7 Things You Need to Know About Essays on Literature


Although essays on literature have much in common with other kinds of academic papers, our editing service wants to dwell specifically on 7 aspects that are vital for literary studies. You will get to know what style to choose, how to plan an essay and then write it with maximal efficiency. We will even suggest several specific ideas that may help to fight author’s block. With this article, essays on literary topics will stop being a challenge.

1. Literary writing style has nothing to do with the style students need for an essay on literature.

Writing on a literary topic may seem exciting at first because all these non-fiction works come to mind. There everyone can write whatever they want because it is called art. However, we have bad news for novices in academic writing. The style in which authors create their books, poems and stories has nothing to do with college essays. Writing a literary analysis, students cannot resort to epithets, metaphors and other devices that are in constant use in non-fiction circles (by the way, if you are lost in this terminology, later on we will include a quick guide how to master them). If such phrases all the same managed to penetrate into the text, it will be necessary to correct them during proofreading. Check out the next article that teaches our readers how to proofread texts easily: https://royalediting.com/proofreading-grammar-how-to-do-it-easily.

The rules for an essay on literature are pretty much the same that are applied to any other academic papers. In general, stick to the next recommendations:

  • Use no first-person pronouns and other words that convey personal opinion. Include pure facts instead, even if they are taken from the pen of other scientists (you know how to make use of quotations, right?)
  • Avoid ambiguous and lyrical statements, even in an essay about poetry. Do not take the bread out of poets’ mouths – writing about feelings is their natural prerogative.
  • Stay consistent in tenses usage. One cannot start a paper with Past Simple, go on in Present Simple and then return to Past Simple once again. It is especially important to track the use of tenses when retelling passages from novels or stories. Whatever tense you choose (and generally it is recommended to stick with Present tenses), use it across the whole work. Otherwise readers get distracted and tend to lose the main train of thoughts.
  • Prefer the direct word order rather than changing the classic sentence structure.

These are the most basic rules, but whatever else you can find on essay writing, be sure that it applies to papers about literature, too. Of course, one should keep in mind that essay writing is actually not only writing, but editing too. Visit this page to learn how to edit an essay without mistakes: https://royalediting.com/edit-essay-without-mistakes.

2. Plan ahead.

Do not rely on a stream of consciousness in the process of paper writing as it gets extremely easy to forget what you initially wanted to say in the essay. And on the contrary, when an approximate plan is constantly in front of the eyes, moving from idea to idea becomes a smooth trip. The transitions between different thoughts are more obvious, and the thought does not get lost in excessive words.

Planning can be done either on paper or right on the computer, but try to keep it before you all the time. And do not forget to include an introductory part in the plan, as well as conclusions. If you ask our opinion, we find physical plans more practical because they are more interactive. You can draw there, indicating different ideas that pop up while planning. All in all, they may transform into real essay maps. On the other hand, in order to do the same on the computer, students would need special tools – either online or downloadable.

3. There is no essay on literature without a thesis statement.

A thesis statement is the phrase in an essay that reflects the central message of it. Therefore, creating a strong thesis statement directs the whole paper in the right way. However, thesis statements do much more than just announcing the subject; they also convey author’s standpoint on a topic and his or her means of analyzing it.

We hope it is clear that this part of an essay should come first in any text. Make a thesis statement part of introduction. Avoid general ideas that only waste words. For example, instead of saying that Somerset Maugham was a great writer of his time, make point of noticing distinctive features of his works. Thus, one can say that the writer’s expertise in understanding human nature and the simplicity with which he presented even the most extraordinary events still make his novels a center of scientific and readers’ interest. So, start developing ideas right from the beginning of the essay and avoid merely announcing them.

A strong thesis statement will correspond to these standards:

  • It is a complete thought, not just a fragment somewhere in the introduction. By the way, specialists advise to put the thesis statement at the end of the introduction, but not at the beginning of it.
  • It reveals your personal opinion on the subject, but without first-person pronouns.
  • It is specific and focuses only on one aspect of a problem.
  • It should always answer a wh-type of question (normally it would be questions why? or how?)

4. Get familiar with the terms you might need for the work.

Literature, as well as any other area of studies, is abundant in its characteristic terms. It is important not only to understand them in other people’s texts, but to include in your own. Using terminology makes an essay universal. It is as if its author speaks with other scientists in the same language.

However, before starting using terms, one must figure out their meaning. It is easy to get lost in such words as epithets, symbolism, foreshadowing, metaphors, personification and so on. To help you out a bit, our academic editing service online has prepared a quick guide on literary terms:

  • An epithet is a literary attribute: the golden sky.
  • Symbolism is a literary movement is which symbols take an important part in organizing the text. For example, when one says to wave the white flag instead of to surrender, it is a case of using symbols.
  • Foreshadowing implies hinting at future events earlier than they actually take place in a fiction text.
  • A metaphor is a device that describes something or someone by means of attributing to it features that cannot be applied literally: a broken heart.
  • Personification means attributing human characteristics to non-human objects. This device is very popular in fables.

Google up any other unfamiliar terms that you come across, and feel free to use them in essays. Terminology brings a paper to a new quality level, and terms are one of the main features of an academic work.

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5. Avoiding plain text is one of the best strategies.

By plain text we mean the one that lacks quotes, examples, references. Examples are especially important in essays on literary topics. One cannot analyze a novel without quoting it, right? Otherwise you may create an impression that you have not really read the work, but only have gotten familiar with its summary.

When a student knows the text, it is obvious by their way of writing. They always resort to the author’s words directly to substantiate their ideas to theories. We recommend to quote the initial text to any student who is writing an essay on some work of literature.

It becomes a bit different when some writer’s biography, for instance, is in the center of a paper. But then again, one can always find a bunch of articles devoted to famous writers, and it should not be a problem to quote a couple of them. Just remember that academic texts are all about collecting previously gained knowledge on some topic, and adding new information to it, or looking at the same information from a different angle.

6. Support ideas rather than summarize them.

When students resort to simply summarizing ideas, it facilitates the task of writing an essay, but the latter comes out completely wrong. As we have just mentioned, an academic text must reveal some new, previously unknown approaches, while summarizing ideas does not make any contribution to developing a topic.

The best strategy would be to analyze several sources of information, find out what ideas their authors support, and then make your own conclusion as to which one of them is more consistent. Although sometimes this approach means only telling barber’s news – working on already hackneyed topics – if one manages to look at them differently, it is already an achievement. So many men, so many minds.

7. Make an emphasis on conclusion.

Every decent piece of writing must have a no less decent conclusion. Just imagine that somebody was too lazy to read the whole work, so they decided to confine themselves to the introduction and the conclusion. Read these two parts of the essay and answer the next questions:

  • Do the beginning and the end of the essay support the same idea?
  • Do they reflect the most important aspects of the text?
  • Do they reflect your personal opinion?

Each answer should be positive for a great essay. But this is not the end. To find out whether the conclusion meets academic demands, answer 3 questions more:

  • Are the main points of the essay summarized?
  • It is concise? (Note that usually 6-7 sentences are absolutely enough for a conclusion. You do not have to write the paper anew.)
  • Is the language specific? (No “I think” or “I believe” should be found there, as well as in any other part of the work.)

Now that you know how to write an essay on a literary topic, it is time to put your hand to the plough. However, once the essay is ready, do not forget to check whether it is grammatically correct. These articles on our cheap editing and proofreading services for students will be of much help for those who do not want to go through editing on their own: