write a definition essay


For your essay, choose from one of the following, which are found in or are ideas of Zinsser’s “The Right to Fail”. The essay is available via the “link” at the bottom of this prompt.

  • Dropout
  • Fink
  • Dreamers
  • Mavericks
  • Failure
  • Successful

The essay needs to appeal to the reader with new and interesting information.

You need a logical plan: clearly cue the reader with strategies such as a clear thesis and transitions.

You need clear definitions. Define key terms that are associated with the topic.

Careful use of at least two sources, plus your own experience, and observation. Sources are be used and must be documented in correct MLA 8 standard format.

You may or may not choose to use the Zinsser essay as a source and relate your definition to his ideas.

The Definition Essay’s Structure

  • Introduction‒ This should include a generic definition of your term or even an attention grabbing fact. You may want to consider a dictionary definition, which must be documented. Then, you may give a contradiction to your term to contrast it. End your introduction by giving a direct, explicit assertion, explaining the main message of the essay. You may write this in the form a forecasting statement (thesis statement that forecasts the supporting ideas/subtopics).
  • Body‒ In your essay’s body, you need to provide several different points that construct the definition. You may provide background information, but it is not necessary. Each point should have its own paragraph
    • Point 1: This will include the first component of your definition. You will need to give your analysis/details for how the example substantiates your definition.
    • Point 2: This is the second aspect of your term. Once again, give an example and provide analysis/details.
    • Point 3 and additional points: Continue with examples and analysis/details until you are satisfied that you have completely developed your definition.

You may use any of the techniques we have talked about this semester, including but not limited to description, narration, cause and effect, comparison and contrast, and exemplification.

  • Conclusion‒ Your conclusion should give an overview of the points. The attention grabber at the beginning of your essay should be brought back in to tie everything neatly together. (Refer to the “Cannibalism” essay)


You must document sources correctly or your paper will receive an F (Zero).

The paper must follow correct MLA format or it will receive an F (Zero).

The paper must be a minimum of 500 words or it will receive an F (Zero).

Proofread closely. You will lose points if you have too many basic writing errors. (Three basic writing errors equal a D, and five basic writing errors equal an F.

Write in third person.

Bring a typed copy for peer editing on Wednesday, April 4, or you are absent. Some of you cannot afford to miss days.

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