writing an essay

A Definition Essay Outline: Tips and Tricks for Effective Writing

There are many different types of essays that students must write during the course of their work. One of those is the “definition essay”. A definition essay has the potential to be either fairly easy or very difficult. The determining factors include the subject, familiarity with the subject, and essay writing ability among other things. Listed here are several tips and tricks to help you effectively write a definition essay.

What is a Definition Essay?

Before a student can effectively write a definition essay, they must first know and understand what a definition essay is. It is exactly what it sounds like, an essay on the definition of a specific term. It must, however, go beyond the simple dictionary definition and delve into the author’s definition. There are two types of terms that can be used, a material term and a spiritual term. A material term revolves around a material object such as a door, computer, cake, table, etc. and a spiritual term is thins like friendship, love, hope, anger, pride, etc.


After you have a definitive subject matter, the outlining begins. The outline is the place to put all of your thoughts and ideas so that they can be better organized in the actual essay. When working on the outline, there are a few things to remember; never copy the dictionary definition (although it can be added to the beginning stages of the outline as the writer discovers their own definition), always define a noun with a noun, a verb with a verb, etc. (don’t use “when” or “where”), and use simple language. Remember that this essay is not the place for extremely technical terminology; so, keep the jargon to a minimum. Be concise when stating your term definition, don’t tip-toe around it. Remember that this is your definition, not someone else’s.


Within the introduction include, the term and the definition of the term. Then comes the body of the essay in which the author states the analytical processes used in determining the definition. This will include function, structure, and basic analysis. Also, be sure to include definitions for the term that you chose NOT to use, as well as examples of why you chose the definition you did. Finally, the conclusion, which will be used to sum up the rest of the essay.

Remember to double check for spelling, grammar, and sentence structure errors as well as general flow to the essay.

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