How to Write a Definition Essay
A definition essay is a special type of assignment that simply explains the meaning of a certain term. While some terms have specific and concrete definitions, such as tree or book, others are more abstract. For example, terms such as honor, honesty, and love are all more abstract concepts that are a bit more difficult to explain and that rely heavily on the writer's point-of-view.
Both abstract and concrete terms can be explained in definition essays, though more abstract terms generally make for a more interesting read. Regardless of the type of term being defined, there are three major steps that must be followed when writing a definition article.
The first step when writing a definition essay is to simply tell the reader what you are planning to define. Then, you present the basic definition of the term in a clear and simple manner. Finally, you provide anecdotes, facts, and examples to help further clarify the definition of the term.
Perhaps one of the most difficult, yet most important, aspects of writing a definition essay is actually developing the definition that you will be supporting throughout the document. In order to come up with a definition, you must have a clear understanding of the term that is beyond the simple dictionary definition. In fact, while you can use the dictionary as a reference, you shouldn't simply copy the definition that the dictionary provides. Rather, you should explain the meaning of the word in your own terms.
When dealing with abstract concepts, you will often need to limit the definition that you are planning to discuss. For example, when writing about love, you could discuss romantic love, friendship love, parent-child love, first love, and more. Attempting to cover all forms of love will be too broad for your essay and, as such, you should settle on just one definition and then form your paper around that definition.
When developing your definition, you should define the function of the term being defined. When defining the function, you should explain how it works or what it does. You should also define the structure, which involves telling how it is organized or put together. In addition, you should define by analysis. When you define by analysis, you compare the term to similar terms and then describe how it is different from those other terms. Finally, you define what the term is not, which can help to further clarify the meaning to the reader.
When defining the term, you should strive to use facts that are easy to understand as well as anecdotes and examples. When determining the examples you will use, focus only on those that will best help your reader understand the term and those anecdotes that would be the most appealing to the reader, such as a short story.
Finally, be sure to create an interesting introduction and a solid conclusion that wraps up the entire article. The summary should leave the reader feeling as if he or she has learned something and gained a far greater understanding of the term that was defined.
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