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How to Write an Hourglass-Shaped Essay or Speech

Mr. Klingensmith's Online Writing Guide

An easy to understand Online Writing Guide for beginning writers.  Here you will find a list of various writing models, general tips and hints to help guide you to writing success.

The big idea

In an hourglass-shaped persuasive essay or speech, you convince the reader (or the listener) of a particular point of view.  You do it with clear, well-reasoned arguments.  NOTE: remember that this is only CALLED an hourglass-shaped essay because of the way the ideas are set up.  You do NOT write in the shape of an hourglass!

Before you begin

Be sure you know how to formulate an argument and how to write a thesis and a funnel-shaped introduction.

How to do it

  1. Begin your presentation with a funnel-shaped introduction to draw the reader or listener (and from now on, we'll just say "reader") into your piece.  By the end of the introduction, the reader should have a clear idea of the point you are trying to prove, and, best of all, a hint of the main ideas you plan to use to prove it.
  2. The next paragraph of your essay should be the one in which you squash the opposition.  You should put it here so that you get any doubts the reader has about your position out of the way immediately, and his or her mind is then open to hear all your own wonderful arguments.
  3. The next big chunk of your essay consists of one or more well-developed arguments that prove your point.  Make each argument into a nicely-constructed paragraph.  Stay on the topic and be sure to address the subtopics you mention in your thesis.
  4. Finally, wrap your essay up with a nice conclusion.  Briefly restate your thesis and your main arguments so as to pound them firmly into the reader's brain.  Lead the reader gently out of your essay with some more general observations about the topic.

An example

The Case for School Uniforms

Being a kid is hard; don't let anyone tell you differently.  If you ask 100 adults, you'll find that most of them wouldn't want to live through adolescence over again.  Why not?  There are too many things to worry about: friends, grades, why your P.E.  teacher hates you, what to do when you grow up--the list is endless.  That's why it would be doing most kids a favor to give them one less major concern in life.  Because it would give them fewer worries, and because it would save their parents money, students in public school should have to wear uniforms.

It may be true that forcing public school students to wear uniforms might take away some of their individuality and freedom of expression, but that is only for the length of the school day.  They still have sixteen hours a day in which they can wear anything they want and express themselves to their hearts' content.

As mentioned already, public school uniforms will dramatically cut down on the tension students feel on a daily basis.  Whether it makes sense or not, everyone wants to wear the latest in designer tee-shirts and jeans.  Look around your typical middle-school campus, and you'll notice that everyone is wearing the same thing.  Twenty years ago it was Jordache; last year it was Old Navy; now it's Abercrombie and Fitch.  They're just shirts and pants--not worth getting all riled up about--but don't try to convince kids of that.  If you take all that away and force everyone to wear the same thing, nobody will feel left out or unloved for missing the latest expensive fashion trend.  If they're not worrying about clothes, they'll be able to reroute a lot more brain power toward school.

Saving their parents money would be another advantage to forcing public school students to wear uniforms.  Designer clothes cost a lot of money, and a school could specify that the uniform would be something like generic khakis and a white polo shirt.  These clothes could be bought inexpensively; even buying more than one set would probably be a substantial savings for a family.  Another money-saver would be the fact that a kid's expensive clothes would probably last a lot longer than usual, because they would only get worn after school and on weekends.  That would save wear and tear, and the designer duds would have to be replaced less frequently.  Both these things could probably save parents plenty of money in the long run.

Forcing public school students to wear uniforms would obviously have many benefits, including saving a family money and reducing frustration over not having the "right" clothes.  Kids probably won't like this idea initially, but they would soon get used to it.  Even if they never grow to love their uniforms, it might help them to remember one helpful piece of advice from long, long ago: whatever does not destroy them only makes them stronger.

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Copyright 1996-2004 by Michael Klingensmith