For my English class, we had to write an essay on The Prince and while I thought that my essay had a good structure and sufficiently proved my claim, my professor thought it read like a "high school essay".

I understand that it's better to build a narrative in your essay and a line of reasoning that logically follows one after the other, but is the traditional high school essay always bad? For some theses, I think it's ok to prove them by presenting the various types of evidence (with a defined structure) without having them necessarily build on one another.

Like if I wanted to prove that a person had murdered someone, I would first present witnesses that can identify the man at the scene of the crime, motives & relations to the victim, and then discredit any alibis. In my opinion, because each of these items alone serves to give credence to the claim that the person is guilty, they can be presented in an almost listing format. In this case, item 1 and item 2 don't have to be true for item 3 to be effective. So in my essay, the line of reasoning was that 1 -> Thesis and 2 -> Thesis, and 3 -> Thesis and I proved that 1 and 2 and 3 are true therefore, my thesis is strengthened. But how my professor would want it is 1 therefore 2 therefore 3 thus, the thesis is strengthened. I can't see why my method would be bad for the thesis that I had.

  • 1
    Welcome to Writing.SE! I'm afraid that writing critiques are off-topic here, but we can give you more general advice about whether a specific method of arguing is effective or not. Would you be willing to generalise your question a bit more so it's about the method of arguing itself, rather than this specific essay?
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 15:15
  • Sure, sounds good!
    – snowball
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 15:17

1 Answer 1


There is no one single "high school essay" structure. And it's true that some of the structures we learn for writing in high school can be useful throughout life. There may indeed be times in the future where you'll productively fall back on the list-style format you've described.

With that said, an important part of any writing is knowing your audience and meeting their expectations, and in this case, the only audience that really matters is your professor. Getting affirmations from strangers on the internet is not going to improve your grade.

It sounds like your professor has explained what he or she did not find adequate in your essay, and the expectations for mending that. Assuming your goal is to gain whatever learning and improvement is available under this person's guidance, I would recommend you try your best to meet their expectations rather than arguing against them.

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    Even if the professor did not, we are neither privy to your Essay nor your Teacher's instructions or expectations. It might be best to talk to the professor and get their own criticism.
    – hszmv
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 16:19

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