33

Being given a prompt makes me freeze up immediately.

Let me clarify. I'm talking about high school writing prompts. You know. Those. The ones that ask you to write an essay about what you would change about something. Or the ones that ask you to write about a personal experience. Or the ones that ask you to write about what you want to do. Or the ones that ask you what you would theoretically do in a given situation. Or the ones that ask you to explain why it's important to... you get the point. Those. Here are several examples. The one in bold is the one answered in my sample response.

Is there a book that you feel should be required reading for everyone? Write an essay persuading your audience to read this book.

Some people think of the United States as a nation of “couch potatoes.” Write an essay persuading readers to be more physically active.

As the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Describe a time when you persisted until you achieved your goal.

Describe the purposes of the Internet. Include various viewpoints, including that of users and providers.

We all have things that we are afraid of, and sometimes we find ourselves in situations that force us to face our deepest fears. Tell about a time when you had to face one of your greatest fears.


Here's the first paragraph of the sample "level six" response they provided, which is the "perfect" response according to the textbook.

Every kid in the neighborhood knew the Robinson house and avoided it like a bowl of Brussels sprouts. Mr. Robinson was a notorious crank, the house was always dark and creepy, and his dog was a terror—a mean, fang-toothed creature that looked like she would love to tear you apart.

I can't write these. Well, I hate writing these. They seem so weird and... middle school. The writing is okay, but I hate feeling like I'm writing... fanfiction. Mediocre fanfiction.

So, it's not horrible, but I hate it. Why? Am I too picky? Personal taste? It just feels like a kid's show. Should I stomach it, or try a different approach?

  • 1
    I recommend editing your question so that, instead of (or failing that as well as) showing the writing you hate, you display the criteria for earning level $6$ and why you take issue with them. If your question can be a good fit for this site, it'll be because the challenge is working out how to simultaneously satisfy the mark scheme and your misgivings about the best way to write. – J.G. May 10 at 14:18
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    @amadeus this is not asking for a critique, the exert given is the 'correct answer' and they are asking for advice on how to write more like that when given a prompt. – linksassin May 10 at 15:29
  • I retracted my close vote. @Amadeus 's edit made all the difference. It no longer sounds like a request for a critique. – Cyn May 10 at 16:07
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    +1 for an excellent, important question, because honestly this only gets worse when you apply for college. The essay prompts are largely the same kind of thing, only you’re expected to say more and, of course, a whole lot more is riding on the opinion of whoever ends up reading it. There are good ways to answer these kinds of things, but it is extremely difficult to communicate what those are in general. So far it looks like this site is well living up to its name and mission in handling this question. – KRyan May 10 at 17:34
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    @ChrisSunami Sorry I don't know where that came from...though there had to have been a comment deleted because A's name came up as a tag. – Cyn May 12 at 6:50

11 Answers 11

63

You can and should answer these prompts in your own style and voice. I do have my doubts and concerns about these kinds of tests, but if there is any legitimacy to the grading at all, it won't be based on you writing in the style and voice of the sample. (In other words, you're focusing in on the wrong aspects of the sample.) You should be able to ask for a copy of the scoring rubric --or already have one --but the criteria is probably based largely on command of overall structure, and the technical details (good spelling, grammar, etcetera).

What they want --ideally --is for you to pick something that is interesting to you, and to talk about it in your own way, while demonstrating command of the basics. You don't have to talk about Mr. Robinson's dog. For example, consider this alternate response to the bolded prompt:

One of my greatest fears is having to answer a high-school writing prompt --it makes me freeze up immediately. They seem so weird and middle school. I hate feeling like I'm writing mediocre fanfiction.

In case you didn't recognize it, those are your own words, just presented in a way that responds to the prompt. Despite the fact that I edited your question, it actually reads pretty well, and has a strong voice. I don't see any reason for you to have a problem answering these prompts except that you're trying to put yourself into a box when you don't actually need to. The samples sound weird and fake because they ARE weird and fake (they are probably adults trying to sound like kids), not because that's the criteria for getting a good score.

