The Definition Essay The Definition Essay allows a writer to put her stamp on the meaning of certain words, his or terms, ideas, etc Sometimes you will want to define a word term, or idea to someone who doesn’t know what that word, term, or idea means For that purpose you will want to write a Formal Definition, or the kind of definition one might find in dictionary. More often, however, and for this class, you will be asked to define something in a subjective way. That is, you will be asked lo define a word, term, or idea from your own perspective, or from the perspective of your family, your friends, your group, a specific group, etc. This is called an Extended Definition. Use this mode of writing when a word, term, or idea doesn’t have one (and only one) specific and limited meaning, but rather can be defined in a number of different ways. What works well for writing extended definitions? Specialized terms or discipline-specific jargon: For instance, someone unfamiliar with basketball might need to have “moving pick” defined for them. Abstract ideas: There are many possible definitions for terms such as truth, beauty, love, success, etc. How would you (or your family, your friend(s), etc) define such a term? Judgments: For instance, how you would define the best marriage, the worst date, or the wisest decision, would likely be different from how others might define these things. Controversial terms; Not everyone agrees what constitutes a terrorist, or patriotism, or masculinity, for example. Slang or Vernacular specific to a place and/or time and/or culture. Words, terms, or ideas that have a particular meaning vis-a-vis other words, terms or ideas: For instance, what does freedom or power mean, vis-a-vis a committed relationship? Sometimes it can be fun to define something by what it is not. Our understanding of words, ideas, and terms often comes as a result of comparing them with their opposites. (A good relationship is not…) Try (usually in your introduction) to give your readers a good reason to want to read your particular definition why should they care about how you are defining this word, term, or idea? In your conclusion, review the main points of your definition, and perhaps talk about why this definition matters to you. Leave the reader with something “snappy” to win him/her over to your way of seeing things.
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