Basic Dos And Don’ts Of Writing An Extended Definition Essay


What may seem one of the most deceivingly difficult assignments to write, the extended definition essay requires students to compose an academic and slightly personal definition of a single word. By nature, the assignment must be thorough in that you need to consider all of a word’s concrete as well as implied meanings. Here are the basic dos and don’ts of writing an extended definition essay:

The Dos

  • Do choose a word that is debatable in some way
  • Choose something that is abstract or complex so your definition essay is debatable. Subjectivity is important in writing a paper that others will be interested in reading because it allows you to define something in which they are familiar but may hold a different understanding of. For instance, “home” is a better word than “house” because we each hold personal views of what defines a home.

  • Do choose a word that you are comfortable with
  • The word you choose should be something about which you have some pretty extensive knowledge about and are comfortable discussing. For instance, the word “honor” might have a special meaning to you because you know people who have served in the military, while at the same time “love” might not be too familiar to you because you haven’t experienced whatever it is it means.

  • Do structure your work in an outline before starting
  • Finally, make sure you take a few moments to create an outline so that you structure your paper before starting your draft. Definition essays can get really messy, really fast. So it’s a good idea to cluster your ideas and arrange them in a logical order so the reader understands your thought process.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t choose a word that is simple or concrete word
  • Table. Grass. Tree. All of these words are simple and concrete, which means you aren’t going to have a lot to write about after about three or four lines. And anything you do say will be uninteresting and not much more informative than what someone would find in the dictionary.

  • Don’t choose a word that doesn’t leave room for debate
  • If you choose a word that is objective by nature – such as chair or rock – you’re going to run into a lot of trouble if you provide a definition and simply can’t encourage debate from your peers. You’re not being asked to provide a simple definition (dictionaries have already done this), your asked to present an idea on a word that might have different meanings to different people.

  • Don’t choose a word that you don’t understand
  • Finally, you’re going to make the assignment too difficult to complete if you choose a term that you simply don’t understand to begin with. You won’t get extra points for choosing an overly academic or bizarre word that no one will recognize. Stick with something you know.

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