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    I don't think it's a good idea to write an assignment that could be interpreted as "Teacher, you chose a shitty assignment for us." – David Richerby May 11 at 10:29
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    @DavidRicherby: Obviously, the answer is not specifically suggesting "use the assignment to criticize the assignment" - they're just giving a similar example based on what OP wrote themselves. – V2Blast May 11 at 10:55
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    @DavidRicherby Why not? I think I would get a good laugh out of it. The teachers are aware of the artificiality of these prompts. – Steven Gubkin May 12 at 16:10
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    Teachers like meta answer too, but it's a gamble. – Jylo May 12 at 16:52
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    Anyone who grades essays has seen literally hundreds of essays about how hard it is to write an essay. It's not as clever as it would first seem. – Moyli May 13 at 9:16
12

Answer: To answer these sorts of prompts, particularly in the case where example answers trigger a negative response in you, I recommend the following. 1. Look for the structure of the 'perfect answer' and apply that structure to your writing. 2. Identify the specifics that you dislike, in this case that make a passage sound like fan fiction.

The example answer:

Every kid in the neighborhood knew the Robinson house and avoided it like a bowl of Brussels sprouts. Mr. Robinson was a notorious crank, the house was always dark and creepy, and his dog was a terror—a mean, fang-toothed creature that looked like she would love to tear you apart.

...has all sorts of issues that make me cringe.'Every kid...' Really? Every last one? Even the weird-o chick that lives three doors down who you only see on Tuesday nights when she's prowling the neighborhood with fake blood on her face? 'avoided it like a bowl of Brussels sprouts.' I love Brussels sprouts. LOVE them. 'dark and creepy' ...cliche. 'mean, fang-toothed creature' ... hyperbole. The passage feels amateurish, and fan-fic-like.

But on the other hand, what that paragraph accomplishes is to take a universal point of reference (the Robinson house) and follow it with specifics to support the thesis (greatest fear). This approach is a trick used in writing, including non-fan-fiction writing. Begin with a relatable event and focus in.

As Chris said, embrace your own voice. But look to these sorts of provided answers to find the structure and commonalities. Read analytically, in addition to for enjoyment and creatively.

For what its worth, my voice would be less flowery than the example (no fang-toothed creatures) and would have no particular absolutes, though there'd be specifics.

Like many of my classmates, my greatest fear is going anywhere near the vending machine on the south side of campus. That's where Mr. Vogel, the Biology instructor, insists on stringing up all the dissected fetal pigs each spring, as a morbid joke about what we could expect on the lab final. It's worse on cloudy days, because the formaldehyde really gets strong when it's damp, and even in the fall you can't help but think about those corpses, little piglets, whenever it's raining out. I don't know anyone who goes there alone, especially once April rolls around."

  • 2
    +1 Thanks, this is a strong and useful answer. When different answers address different aspects of a situation, I don't see them as being in competition with each other. – Chris Sunami May 10 at 18:13
  • When did Brussels sprouts lose the final 's' from the Belgian capital? – Michael Harvey May 10 at 22:02
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    @MichaelHarvey Black cat, Brussels sprout, dead donkey. It's hard to pronounce two adjacent identical consonants, so most people elide one of them (sometimes into a glottal stop). With unusual words like "Brussels", it's easy to omit the silent letter when writing. – David Richerby May 11 at 10:32
  • Brussels is the capital of a significant European country, and its name is hardly 'unusual'. – Michael Harvey May 11 at 10:41
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    Henceforth I shall serve Bruxelles meristems at Christmas dinner. – DPT May 12 at 0:17
11

As a teacher, I never look at the examples given as 'correct answers' when we're talking about personal writing topics.

Let me elaborate with two examples:

a) Write an essay about Romeo and Juliet.

Whatever you write, you must include specific content (characters, plot, etc) for you to get a good grade. No amount of excellent writing style will save you. The focus is in the content, not the style (but don't ignore it).

Every school / education ministry will instruct a teacher on how to grade a given essay, but let's pretend I'm back in my training and must devise my own scoring system.

The content will takle about 70% of the final mark. The other 30% will be divided over points related to your writing style and ability such as appropriate organisation in paragraphs, spelling, punctuation, use of connectors, logical flow of ideas, level of technical vocabulary (I've read essays on novels where the student didn't even use the words 'narrator' and 'character' while talking about them) and general vocabulary (using 'and' and 'but' throughout instead of also using the likes of 'as well' and 'however'), sentence structure ('This book is about X. It's an interesting story. The narrator is omniscient. There are four main characters: A, B, C, D.'), and so on.

b) Write an essay about your favourite fruit.

