How to write a Definition Essay

Definition essays aren’t difficult to write. By a definition essay, we mean an essay that defines what a term means. This could be a concrete term, such as “Egg” or “Water”, or abstract, like “Honor” or “Friendship” or the done-to-death “Love”. The topic is usually general, and being so broad, the approach is completely up to the writer; whether he wishes it to be serious or humorous, general or specific. There a few basic guidelines that will aid you in writing a good definition essay.

  • Know what term is being defined, and explain it clearly to the reader. BUT dictionary definitions will only sound pedantic and uninteresting. Define the term in your words and adding a bit of a personal touch is always welcome to the reader.
  • Present understandable information. Hazy and uneven details and abstract ramblings will not make the essay readable or comprehensible.
  • Add personality to your essay. Put in anecdotes, personal bits of information (not necessarily the skeletons in your closet) and another memorabilia. If you enjoy writing the essay, the reader will certainly enjoy reading it.

There are different ways that you can go about defining a term. The simple Webster’s definition will not help you garner the interest of the reader, and in many cases, the definition is less understandable than the term itself. The different methods to make the topic more understandable are listed and explained below:

Analysis: The subject may be separated into different parts, and those parts could be described separately. For example, if the topic is love then the many types of love could be explained individually. The writer may start with platonic love, and then romantic love, unrequited love, and first love.

Comparison: By comparing the subject to something else, it might make it more lucid to the reader. If the topic is Communism, then comparing it to capitalism or socialism, may make the concept of communism much clearer.

Details: providing the reader with the physical and internal attributes, conceptual background and traditional thoughts of the subject is another way of making it more apparent to the reader.

Negation: Pointing out what the subject is not, may make what it is clearer to the reader. An essay on Hinduism, I read started by stating that Hinduism was NOT Christianity, and then began pointing out the dissimilarities between the two religions. This was a very effective beginning.

Examples and Anecdotes: when explaining a very abstract concept, the best way to make your meaning clear is by giving examples. When defining “truth” for instance, a well-placed story highlighting the truthfulness of a person may make a greater impact than a theoretical rambling on what truth could or could not mean.

Origins and Causes: discussing the background of a topic may also help. If you are writing about “fire” such as, then theorizing on how fire may have been discovered will add interest to your essay.

Results, effects, and causes: topics such as “Racism” or “Poverty” cannot be truly discussed without describing the effects that they render on the human psyche. Similarly topics such as “Pollution” and “Global warming” lack poignancy if the results and causes are not mentioned.

Definition essays are the perfect opportunity to let your wit and imagination run wild. Remember to make your essay amusing, poignant, personal and thus memorable to the reader.