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How to Write an Illustration Essay

An illustrative essay is probably one of the easiest types of essays to write; and once you have mastered this type of writing, just about all other types of essays will become easier as well. That's because no matter what type of writing you're doing, if you're trying to make a point, illustrations make it much easier to accomplish your goal.

Definition of an illustration essay

The first step in mastering the writing of an illustration essay is to understand exactly how this type of essay is most effectively used. Simply put, an illustration essay uses a variety of examples to support or prove your thesis. For example, if your thesis statement is:

“The winter months cause most residents to hibernate.”

Your essay would contain descriptions of several facts that support this thesis, such as:

  • The roads are nearly empty with just 2 or 3 cars passing every hour compared to 100s of cars during the warmer months of the year.
  • The social activities in town are poorly attended when the weather is foul.

The illustrative essay is nothing more than providing facts that back up your thesis. However, it's a descriptive and even colorful style of writing that makes the essay interesting to read.

Creating a paper that's interesting to read

Obviously, a statement of facts such as those above is a boring way to prove a point. You'll better engage your reader by taking the concept of illustration to heart. When you think of an illustration an image comes to mind that is drawn to help the viewer understand something. A word illustration is much the same. The writer uses words to paint a picture for the reader so that the reader can visualize what the author is trying to say.

While an illustration essay is among the easiest to tackle, beware of it being too easy. It does require some thought to make it work. A few things to keep in mind while coming up with examples to prove your thesis include:

  1. Make sure your example makes a clear point. A long narrative about your personal feelings about winter may seem relevant to the topic, but it doesn't prove that most people hibernate.
  2. Before crafting your essay, spend some time brainstorming some good examples and then pick your top three - four examples. Once you have your strongest points, spend the time to carefully “illustrate” each example so that it's crystal clear to the reader that this helps prove your main point.
  3. Make sure that your thesis statement for this type of essay is not about arguing a position; rather it's about a phenomenon that exists.
  4. Transitioning between your examples takes some practice so that the essay doesn't read like a list of examples, because you start each new point with the phrase, “for example?‚?¦” Instead, find other words that help transition from point to point.

The two examples listed for the winter weather thesis above could be tied together by correlating the lack of participation in social events to the lack of travel. These are like cause and effect example:

“?‚?¦the lack of participation in social events is further illustrated by the lack of traffic on the roads. People just don't like to drive in bad weather, which is why there are so few cars on the road in winter as compared to summer. ?‚?¦”

Structuring and writing the essay

As with all essays, the format of an illustrative includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction states your thesis, the body provides examples of why the thesis is true, and the conclusion restates the thesis and draws a conclusion to the paper. With the winter weather example we've been using here, a conclusion might be that the winter months are not good for planning a major event that you want a lot of people to attend.


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