We can distinguish some common features (features) of the genre, which are usually listed in encyclopedias and dictionaries:
- Small volume
Of course, there are no hard boundaries. The volume of the essay is from three to seven pages of computer text. For example, at the Harvard Business School, essays are often written in only two pages. At the Russian universities, an essay of up to ten pages is allowed, although typed text.
- A specific theme and its subjective interpretation are emphasized.
The theme of the essay is always concrete. An essay cannot contain many topics or ideas (thoughts). It reflects only one option, one thought. And develops it. This is the answer to one question.
- Free composition is an important feature of the essay.
The researchers note that the essay is by its nature arranged so that it does not tolerate any formal framework. It is often built contrary to the laws of logic, subject to arbitrary associations, guided by the principle “Everything is the opposite.”
- Ease of narration.
The author of the essay is important to establish a confidential style of communication with the reader; to be understood, he avoids deliberately complicated, unclear, unnecessarily strict constructions. Researchers note that a good essay can be written only by someone who is fluent in the subject, sees it from various angles and is ready to present the reader with an exhaustive but multifaceted view of the phenomenon that has become the starting point of his reflections.
- The propensity to paradoxes.
The essay is designed to surprise the reader (listener) – this, in the opinion of many researchers, is its compulsory quality. The starting point for the reflections embodied in the essay is often an aphoristic, vivid statement or a paradoxical definition that literally confronts seemingly incontrovertible but mutually exclusive statements, characteristics, theses.
- Internal semantic unity
Perhaps this is one of the paradoxes of the genre. Free in composition, focused on subjectivity, the essay also has an internal semantic unity, i.e. the consistency of key theses and statements, the internal harmony of arguments and associations, the consistency of those judgments in which the personal position of the author is expressed.
- Orientation to spoken language
At the same time, it is necessary to avoid the use of slang in an essay, template phrases, shortening of words, too frivolous tone. The language used in writing the essay must be taken seriously.