Essay Keywords

Definitions of words that help students write different types of essays.
Grades:
3 |
4 |
5 |
6 |
7 |
8 |
9 |
10 |
11 |
Updated on: July 10, 2000

Essay Keywords

Every essay question will generally contain a key word that tells you what kind of answer your teacher wants. Here is a list of some key words commonly found in essay questions:

Analyze

Separate out the parts and show how they relate to the whole. For example, whether you are asked to analyze a poem, story, or play, you will need to look at individual elements such as point of view, setting, characters, plot, imagery or symbolism, and motifs or themes. See how each of these elements contributes to the overall meaning of the work.


Argue

Give reasons for or against. Be sure to use specific examples to back up your points.


Compare and contrast

These words often appear together but not always. If you are asked to compare, show the similarities and the differences. If you are asked to contrast, show only the differences.


Describe

Write about a subject in detail, often so that the reader gets a clear mental picture or image of what you are describing.


Discuss

Write about a subject in detail, giving reasons and examples.


Summarize

State the main ideas briefly, leaving out specific examples.


Join TeacherVision today

Spend more time teaching and less time searching.
Get full, ad-free access to all our learning resources—curated and vetted by teachers
and curriculum specialists—for one-low price.

Sign Up Sign Up

Special Offer: Get 50% off unlimited, ad-free access

Use special offer code 2020 at checkout to get half off a premium membership of full access and unlimited downloads.

Get Started

Select from a monthly, annual, or 2-year membership plan. All plans include a 7-day trial. Cancel anytime.
Learn more about Premium