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How to Write an Informal Essay

An informal essay is exactly as it says it is and its primary objective is to provide enjoyment for both the person who writes it and the person who reads it. However, even though the aim is pleasure, this does not in any way mean that it is permissible for the writer to simply ramble on about one thing or another in an unintelligible way over the course of around 500 to 700 words. 

An informal essay tests the writer’s ability to meet the criteria of this genre of writing. In fact, when the writer is virtually free to write at will and with few strict rules to abide by, this type of essay also tests their behavior in these circumstances and how well they express their own opinions. The structure of an informal essay is not as rigid as it is in other genre of essay since this is in no way pre-defined. However, this essay type still has some distinct features and requirements. For example:   

  • Essays of the informal variety are generally of a more personal nature than other types of academic assignments. They can cover such subject matter as the writer’s opinion on a variety of controversial issues (e.g., abortion, drugs, euthanasia, gun control, and so on), their religious beliefs, or they may dwell on a particular life experience the writer has had.
  • The tone of an informal essay is usually of the conversational variety. It should feel as if the writer was conversing with their reader in the way they would if they were discussing politics or some other “hot” topic with their friends over a drink.
  • When writing a personal essay, it is advisable for the writer to allow their personality to shine through in their words i.e. their personality should appear as unique as possible through the essay’s content. While a writer’s personality is usually evident to some extent in other types of writing, it does not usually take center stage. However, in this type of writing, your aim should be to allow your personality to express itself as much as possible.

Very often, informal essays are assigned to establish a final marking where some doubt or uncertainty exists. For instance, these essays are sometimes used to determine how much creativity and/or imagination a writer can demonstrate when given an almost entirely free rein. To describe the writing style for an informal essay, the most appropriate analogy may be to say its style is journalistic in nature since it is often aimed at the more developed or sophisticated type of reader. Sentences are often short and witty, and the writer is free to use more colloquialisms and catchy phrases. This is in stark contrast to the writing style normally found in, say, an admissions essay or an analytical essay.

To provide you with some idea of the type of plan or outline you should devise for this type of essay, it seems reasonable to say you should dispense to some extent with the usual formality. Here are a few tips you can use to at least get you started:   

  • Although it may seem appropriate or even tempting, it is best not to overdo the level of informality you adopt in your writing. While a relaxed style is appropriate and the use of slang and colloquialisms is acceptable, these are fine when used in a sparing manner. However, it is best not to over-use them or use them entirely as your main style.
  • It is important you are true to yourself and that you give full expression to your unique personality. Essentially, this should be noticeable throughout your entire text.
  • Do your best to try and write your essay in the same manner you would if you were writing a compelling piece of fiction. Create and maintain a sense of suspense. There are various techniques you can use to achieve this. For instance, you could use foreshadowing and defeated expectation and/or you could withhold the most important information until the end or as close to it as possible. Make your readers wait with bated breath for as long as possible before you relieve their tension.    

All said, being the style of writing it is, an important rule to bear in mind is not to follow any particular rules! There is no more effective way to diminish the sense of informality than to attempt to develop your essay according to the type of pre-determined rules you would adhere to in other types of writing. Do your best to take a reasonable view of the level of informality you should use, try to be interesting, use wit, be true to yourself, and your essay should work out just fine.

Finally, despite the foregoing and while you may not have to adhere to the usual conventions when writing an informal essay, there are some elements of organization and polishing you should attend to in order to ensure your essay is a success. Even where informality applies, it still remains the case that any written text that is too haphazard in its structure and contains an excessive amount of errors will cause you to have marks deducted. So here are a few additional tips on a) planning and b) proofreading.

  • One of the best planning tools available to writers is the option of developing an outline at the start of a writing project. You can use this to jot down your thoughts, ideas, and anything you know about the subject matter or topic in question. Then when you begin writing and words start to flow freely, you can keep an eye on your outline to be sure you do not overlook any important point, idea, or fact. With regards to structure, it is normal practice to divide a paper or essay (any type of essay) into three key sections, which are a) an introductory section, b) a few body paragraphs, and c) a concluding paragraph. This will give your text a clear and familiar order, which readers will identify with, and it will help prevent any sense of haste or haphazardness.

In most types of writing, it takes a few drafts before the writer arrives at a final version they are reasonably happy with. It is likely you will have put a lot of hard work into your essay by the time you get to the final so it is often tempting to sigh with relief and think that is the end. However, it is essential for readers to proofread their own texts and to get someone else to also read their work. Spell-checking software is certainly useful and should be used, but these systems do not detect every type of error. Therefore, it is highly recommended you manually proofread your work to check for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and typo errors. While proofreading, you should also look at issues such as organization, structure, syntax, language usage, word choices, and so on. While this may seem like a lot of extra work, especially if you are feeling tired, the effort should be well worthwhile. An interesting, error-free, and perfectly polished essay is sure to attract the best grades possible, which is surely your aim!



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