How to Write an Informal Essay

How to Write an Informal Essay

Albert Schaffer

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Informality

The informal essay presents the student with a rare and liberating opportunity to step away from the routine eyes trappings of standard academic prose which is by its nature highly formal and codified. The difference between formal and informal writing is much akin to that between formal and informal speech. Here, you are being tasked with a composition in conversational style - as if you were speaking to a friend or family member.

So, an informal essay puts the writer's personality front and centre, making it a key asset for the final work. Note that conventional scholarly prose works to obscure the writer's personality, placing the impartial processes of formal reasoning or disputation in the foreground.

As a consequence, the informal essay allows – indeed, requires – you to express your personality. However, this does not mean you may simply abandon any sense of rigour in your composition. As it happens, producing quality informal prose is often more difficult than standard scholarly equivalents. This is because they require more ingenuity and creativity, void as they are of codified conventions upon which to lean.

Personality is Key

Now that you have been given an opportunity to articulate your personality, make sure it is an interesting one. Your authorial voice needs to shine if it is to hook and sustain the interest of the reader. This can be achieved in many ways.

You may surprise, delight, beguile, inform, or whatever it takes to make an impression. Consider that the strongest effect when reading is usually an intensely emotional one. If you can summon the reader's feelings, then you will connect with them in a very potent way.

Always try and think about your emotional objective, the kind of mood and feel you are seeking to conjure. With a clear end point in mind you will find it easier to orient your prose to this purpose. Try to wait the emotional effect of the writing in even proportion with the overall theme. Obtaining a smooth balance between emotion and intellect will ensure that your essay attains maximum impact.

Have a Point. Stick to it.

Just because you are being asked to talk about your personal experiences does not mean you have free rein to ramble on about your feelings without any overriding point. Always have a point. Otherwise you will quickly bore the reader.

Be sure that, before you begin the write-up, you know what your point is. Having begun, diligently stick to that point. If you fall into meaningless digression you will lose the reader, they now at a loss to follow your thread.

A good way of ensuring that you stick to your point is to have a well-defined end point to which you are working. If you find that each successive sentence or paragraph is not leading progressively toward this end point, it is probably a sign you have begun to drift into irrelevant territory.

Good Writing is Rewriting

Without doubt, you will produce a better Informal Essay the second or third time round. For best results, then, write you first effort three times, or, at least, re-draft that many times.

You might want to think about the conversational nature of the piece. We do not always come up with our most brilliant thoughts in the spur of the moment, though we may perhaps wish this was so. In reality, we tend to arrive at the witty comeback, apt quote or humorous story after the moment has passed.

The Informal Essay follows the same pattern. It is highly unlikely your finest writing will emerge on the first attempt. Probably you will have to refine and polish your prose until the appropriate effect is obtained. This may be a simple matter of one re-write but it may take many more. Even the most renowned writers were accomplished re-writers. Indeed, it is not uncommon for professional writers to rework a passage ten or more times. As Flaubert, the canonical French writer, held: whatever it takes to arrive at the mot juste (the right/appropriate word).

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