use in the workplace.
The following information provides a succinct overview of the elements you need to know to
begin writing an essay. It will help you on your writing journey.
Types of Essays
A narrative essay is a story told by a narrator. Generally, a narrative discusses the personal
experience of the author (the first person point of view), but it can also be written about things
that happen to others (third person point of view). A narrative typically involves characters, a
setting, specific and vivid details, and a series of events that can include current incidents,
flashbacks, or dialogue.
Cause and Effect
A cause and effect essay explores why events, actions, or conditions occur (cause) and examines
the results of those events, actions, or conditions (effect). For example, a cause could be
purchasing a new expensive home. The effect might be fewer family vacations, more time spent
on upkeep, or less time with family because of extra work hours to pay for the home.
Comparison and Contrast
A comparison and contrast essay shows the relationship between two or more elements. The
items can be compared by similarities and differences or both. The important thing to remember
about a comparison and contrast essay is that the items to be compared or contrasted must share
some common characteristics.
In other words, one cannot compare a trip to France and a gourmet dinner because no similar
points between the two subjects can be compared. However, an effective comparison and
contrast essay can be written about motorcycles and automobiles because they are both motor
vehicles, which is the basis for comparison.
A comparison and contrast essay can be structured three ways: point by point, subject by subject,
or mixed sequence in which both point by point and subject by subject structure are used. Some
of the points of comparison between the topics of motorcycles and automobiles could be cost,
upkeep, and safety. See the following examples of the possible structures for an effective
comparison and contrast essay on this topic: