College is complicated. Between classes, paying bills, and learning how to adult, students have a lot to deal with. And when you’re given that dreaded essay assignment, things get that much harder. However, college essays are actually very little to worry about.
In my three years of studying English literature, I have gotten pretty good at efficiently writing an essay, and—worst-case-scenario—writing one only takes me about three hours in total. Granted, I don’t usually do it all at once, simply because my ADHD brain can’t handle doing laundry for more than thirty minutes at a time, let alone a college-level paper, but an average student can very easily do it all at once with my method.
And now, today I’d like to share with you my secrets for how to write a college-level essay in three hours or less.
This tutorial will last through three blog posts, so stay tuned on Monday for part 2. (If it’s already past Monday, a link to part 2 will be here.)
The Enthymeme: Syllogism at Its Finest
I’m sure you’re currently wondering something along the lines of: “What the heck is an enthymeme?” Well, not to worry, dear reader. It’s actually quite simple.
In Ancient Greece, the concept of Philosophy and the study of “How to Argue” was first beginning to form. Scholars like Plato and Aristotle were making great claims for how to argue, and these claims still hold true today. One of them, come up with by Aristotle, has become known as a “Syllogism.” It is a set of three true facts that combines a general statement (major premise) with a specific statement (minor premise) to make a conclusion. The most famous example of a syllogism is Aristotle’s original example:
“All men are mortal.” (Major Premise)
“Socrates is a man.” (Minor Premise)
“Therefore, Socrates is mortal.” (Conclusion)
For the purpose of this post thread, we’ll be using the above syllogism to make our essay.
Now, if you think way back to grade school when you first started learning essays, you’ll remember that very basic topic sentence you learned. It was the essay’s entire argument—the thing you were trying to prove.
If we look back at a syllogism, the topic sentence is in fact the conclusion statement. In a grade school paper, you would be trying to prove the statement: “Socrates is mortal.” Your body paragraphs would consist of various ways to prove that Socrates is mortal: Socrates can die, or Socrates’ body deteriorates, to name a few. However, this topic sentence makes your entire paper very broad, to the point where you’re arguing things that would seem pretty obvious to us. It doesn’t make for a very concrete paper.
That’s why the enthymeme is the true secret to writing a solid paper. The best stories have perfect premises, and the enthymeme is the Harry Potter of topic sentences.
How to Make an Enthymeme
Step 1: Form a syllogism. For the purpose of understanding, we will simply be using Aristotle’s syllogism from above. (Note: there are only three rules to a syllogism, and ALL MUST BE FOLLOWED.)
- All statements MUST be true.
- The Minor Premise and the Conclusion MUST ALWAYS have the same subject (Socrates).
- The Major Premise MUST be the following formula, but with all specific subjects (Socrates) removed: All/anything [Minor Premise] is [Conclusion]. (i.e. “All men are mortal.”)
Step 2: Separate the parts. An enthymeme consists of two parts, which can be located throughout the syllogism:
- Claim: what you are trying to prove (aka the grade school topic sentence). In our syllogism, the claim would be: “Socrates is mortal.” The claim is always the Conclusion statement of the syllogism.
- Reason: Why your claim is true. In all cases of an enthymeme, the reason is the Minor Premise from the syllogism, and in the case of our syllogism, the reason is: “Socrates is a man.” (Note: this is what our body paragraphs will be seeking to prove. Not the claim. This.)
Step 3: Merge with the word “because.” The anatomy of an enthymeme is: “Claim because Reason.” In the case of our enthymeme, our claim and reason combine to make: “Socrates is mortal because he is a man.”
Checking if Your Enthymeme Makes Sense
The tricky thing about an enthymeme is that you are letting your entire paper rest on whether or not the enthymeme works. However, it is very easy to check. (Note: this step can also be used to form the initial syllogism.) This is where the Major Premise comes in. The Major Premise (also known as the Unstated Assumption) must be a statement that any sane man would agree with, regardless of age, race, gender, or political opinion.
As I said above in the rules of a syllogism, the Major Premise must be the Minor Premise and the Conclusion, with the Subject replaced with a general word like “all” or “anything.” If we take the Minor Premise (Socrates is a man), and add it to the Conclusion (Socrates is mortal), but replace the subject (Socrates) with the general word “all,” then fix a bit of grammar, our Major Premise is: All men are mortal. Exactly as it was in the syllogism.
The question you next have to ask yourself is: Is this true? Can any sane man, woman, child, democrat, republican, etc. agree with this? If your answer is no, then you need to rework your enthymeme until the answer is yes. Once your answer is yes, then your enthymeme is ready to go!
Your Enthymeme Is Ready!
I know that looking back, this looks too complicated. You just want to get started on that silly essay! But I promise you: taking the 10 to 20 minutes to make your enthymeme can cut your essay writing time in HALF! I’d say that’s well worth the short time to form it!
A Brief Recap
Here are all the pieces we used to create our enthymeme today, placed side-by-side:
- Major Premise (Syllogism): “All men are mortal.” [What any sane man can agree with]
- Minor Premise (Syllogism): “Socrates is a man.” [What your body paragraphs are trying to prove]
- Conclusion (Syllogism): “Socrates is mortal.” [The claim that you are ultimately trying to prove in your essay]
- Enthymeme: “Socrates is mortal because he is a man.” [The perfect topic sentence that you will include in your essay]
On Monday, Part Two of this blog thread will cover how to use your enthymeme to form the perfect outline, and on Friday, Part Three will show you how all this preparation will allow you to write a 1,000-word essay in an hour!
Thanks, and I will see you on Monday,