Formal Essay: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 Definition of Formal Essay
  • 0:26 Format of The Formal Essay
  • 1:53 Examples of Formal Essays
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michelle Herrin

Michelle has taught high school and college English and has master's degrees in eduation and liberal studies.

The basis of academic writing is the formal essay, so let's learn the definition of a formal essay, review the general format, and explore some specific examples.

Definition of Formal Essay

A formal essay is a piece of writing that informs or persuades its audience.

There are other kinds of essays. For example, the narrative essay relays a story with a moral or lesson. The personal essay illustrates the writer's opinion on a topic. A formal essay is more objective than the narrative or personal essay because it is usually based on provable facts and examples.

Format of the Formal Essay

In general, a formal essay is at least five paragraphs long and contains an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

The introduction is the first paragraph of a formal essay and should include three things. The first item of the introduction is the hook, or the part that grabs your reader's attention. Some common hooks include statistics, quotations from famous people, or strong questions. After the hook, you should have two or three sentences of background information on your topic. Your introduction paragraph should end with the thesis statement, which is the main idea of your essay.

The following paragraphs, not including the last one, are known as the body paragraphs. These paragraphs contain the details that support your thesis statement. These body paragraphs start with a topic sentence, which is one sentence that connects back to your thesis statement and outlines the paragraph. Next, you provide an example from your life, a common experience, or a source, and then you provide a few sentences of analysis or explanation of your example. Then you end with a concluding sentence that summarizes the paragraph and/or transitions into the next paragraph.

The conclusion is the last paragraph of the paper and includes two things: a restatement of your thesis statement, which emphasizes your main idea, and a summary of your main points.

Now, let's look at different types of formal essays.

Examples of Formal Essays

Even though all formal essays are similar in structure, there are different kinds of formal essays.

One type of formal essay is the illustration or exemplification essay. In this kind of formal essay, you will illustrate a fact through examples. This is also called expository writing. For instance, you could write an illustration essay that focuses on how stress affects students. You would give examples from your life experience to illustrate your thesis statement.

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