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How to Write an Explication Essay

How to Write an Explication Essay: Outline, Ideas And Example


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On this page you’ll find:

  • What is a Explication Essay?
  • How to Write an Explication Essay
  • How to write an explication Essay Outline
  • Key Aspects to Consider when Writing an Explication Essay
  • How to Cite a Poem
  • Call to Action
  • In Summary 

With that out of the way, it’s time to start!

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What is a Explication Essay?

An explication essay is a classic type of essay that requires a close reading of a passage, verse, poem, or excerpt in order to perform a detailed interpretation. Like an analysis essay, an explication essay examines a passage, verse, or sentences drawn from a long literary work, to explain and interpret it extensively. Explication essays are considered mini-essays because they are typically short ranging between one to three pages long.

Guidelines on How to Write an Explication Essay

The secret to writing an effective explication essay is reading the text closely to perform a detailed interpretation of the text. So, passing this type of essay requires the student to pay close attention to punctuation, word choice, use of figurative language, rhythm, and clarity as each of these aspects influence the author’s intent and the message.

After analysis, the writer should be able to interpret the meaning of the text and the author’s intention. Further to this, the writer should be in a position to provide a personal opinion about the chosen literary work. The structure of an explication essay includes;

  • An introduction with a clear thesis statement
  • Body paragraphs that support your thesis statement,
  •  Conclusion.

As a rule of thumb, the body paragraphs should interpret the meaning of the text exhaustively and tell the reader about the author’s intention. If you are not sure how to write an explication essay, this article comprises a step-by-step guide to writing an explication essay:

How to Write an Explication Essay Outline

An explication essay follows the structure of a typical essay, including an introduction with a concise thesis statement, body paragraphs supporting the main idea with examples or quotations from the excerpt, and a conclusion summarizing all the writer’s points. Following is the outline of an explication essay:

  • Introduction: How to Write an Explication Essay Introduction

The introduction should be as catchy and creative as possible in order to capture the reader’s attention. The aim of an introduction is to provide the reader with a background about the literary work being analyzed. An important part of the introduction is a thesis statement stating the main idea of the essay.

Your thesis statement provides the reader with the main subject of your work and forms the overall opinion for the essay. As far as an explication essay is concerned, a good thesis statement is related to the theme of the literary work. It also suggests how the author reveals the theme and suggests the general organization of the entire essay.

For example, if you are writing about a poem, your thesis statement would be the main theme of the poem.

Importantly, the introduction should include important details such as the author’s name and the title of the literary work. Other important details to be mentioned in the introductory paragraph include the main character and a brief explanation of the theme.

  • Body Paragraphs: How to Write an Explication Essay Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs consist of the supporting points of your explication essay. They include;

  • Illustrations
  • Examples,
  • Explanations of the topic sentence.

The topic sentence appears at the beginning of every paragraph and it identifies one key aspect of your thesis statement.

Textual evidence, which follows the topic sentence, includes specific examples from the literary work to reinforce the topic sentence. Textual evidence may include; direct quotations or paraphrased information pulled from the excerpt.

Commentary is another key component of the body paragraphs where you provide your own interpretation to the reader of the meaning and intention of the author. Commentary includes;

  • Interpretations.
  • Insights.
  • Analysis.
  • And reflections of the text.

Each paragraph should have a concluding sentence that ties together the textual evidence and your opinion back to your thesis statement.

  • Conclusion: How to Write an Explication Essay

A good conclusion starts by restating your thesis statement without necessarily repeating the exact words. Overall the conclusion should examine how well the author succeeded in achieving his or her goal. It also reflects on how well the essay relates to the literary work being used. It is at this point where the writer should give an overall statement about the literary work as a whole, male predictions, and connect back to your thesis statement. As a rule of thumb, no new theme should be introduced in the conclusion as this will only confuse the reader and potentially lead to a loss of points for your essay. As a matter of fact, the conclusion should be brief and to the point.

Key Aspects to Consider when Writing an Explication Essay

Several considerations should be made when writing an effective explication essay. For example, key aspects like word choice, symbols, rhythm, clarity, punctuation, and the author’s credibility affect the quality of your explication essay. Following are the specific aspects and how each of them affects your essay:

  • Word Choice

The use of effective language in a way that precisely conveys the message is critical when it comes to explication essays. Basically, the words chosen should tell about the context and the tone of the passage.

