Tips for drafting Essay 1: Illustration

Illustration is writing that uses examples to support a point or a generalization.

Basics of a good illustration essay:

• It has a point.

• It gives specific examples that show, explain, or prove that point.

• It gives details to support the examples.

• It uses enough examples to get the point across to the reader.

The point: Luma’s personality/character.

Specific examples: taken from the book to show/explain her character.

In illustration, the main idea is the message you want your readers to receive and understand.

The topic sentence in your body paragraphs connect back to your main idea (thesis).

Topic + Main idea = topic sentence

Aspect/quality Luma’s personality/character

Think critically as you write your first draft. Ask yourself:

Does your introduction include a thesis statement that clearly states your essay’s main idea?

Do you have enough evidence – fully developed examples – to support your thesis?

Is each of your examples clearly related to your main idea (thesis)?

If your paragraph feels “thin,” can you find new examples to build it up?

Does your conclusion include a summary statement that reinforces your essay’s thesis?

Do you include transitions that move readers from one example to the next?

Below are some common issues I saw in student thesis statements and outlines:

• Thesis statement is too vague. Don’t be afraid of being specific in your thesis statement about Luma’s personality and character.

Name the qualities that are the most important in describing who Luma is as a person.

Many of you are using a “forecasting” thesis statement, which is great, because this is the type of essay that calls out for a forecasting thesis statement, where you name the qualities/aspects of Luma’s personality that you will be discussing in your essay.

What is a “forecasting thesis”?

A forecasting statement introduces the reader to the points in your thesis, reducing each point to one or two words.

Choose the major ones that will help your reader understand your topic (Luma’s personality and character).

I would suggest placing a forecasting statement at the end of the introduction. That placement allows you to make the transition naturally from the introduction to the first major point.

Make sure that your essay’s organization lines up with the qualities you name in your forecasting thesis statement.

And because a forecasting thesis statement is listing three our four qualities, you have to make sure that those items are parallel in grammatical structure.

If I have written “faulty parallelism” next to your thesis statement – this is what I mean:

Parallelism is a stylistic device of placing equal ideas in equivalent grammatical constructions. When these ideas are not grammatically parallel, then you have a faulty parallelism.

Use the same grammatical form for all items in a series or a list – all nouns, all gerunds, all prepositional phrases, and so on.

Faulty: Please leave your name, your number, and you should also leave a message.

Parallel: Please leave your name, your number, and your message.

Faulty: Making the team was one thing, but it was very difficult to stay on it.

Parallel: Making the team was one thing, but staying on it was another.

• Think about your essay’s organization.

I’d recommend using a least- to most-important example structure.

Is there a quality in Luma’s character that is dominant or the most important? Save that for the last part of your essay.

Some of your place that most important quality in the first or second body paragraph. I’d move it to your final example.

• Quoting dialogue from the book:

Remember to place spoken dialogue from the book that you are quoting in single quotation marks.

Student sentence:

For Luma, her financial situation changes quickly, as she explains in Chapter One: “‘I went from being able to walk into any restaurant and store in the United States and buy whatever I wanted, to having nothing’” (23).

Remember to use in-text citations not only when you are quoting directly from the book, but when you summarize or paraphrase ideas or examples from the book.

• Remember to use present tense to discuss actions and thoughts presented in the book (In Chapter One, St. John describes Luma’s childhood …)

Use past tense when when writing about events that take place in the past (Luma fell out of favor with her father when …), but when you discuss the points raised in the book, use present tense.


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