For as long as you're talking about your (supposedly) favourite fruit, almost anything goes.

In this particular case, I'm very... tyranical. If the topic is not respected (say, you talk about the fruit you least like), I do not grade at all. 0%.

For as long as you tackle the topic appropriately, all that matters to me is (in no particular order):

  • spelling and punctuation,

  • logical flow of ideas (this is of extreme importance),

  • use of connectors (you can't get a really good flow of ideas without them)

  • level of vocabulary (a three year old can say apples are good, but going for 'delectable' is either part of a tongue-in-cheek text well sprinkled with equally unlikely words, or it's a sign the student used the thesaurus blindly)

  • sentence structure (the same structure over and over means you're not fluent in your own language)

  • grammar variety (appropriate variety of verb tenses and other grammatical structures - reading an entire essay using only Simple Past makes for a boring read, not to mention it invites the abuse of the same sentence structure, whereas it's so much nicer to find Past Perfects and Continuous where they should be)

Note! When I say I want to see variety, I mean appropriate to what is being said, not over-the-top variety for variety's sake.


We all have things that we are afraid of, and sometimes we find ourselves in situations that force us to face our deepest fears. Tell about a time when you had to face one of your greatest fears.

Here's the first paragraph of the sample "level six" response they provided, which is the "perfect" response according to the textbook.

Every kid in the neighborhood knew the Robinson house and avoided it like a bowl of Brussels sprouts. Mr. Robinson was a notorious crank, the house was always dark and creepy, and his dog was a terror—a mean, fang-toothed creature that looked like she would love to tear you apart.


I'll be so bold as to offer the important factors behind making your answer as perfect as an answer may get:

Make sure you're writing about an actual great fear (not something that you pass off as 'meh' scary) and make sure that you're talking about an event where you (not your bff) faces it. Overcoming the fear is not mentioned, so feel free to mention that time you switched off the night-light to face your fear of the dark but ended up sleeping with your parents because it's was just that bad.

That was the main thing. Organise your thoughts. Jot down events, people involved, feelings, reactions, etc. Picture the whole event inside your head.

Now get to writing. You can go about it in a million ways...

  1. I was six years old and I was so scared of Mr Robinson's dog, I'd break down crying rather than walk past her yard. Can you feel how shameful that was? I definitely could! And yet, not even the shame could make me go through it.

  2. For many years, my greatest fear was Mr Robinson's dog. I have always been short for my age, so for me that animal was not big, it was huge!

  3. It is never easy to face one's greatest fears. I was not an exception. My fear in particular was a specific dog and there was good reason to fear it, for it had tried to bite more than one person.

  4. I'm afraid I've never had a 'deep' fear. If I must be completely honest, my greatest fear is getting a bad mark at school because I'll end up without my phone. Let's be honest, though, that's not much of a fear.

Note! Approach no. 4 is valid, but tricky. Unless a student really has a way with words, I strongly advise them to avoid it.

  • "As a teacher, I never look at the examples given as 'correct answers' " You're an English teacher? And you use passive voice? :) – Acccumulation May 10 at 22:41
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    @Acccumulation: I'm a teacher of Portuguese in Portugal. We don't hate the passive voice. ;) Anyway, I also teach English and mark English essays, but I prefer to teach my students when it's ok to use it and when it isn't. It comes naturally for Portuguese students because of how we usually use it in our own language. – Sara Costa May 10 at 23:06
  • @Acccumulation I assume your quibble is with "given". Since she's the one looking (or not) and the answers are supplied by an unspecified other person how do you think that should have been expressed? – Bloke Down The Pub May 11 at 18:43
  • @BlokeDownThePub I think that who other person is is a relevant issue. Are they given by Sara Costa? By their department? A state agency? – Acccumulation May 11 at 20:53
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    @ToddWilcox: I always tell students they're free to invent stuff as some topics may touch on sensitive points that kids would rather not make public and rightfully so. As for respecting the topics, kids these days have too much trouble identifying what a question requests of them and will take off in sometimes surprising directions ("my favourite shop" once became "my parents' shopping habits"). Failing to answer the requested question will cause lots of heartbreak in National Exams. I prefer to hand over a couple of zeros at the beginning of a school year, ... – Sara Costa May 12 at 0:40
6

I used to do exactly the same thing. In jr. high school, I would routinely turn in blank sheets when faced with this kind of assignment.

