Students in the Advanced Composition classes discussed a number of rules for good essays. Teacher rules and comments are in italics.
Rules for the title:
The essay has a title.
The title should NOT be a sentence (at the ALC during the test session). Traditionally, titles are not sentences.
Every important word is capitalized in a title. The Important Words in a Title (also, the first word is capitalized) THE IMPORTANT TITLE (block capitals)
Titles should not be confusing or too general or too far from the inside content.
Match title to content.
A good title should symbolize the entire essay (show its spirit to the reader).
A good title is attractive and interesting and might be imaginative.
Good titles are concise (but still understandable).
The title is centered above the essay and two spaces are left beneath it.
Do not repeat the assigned topic as your title as a rule. Make your own.
Moves from the general to the specific in its sentences. General does not mean things like "In human society" or "In modern life," which are called "sweeping."
Contains a thesis statement in the last sentence.
An introduction should be shorter than the body paragraph by about 50% (this rule is broken for very long papers where we might find two paragraph introductions).
It also acts to attract the reader.
Do not summarize your essay inside your introduction (except for very long university papers).
The thesis is a guideline to the content of the body. Often, it is broken into the three parts.
For example, "Each week I walk in the park, spend time on the Internet, make dinner for my family."
Each week, I enjoy three activities. (so no need to name each activity in the thesis)
Thesis is the topic sentence of the essay.
The Body Paragraphs:
These are the same structure as any single paragraph you might write for a class.
These benefit from good transitions given at the beginning of a new body paragraph (body 2 and 3). Called "paragraph hooks." (from Lucille Vaughn Payne's The Lively Art of Writing)
Has the reverse structure of the introduction.
The conclusion only amplifies your ideas, but adds nothing new or contrary to your points.
(February 19, 2004)