What is an Essay and How to Get Started

Cozy Grammar with Marie and Thomas

Whether you or your students are in school, homeschooling, unschooling, or just learning on your own, at some point you're bound to face the question, "What is an essay?"

Maybe you've been asked to write an essay for school or college. Or maybe you need to write one to get into college in the first place. Or maybe you're simply curious because you've heard of essays before but aren't sure what they are or how to write them. Or why, for that matter, they matter.

As Marie explains in the following video excerpt from The Basic Cozy Essay Course, not only are there many kinds of essays, but also many synonyms for the word essay.

We could thus answer the question by giving a list of synonyms and definitions:

  • Composition: A short paper written for a school assignment.
  • Theme: A short, informal essay; a subject for an essay.
  • Precis: A summary.
  • Synopsis: A brief summary of the plot of a novel, play, motion picture, etc.; a condensed, general view of some subject.
  • Paper: An essay, article, or dissertation on a particular topic.
  • Treatise: A formal and systematic exposition of the principles of a subject and generally longer and more detailed than an essay.
  • Thesis: A paper, containing original research, written by a candidate for a master’s degree.
  • Dissertation: An essay, treatise, or thesis written by a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

However, Marie's own definition is clearer and simpler:
An essay is a composition on a specific theme, subject, or topic.
It is a non-fiction exercise for the expression of your ideas and opinions.

Take a peek at her video and learn how to get started writing an essay!

What Is An Essay? The Possibility of Calmness!

The framework that Marie gives in this video is at the heart of learning how to write an essay.

The format may look deceptively simple. After all, it has only three parts:


The opening paragraph tells what the essay is about and what points it will discuss.


Each succeeding paragraph expands upon the main points that were stated in the opening paragraph.


This is a summation of the essay. It is a “rounding out” of the essay's ideas by bringing it back to the opening paragraph.

This simple-seeming format, however, serves a very important purpose. It frees us from the worry and anxiety of not knowing how to organize our ideas.

In other words, this format is a powerful tool for organizing our thoughts clearly, methodically, and calmly.

What is an essay? Here is my own definition: The possibility of calmness in thinking and writing!

A Special Tip for Getting Started

This calmness can begin even in the beginning, in the sometimes daunting task of choosing a topic to write about.

In a recent Ask Cozy Grammar session, I offered a special tip for thinking up a topic for an essay: start by thinking of a question instead, a question you're interested in personally.

Your essay will then become your answer to that question and will partake of your own curiosity and quest.

Take a peek to see how the process can work!

A Personal Essay Example

Here's an example. In the sample personal essay in The Basic Cozy Essay Course, I sought to answer this question: How has the work of J. K. Rowling inspired other forms of creativity?

This question gave my essay a clear focus and helped make it easier to put together.

Here's an excerpt in which I describe seeing the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London's West End:

Essays and Grammar can be Fun!

As I hope you're starting to see, writing an essay can actually be fun!

All too often, people think that an essay is merely an assignment that you have to write for school.

But an essay can also be a tool for exploring the world and for answering a question that you'd like to see answered in a clear, calm, and insightful way.

In fact, this newsletter itself is an example. If you look carefully, you'll see that it too answers a question, in this case, "What is an essay?"

It too has sought to explore a topic in a calm, step-by-step manner.

This is the approach Marie and I take in all of Cozy Grammar's courses. We seek to combine calmness and joy in each and every task.

A Tribute from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

That's why we're particularly honored and humbled by a recent review in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine:

Thank you, Crystal, and thank you, The Old Schoolhouse!

If you're curious to try out any of our courses, as a reader of our newsletters, you're eligible for 10% off.

Simply use coupon code COZY2021 when you register.

Thank You!

Thank you for joining us this month, and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

We'll answer your questions as quickly as we can.

I hope this finds you and your family happy, healthy, and calm as we approach the holiday season.



Marie's Language Consultant
The Cozy Grammar Series of Courses