My solution was to get over myself. It took a long time. I can tell by your question that you have very high standards for yourself. I do too, and trust me, it doesn't do us any favors to demand total perfection of ourselves. Frankly, it doesn't do me any favors to hold other people to the same unreasonable standard I hold myself to. That's the path to the dark side. I can tell by your question that you are actually very good at communicating in a written form. I hate being bad at something I think I can do well, and so do you. It's really frustrating!

I didn't write perfectly. My writing wasn't even mediocre at first. It was really terrible. I turned in garbage, but it was a better grade than a zero. Sometimes, I wrote off-topic, and some teachers didn't mind what I wrote, as long as I wrote something. Eventually, I got better at it. I never became excellent at prompt writing, but it helped me develop my skills in structure. I didn't even realize this until late in college, because I always assumed that I wasn't good at English. I needed a different perspective to learn that prompt writing is just an exercise, and there are many other uses of writing.

TL:DR;

Get over yourself and write bad fanfic. It will help you become a better writer and a better person.

  • THis is going to be excruciating, but I will try. I just feel so annoyed when I read my own writing and feel that it's boring. It's like writing a joke on Twitter and then realizing the delivery would be slightly better if you removed one bit of punctuation – Carlos Cienfuegos May 10 at 17:58
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    @CarlosCienfuegos - "There is a vitality, a life force, an energy... that is translated through you... and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist... It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business... to keep the channel open... No artist is pleased... There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others." - Martha Graham, as quoted by Agnes DeMille – Chris Sunami May 10 at 18:20
  • "Get over yourself and write bad fanfic. It will help you become a better writer and a better person." this is so very true! – sesquipedalias May 12 at 11:23
6

Good writing isn't good because of the specific words or style used. Good writing is good because it communicates an idea clearly, in a well-organized structure, and with a style that is pleasant to read (whatever form that takes). I still freeze up and feel self-conscious when I sit down to write myself. How do I know the words I'm picking aren't awkward? At some point, though, the individual words don't matter as long as the right ideas are being communicated.

Personally, I've found that when I know what I want to say, figuring out how to say it is much easier. I usually do quite a bit of prewriting, and once I've organized my thoughts, the words and sentences to build those thoughts up come much more easily to me. So my advice is, when you sit down to write an essay, first take a minute or two to think about what you're going to write. Decide what you main thesis is, what the main arguments or points will be, and how it will all be organized. As tired and cliche as it is, the 5-paragraph essay is a perfectly fine way to go about this, and if it works, you might as well take it. Your question is another example of a strong structure. It's more ad-hoc, but each paragraph introduces an idea that provides more context for the next one until you've built up enough that asking your main question makes sense.

Once you've done this, just write. From your question, I can tell you have a strong command over your own personal style. That's all that matters. Don't make mistakes that produce an unweildly style - don't use imprecise word choice or awkward sentence structures, for example. But if you avoid those clear technical issues, there are a million ways of saying the same thing, and they're all equally viable.


For the GRE, the last standardized test I had to take, one of my prompts asked me to read a persuasive essay and then discuss some of the assumptions the author was implicitly making. My first paragraph was literally a numbered list of the assumptions I thought of! It was not poetic or artistic in the slightest. I ended up getting a 5 out of 6 on that prompt. I think the lack of personality in my opening is part of what kept me from a perfect score, but hot dang if it didn't communicate my ideas concisely and clearly.


Here are my thoughts on the example opening paragraph in your question:

Every kid in the neighborhood knew the Robinson house and avoided it like a bowl of Brussels sprouts. Mr. Robinson was a notorious crank, the house was always dark and creepy, and his dog was a terror—a mean, fang-toothed creature that looked like she would love to tear you apart.

I think the reason this example is used as the opening is because it contains no grammatical errors, it clearly telegraphs what the rest of the essay will be about, and it is at least more interesting to read than the bazillions of nearly-identical, merely OK openings that the readers will be sick and tired of after a half an hour of grading. That's really it. I agree with you that the style used isn't my cup of tea, but it is technically sound writing.

I'd like to note that if the rest of the essay kept on describing Mr. Robinson's scary dog without ever getting to how the writer overcame their fear of it, then it wouldn't matter how poetic or flowery the rest of the essay was. It wouldn't even matter if it were grammatically correct. It would receive a poor grade. On the other hand, like my last essay, an opening that is boring and phones it in but gets right to the point, is grammatically correct, and comes before an essay that clearly answers the prompt will get at least a decent score.

4

Remember that the prompts are basically an excuse for you to practice writing.

Of course, it's much easier to write well if it's about something about which you have an opinion, while those prompts are usually about things you don't care much about.

There are two good ways around it, and both use mainly one of the two aspects of oratory: eloquence and rhetoric. You'll recognize them as well-worn politicians' tools.

  1. The eloquent non-answer answer: “I'm glad you want to know about my thoughts on the municipal trash initiative ballot. It's very important for our youth to go out and be politically active in our community, as it will ensure that our future generations will contribute to the good governance of this county.”

It starts by repeating the key words of the question (or prompt), segueing into what the author actually wants to talk about. The way to pull it off is with a forceful, straight faced, eloquent delivery, leaving the reader with the impression that it addressed the topic, unless they're paying attention to sleight of hand.

This only works if your writing teacher is looking for you to practice more form than substance, and the wrong choice if they're looking for a coherent logical progression of thoughts.

  1. The rhetorical stance: “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.”

If you're tasked with explaining, defending, or opining on something you know nothing about, have no opinion of, or have the opposite opinion of, then you can: 1) Frame it as a question for yourself: "If I had an opinion about this, what could it be?", or b) Pick the opposing stance and run with it, as an exercise of sober devil's advocacy, or taking it to the sarcastic extreme, like Jonathan Swift's quote above, or a politician adopting the positions of their lobbyist.

The rhetorical option is usually the most flexible and potentially fun, as it's about the what if, a lot more mutable than the what is.

2

One good strategy for standardized test essays is to think of topics that you can write strong essays on in advance, rather than trying to answer a given question directly. For instance, for each of these points, think of something you could write a short essay on:

  • a time you overcame a difficulty
  • an important historical figure or event
  • a favorite book or movie
  • a problem you see in the world today

An essay describing a difficulty you overcame could be modified to fit two of the questions you cited:

As the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Describe a time when you persisted until you achieved your goal.

We all have things that we are afraid of, and sometimes we find ourselves in situations that force us to face our deepest fears. Tell about a time when you had to face one of your greatest fears.

This approach allows you to go into the exam with the essays already prepared in your mind, making it much easier to respond to the prompts. Writing about the topics you feel most strongly about and have thought about in advance will make your essays noticeably better.

(This approach also works for college application essays which often ask similar questions.)

0

Make stuff up.

Be creative. Have fun with it.

Is there a book that you feel should be required reading for everyone? Write an essay persuading your audience to read this book.

Create a fictitious book about whatever you want it to be about.

Some people think of the United States as a nation of “couch potatoes.” Write an essay persuading readers to be more physically active.

Come up with completely ridiculous physical activities. Beating up neighborhood gang members with a golf club, stealing shopping carts, getting out and moshing more, etc.

As the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Describe a time when you persisted until you achieved your goal.

Describe how your first attempt to go to the moon wasn't successful, but after much persistence you finally made it. Only to accidentally get stranded for a year.

Describe the purposes of the Internet. Include various viewpoints, including that of users and providers.

Push the envelope by expressing that much of the internet is used gratuitously to watch porn and buy illegal drugs.

We all have things that we are afraid of, and sometimes we find ourselves in situations that force us to face our deepest fears. Tell about a time when you had to face one of your greatest fears.

Describe being afraid of writing prompts that don't seem to give you enough to work with and seem pointless.

Some notes on writing in general & in highschool:

Fans of literature usually have a decent enough sense of humor. Always write in your own voice and take liberties with what the prompt could be interpreted to mean. If you write about things you enjoy you will write more proficiently, and this will be apparent to the reader.