When analyzing a poem, for example, the choice of words is essential to the reader. Use of phrases such as “it felt like a dream” creates an impression of disbelief and denial, while ‘’to the best of my knowledge’’ expresses uncertainty. Therefore, the choice of words is critical when analyzing any literary works of literature.

  • Rhythm

Rhythm and beat facilitate a seamless flow of ideas and emotions, thus setting apart works of art. When writing an explication essay, always examine how well the combination of words provides a seamless flow in the passage.

Analyzing the author’s words organization and how well the flow creates a tone is a significant part of effective explication essay writing. Similarly, authors use rhythm in literary works to create and maintain the structure. So, when writing an explication essay, the writer should examine the role of rhythm in a literary work of literature and how successful the author is in applying it.

  • Symbols

When writing an explication essay, you should examine how symbols in the passage affect the theme. For example, the use of symbolic words in poetry may influence the context and the setting. When analyzing a text, always remember that symbolic words can have double meanings;

  • The literal
  • And figurative meaning.

Similarly, the author can use symbols to say a lot with less. Writing an effective explication essay requires you to understand all symbols, their interpretation, and the intention of the author.

  • Punctuation

Always pay close attention to the length of sentences and how punctuation influences the author’s message. For example, short sentences are ideal at the beginning of a paragraph to capture attention. They also work well at the end when the author is summarizing to signal completion.

Long sentences, on the other hand, add rhythm to a piece of writing. Effective essay writing comprises a mixture of both long and short sentences. A good combination of long and short sentences adds interest and drama at the same time, thus grabbing the attention and interest of the reader. Thus, you should examine how well the author succeeds in combining both long and short sentences when writing an explication essay.

  • Author’s Credibility

Knowing the author’s credibility is important as it helps you in examining the reliability and quality of information. For instance, different authors write poems for different reasons. Establishing the author’s credibility beforehand allows you to know their possible biases. Overall, the author’s credibility and reputation give you some sense of confidence about the poem or literary work of literature being analyzed.

  • Clarity

An effective explication essay contains paragraphs and sentences that sound clear and correct. If there is no clarity in your sentences and paragraphs, it does not matter what you are writing, because it will be difficult to understand.

For example, if you are writing about an ambiguous passage, your paper should provide clarity to the reader. Similarly, if you are analyzing a poem that is difficult to understand for many people, your essay should offer clarity, provide an interpretation to the reader, and reveal the intention of the author. The essay should clarify word by word, sentence by sentence, and section by section

  • Sound

Basically, sounds in fiction writing are formatted in italics. Literary authors, particularly poets use sounds widely to reinforce the meaning of their work. Whereas some sounds help the reader to develop some sense of visual image, others enhance the tone and the mood of a literary piece of writing.

When writing an explication essay, you should be able to interpret the sounds used and comment on their effectiveness in reinforcing the literary work. In addition, you should be in a position to identify the sound of words as well as how they are strategically placed in order to determine their effectiveness.

  • Figures of speech

When used in literary works, figures of speech add richness to that particular piece of writing. For example, comparisons provide the reader with a greater understanding as well as the ability to imagine the context under which the author wrote the piece of art. So, when writing an explication essay, you should be able to identify figurative language.

Similarly, you should be in a position to bring out the meaning of any similes, metaphors, and analogies as used by the author.

Finally, you should include a commentary on the author’s ability to effectively use figurative language to enhance the richness of his or her writing piece.

How to Cite a Poem

When writing about a poem, quoting the poem and formatting the quotation properly is important. Including in-text citations directs your readers to the primary source as listed in the works cited section. In order to show the specific location and line where you pulled the information, always include the poet’s last name and the line number.

For example, if the author’s name is Smith and you borrowed the information between lines 19 and 20, the in-text citation would look like this (Smith, Lines19-20).

The in-text citation should be followed by a corresponding bibliography entry in the works cited section. The bibliography entry should contain full publication information of the source where the poem was obtained. One of the importance of citing your poem is to show your due diligence and respect for the accredited author of the poem. It is proof that your source is credible and that you conducted thorough research prior to writing your explication essay.

In addition, the supported arguments and counterarguments in your essay are proof that you have cited your essay correctly.

Call to Action

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