One of the rarely encountered types of essays is the informal essay. Education institutions tend to favor formal essays. English classes emphasize the need to adhere to rules of formal essay writing; so much so that students end up not knowing how to write an informal essay. Or, worse, since the students don’t know what an informal essay is, they think lightly of it.
The tendency of some students is to treat an informal essay like a stream of consciousness essay or like a diary entry where they can write anything that comes to mind. An informal essay is not license to neglect rules of grammar and essay writing.
What is an informal essay?
The purpose of an informal essay is to help you organize your thoughts on a specific topic. It encourages students to reflect on a topic or a material in written form, and to express their own points of views, but with less strain in terms of form. With this, we can conclude that an informal essay is just like any other essay, but with less emphasis on academic writing rules. The use of informal language is the main factor that distinguishes the formal and informal essay. However, informal essays still must have a thesis, an introduction, main body, and conclusion, be organized, and most likely, a list of sources.
Since the informal essay allows the writer to use informal language, students are able to use their natural language. When the informal essay topic permits, they can even showcase their sense of humor. There is no need to sound scholarly. Thus, students are able to express their ideas more clearly.
Often, your professor will tell you when an informal essay is expected. Generally speaking, discussion posts and reflection papers are examples of informal essay.
How do you write an informal essay?
1. Research about your topic
As mentioned earlier, the only distinguishing trait of an informal essay is in its language. This means that the content is expected to be well-researched and insightful. Stored knowledge will not suffice. Students are encouraged to research and reflect on what they find. Always conduct sufficient research before writing an informal essay—as you would for any essay.
2. Plan an informal outline
Due to the informal language used in informal essays, the tendency of students is to write their stream of consciousness, and therefore stray from their topic and what they mean to discuss. This style may work for creative non-fiction essays, but definitely not one where you’re trying to convince your reader that you understand what you’re talking about. Some semblance of organization is still needed in an informal essay. Thus, you need two things: a thesis and an outline.
A thesis will help you stay in one direction as you write. It will help you stay focused not just on your topic but also on your main argument.
Avoid jumping between points by preparing an informal essay outline. This outline does not need to be highly detailed, but it should at least lay out the foundation and flow of your informal essay.
Keep in mind that you still need to present a logical argument.
3. Use the 3-part essay format
As if we haven’t said it enough, we’ll say it again: informal essays still adhere to the structures of formal essays. Having an introduction, main body, and conclusion is another way to keep your essay organized. These three parts all serve a purpose in a formal essay, and this is true for informal essays as well.
The introduction lets your reader know what will be tackled by the essay. In the case of an informal essay, it also reveals what the reading experience will be like.
The main body is where you lay down and explicate your arguments or points about the subject matter of your essay.
The conclusion is where you summarize every thing you said in the essay. It ties the informal essay together by reminding the reader what you want them to take away from your work.
4. Show your personality in the Introduction
Given that you don’t lose sight of the main purpose of the introduction, which is to give the reader a background of your topic, you have the freedom to show your character or simply be funny. This is crucial in an informal essay since it gives your essay its own unique tone and character. Likewise, it will signal to your reader how you will handle the topic, and thus what to expect.
5. Use informal language
Now, we arrive at the main feature of the informal essay. We’re sure you already know what informal language is—you use it on the daily. But that does not mean that you can write whatever or however you want. There still has to be some rules. Here is a rough list of what you can and cannot do:
- Contractions. These are not allowed in formal academic essays, but they are welcome in informal essays.
- First person and/or second person. Whereas formal essays restrict the usage of the first and second persons, informal essays encourage them as they give a personal touch to your writing.
- Layman terms. Where appropriate and where it doesn’t sacrifice clarity, you may substitute technical terms with laymen’s terms.
- Do not use slang, especially those that your professor will not understand. Likewise, fillers like “bro” and “you feel me?” are not appropriate here. These would only take up unnecessary space, anyway.
- Don’t let grammatical errors and typing errors slip by as even informal essays need to be understood by your reader. Similarly, your informal essay needs to be professional even if it is informal.
- Write shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs that are significantly less complicated than those found in formal essays. Keep in mind, however, that you need to add some variety. So, pepper in a handful of longer sentences as well, or when needed.
6. Sprinkle in some emotion
Unlike formal essays that aim to be absolutely objective, informal essays allow for some level of subjectivity. You may express how you felt as you go through your reflections. The intensity in which you express your emotions, however, should be gauged based on the professor’s instructions and your perspective. This can also go the other way: you can be funny in your writing.
7. Cite your sources
Just because you are writing an informal essay does not mean that you can skip citing your sources. Well, it depends. If you’re writing a totally personal narrative essay or a reflection paper that does not reference another individual’s work, then by all means, skip the citation. However, if you are writing an essay on a material discussed in class or something similar, don’t ever skip citing your sources. Once again, informal essays are not exempted from the rules of essay writing.
8. Edit and proofread before submission
Writing an informal essay is fun and it’s easy to get lost in the flow. It is human nature to err, and so, slips in grammar and typing errors are inevitable. Don’t let these get past you and undermine the quality of an otherwise well-written informal essay. Run your paper through at least one round of editing before you submit it.
Essay writing help for students
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