Definition Essay: Clarifications and Recommendations for Writers

Writing a definition essay is a task that requires efforts, precision and careful approach. It implies giving explanations of what a certain term means with detailed description of all the aspects as well as supporting facts and examples. A special term that is widely disputed or abstract needs additional explanations. Some terms are ambiguous, and individual interpretations may differ depending on the personal and cultural background of the writer. Such terms as ‘love’, ‘freedom’, or ‘offence’ cannot be interpreted in the same way by different people.

Main Aspects for Consideration

  1. Definition essays are not the same as copying a definition from some dictionary. It is necessary to try to define a specific concept in a unique way adding some individual interpretation.
  2. It is recommended to take the terms that will be easy to interpret, as the writer should have thorough understanding of their meaning. Another option is to take a term that is somehow related to the writer’s life. Taking a term the meaning of which is vague, the writer will definitely confuse the readers and will fail in providing clear explanations.
  3. A definition essay can provide explanations on the basis of the nature, structure or functions of the concept or term defined. It is also possible to add the explanation of what the term does not mean. Another option is to compare the term with other similar ones and specify the differences between the terms.
  4. It is important to follow a specific structure: introduction with presentation of the chosen term, body paragraphs with extensive explanations, and conclusion with the summarizing part.

Do and Don’t

Do:

  • Do remember the answer to the question “What is a definition essay?” Try not to take too wide meanings of the terms, make the terms narrow. The term ‘fear’, for example, cannot be interpreted fully; however, taking only one type of fear, for instance, ‘panic fear’ it is possible to make the essay concise and specific.
  • Do make the transitions between the ideas and parts of the paper solid and smooth.
  • Do make the definition look unique. It is great if you are creative in defining the term as you can provide non-standard interpretations. Your flexible approach is a benefit.
  • Do careful proofreading of your essay; make sure there are no typos or factual inconsistencies.          

Don’t:

  • Don’t use complicated explanations which might embarrass the readers. Those with ‘X is when’ and ‘Y is where’ are not clear to everybody. Do research and make the explanations sound clear and concise. For instance, the definition “Love is when someone cares’ in inferior to “Love is a feeling of devotion and tenderness to another person.”
  • Don’t forget how to write a definition essay and take only interesting topics, avoiding too well-known or narrow ones.
  • Don’t provide too many details.
  • Don’t be too brief in explanations. Check the word count requirement first.
  • Don’t use the defined term in the explanation to it. The definition of swine flu can contain neither the word ‘swine’ nor ‘flu’.

Typical Mistakes

  • Insufficient analysis of definition essay ideas; as a result, taking too general terms for explanation.
  • Being unclear. Readers should understand which term is being defined.
  • Choosing too plain terms which cannot be interpreted in a unique way.
  • Lack of examples and supporting ideas. If there are no examples, even the best definition makes the readers confused.
  • Copy pasting the definition taken from a dictionary without any interpretation or explanation. Your own ideas are a must in your writing.

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