Author: Ian McAllister
Classification essays (division essays) are easiest to organize
Start with a brainstorming session as usual. If you have been given the divisions to use, then use them. Otherwise work out sensible ones yourself.
Everything must fit into an overall group. It doesn’t make sense to write a division essay with the sun and a computer program as two classes! Once you have worked out how to do the division into classes, you can write the principle into your introduction.
The main difference between classification essays and compare and contrast essays is that the latter have two classes, and the former usually have three or more classes.
Make sure that your divisions are clear, with no overlap. For instance, if you are classifying nutritional deficiency symptoms there are some symptoms that appear for almost any deficiency. So you would not make your divisions based on those symptoms.
Make a table
Usually you should make a brain map from your brainstorm, but in this case I suggest that you should make a table. If you plan to include it at the top of your essay as an illustration don’t waste time making it look pretty. Remember, a table is not an essay and you don’t get marks for it.
Suppose you want to compare computers for graphic manipulation. You would have different computers along the top of your table, and operating systems down the side, then each cell would have details of speed and ease of use.
Technical or English
Technical essays just want the facts, so start with an overall definition, define the basis of your divisions, name each class, and that completes your introduction. Then you give full descriptions with examples for each cell in your table.
English classification essays get marked on style not on facts, so you should try to make them interesting. The organization will probably be similar to a technical version, but you should consider starting and closing your college essays with the most interesting techniques you can find.
Starting your classification essays
Look at your table and decide whether to work through a column at a time or a line at a time then write your introduction (or leave it till later if you are working on a computer) as described under the last heading.
Body of your essay
Define each category carefully so as to avoid any confusion with similar categories. This is probably the most important step, but you have been accustomed to classifying things all your life, so there should be no traps that you can’t master.
Just remember, the function of classification essays is to clear up any confusion in the mind of the reader about each category. If you are classifying the potato crop and two undesirable potato varieties that are to be weeded out, your classification must remove every possibility that the people doing the weeding (“roguers”) will remove the desirable plants!
Describe each category, and include lots of examples. The difference between example essays and classification essays is small, but if you start describing each category with a definition you should not get the wrong style.
Closing your essay
Back in the days when 50 cents were worth something, there were two trays of live crabs in a market – one at 50 cents/crab and one at a dollar/crab. A man watched a crab climb from the 50 cent tray to the dollar tray. He commented “Only in America can you raise your status by your own effort!”
The conventional way is to summarize and refer to your introduction. This is usually boring. A slightly more entertaining way to finish is to give your opinion about which category is the best. For instance, which computer with which operating system should you buy? Don’t ask me! I haven’t written that classification essay! Click here to get my free book about writing essays, then you can write that essay yourself.