  • 3
    -1 The OP isn't asking about writing for a creative writing class, but specifically for a standardized test. For a test, it's best to go in knowing a safe strategy that will let you write an essay you can be confident will score well every time. Experimenting and trying to be as creative as possible has its place, but not during a test. – Kevin May 10 at 20:49
  • Edited to reflect your correct point about this not being specifically for creative writing. This is still what I would recommend. I have also taken many standardized tests with Essays, and passed with flying colors utilizing the techniques listed above. – App-Devon May 10 at 21:34
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    An essay that tried to persuade the reader to beat up anyone with golf clubs would almost certainly get you in trouble where I went to high school. Any of the other suggestions are liable to get you a zero, depending on the teacher. – Laurel May 10 at 22:18
  • It is making use of sarcasm and hyperbole as literary devices. It could be even more tongue in cheek if you mention using "A Modest Proposal" (a pamphlet about eating children to solve hunger problems taught where I went to highschool) to assault rich golfers. These questions are very loose and a talented writer could go any number of ways with it effectively with varying levels of subtlety or outright denying of expectations. Eloquence will allow you to be granted a great deal of levity provided you back it up with skill. – App-Devon May 10 at 23:09
0

I suggest that, instead of following the instructions exactly as written, that you write the essay to a particular imaginary person who will be grading the test.

For a standardized high-school essay test, the essay will probably be checked by a piece of software for so-called "errors." A human reader, probably an underpaid teacher with a Master's in English from a local university, and having 700 essays to read, will grade your essay, taking into account the software score.

Software can't grade the quality of human-written essays for shit, so minimally try to avoid the kind of writing style that software considers to be an error; that would be, avoid "ain't" and "y'all" and other stylistic so-called "errors" like these.

Remember that your essay will not be necessarily graded by the smartest reader in the world, nor the most stupid. This will be an Everyman type teacher, with a good grounding in grammar and spelling, but without the writing chops to make it as a professional writer. So, avoid errors first, but always try to write an essay To This Person. Convince them that what you're saying is how you actually feel, and develop an attitude and outlook they will likely sympathize with.

If you take an outlandish or wild position in your paper, you will be marked down for it. Human graders of this type can't tell the difference between "poorly written" and "something I personally disagree with."

On another note: why are you answering high-school essay prompts anyway?

0

I very much dislike these prompts too, as I am very bad at writing personally. When asked to write prompts like this, I often instead of writing about actual experience, I act as if I am writing as the Generic American. I write in broad general terms, thinking as generically as I possible can. I usually use facts and logic instead of experience to explain my statements, usually write in second person (as to separate myself from the text as much as possible), and as I said, try to think in a generic sense.

For example, let's look at your first example prompt

Is there a book that you feel should be required reading for everyone? Write an essay persuading your audience to read this book.

For this, my answer would be ungodly generic. My school essays, as I submit them, for questions like this would read something like:

I believe that all books are important. Books not only act as a record of the past, a mirror of the present, but also a glimpse into our future. I believe that requiring the reading of any critical books of the past should be required, as it tells what the world once was, tells why the world is how it is now, and also prevents the world from making the same mistakes.

That response was very generic, and I only slightly answered the question. However, while it could just be my teachers, even my most strict teachers usually accept an answer phrased like that as valid. Your last example is the easiest to answer, after all, you can explain it in a technical sense. What the internet is as a system, a collection of information exchange nodes relaying signals between relay centres to distribute content across vast distances quickly.

Some people find these prompts really easy, and others like myself can't seem to write them. I've had a few cases where in class, I legitimately couldn't write an essay because I simply didn't believe it and couldn't figure out how to fake an answer. I'm not good at writing about myself. Ask me to write about facts using data, and I'm good. Ask me to write about subjective information that really doesn't exist except within my own mind, and I'm going to be lost.

I don't think there is any easy way to become 'good' at this. You just learn to deal with it when you can, and try and work with your teacher if you're unable to (after all, even though the AES seems to forget this, not everybody has the same strengths - different people are good and different things, and different people are absolutely horrible at others).

-2

If you're feeling spiteful or subversive, you could try genie-twisting the prompt to write something that technically satisfies the prompt, but in an unconventional or unexpected way.

Example by maximum-overboner:

in primary school we had a creative writing assignment where we had to ‘write about a character in a new, strange situation!’ and i wrote about a squid that was somehow teleported from the ocean to the forest floor and slowly choked to death for two pages and i’ll never quite forget my teacher’s face because it turns out she wanted ‘this new school is scary, i hope i make friends!’ and not a graphic description of a squid dying

This example was for creative writing, but the same idea could be applied to essays and expository pieces of writing. Satire can be a valid approach to writing something.

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