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Essential Knowledge and Skills for Essay Writing

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Designed for intermediate and advanced users of English, this book offers an integrated approach to essay writing by focusing on both the processes and products of writing. It has been developed over many years of teaching and researching written English, in particular, with university students in Thailand. In addition to addressing common issues involving written English which many novice writers face, it covers the basic elements of writing—sentences and paragraphs—and introduces students to descriptive, narrative, expository, and argumentative writing. The book’s content and layout are carefully tailored for student writers, as reflected in color highlighting of important text and images, placement of key information in boxes, and inclusion of plentiful exercises with answer keys. Care has also been taken to avoid formality and unnecessary complexity. Model examples taken from actual students’ essays as well as published texts help to ensure the book’s appeal and educational value to its intended audience of novice writers.

Drawing on the Systemic Functional Linguistics of Michael Halliday and others, each of the five units begins with a form–function orientation. The purpose is to raise students’ awareness of the links between language structures at the micro-level of words, phrases, and clauses, and to introduce them to higher-order rhetorical goals at the macro-level of paragraphs and essays. Students learn to recognize and evaluate texts for key language features (formal knowledge), such as descriptive phrases, figurative language, and various types of transitions. Students then practice putting these elements together to form larger functional units (rhetorical knowledge), focusing on unity, cohesion, and a clear overall purpose. Each unit then focuses on generating ideas and content (subject knowledge) using critical questions, collaborative discussions, and visualization techniques. At strategic points, students are cycled through key reflective practices (process knowledge) as a way to help them complete longer writing tasks. These longer tasks include clear scoring rubrics, which can be used by the student or teacher as a means to gauge progress and provide feedback.

The book will help students acquire essential knowledge alongside transferable and functional skills—both of which can be applied across areas of study and in future writing projects.

Published: Sep 29, 2023


Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen
Series Editor's Preface Martha Pennington
Copyright Permissions Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen
Introduction Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen
Unit 1
Essay Writing Basics Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen
Unit 2
Descriptive Writing Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen
Unit 3
Narrative Writing Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen
Unit 4
Expository Writing Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen
Unit 5
Argument / Opinion Writing Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen
End Matter
References Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen
Sources for Images Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen
Author Index Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen
Subject Index Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen


In this comprehensive and highly accessible textbook, author Neil Evan Jon Anthony Bowen has provided us with invaluable content and activities that successfully connect English L2 writing theory and practice from a global perspective. Filled with brilliant illustrations, exercises, and sample writing, this textbook is a go-to manual for all TESOL undergraduate writing researchers and practitioners interested in understanding how an experienced researcher-practitioner such as Bowen utilizes the process-genre approach to teach ESL and EFL essay writing.
Professor Jim McKinley, Institute of Education, University College London’s Faculty of Education and Society

This book is the result of an impeccable combination of reflective professional knowledge and a deep theoretical understanding of second language writing. It answers recent calls in the field of English Language Teaching for more teaching-informed resources, which have students’ needs at the forefront. The book also addresses the urgent need for materials that are more contextually-relevant to students who are learning English outside the Anglosphere.
Heath Rose, Professor of Applied Linguistics, Department of Education, Vice-Principal, Linacre College, University of Oxford

While most writing textbooks aim to help students become competent writers, Essential Knowledge and Skills for Essay Writing goes one step further. By looking in depth at the various decisions that underpin a finished text, Neil Bowen’s book can help students become proficient writers. The variety of writing issues covered in the book is impressive. In terms of the essay as product, the topics range from the micro-details of sentence structure and nuanced vocabulary choice to the rhetorical structure of essays such as using plots to drive narratives and integrating Toulmin elements into an argument. In addition, useful tips on the writing process from the purposes of the various drafts through to revising the final essay are provided.
To help students navigate and engage with the wide range of topics,
Essential Knowledge and Skills for Essay Writing makes extensive use of models of writing. The models chosen include the standard literary texts but effective use is also made of real student essays which show the book’s target students that proficient writing is achievable. The model texts are analysed in clear and productive ways to show how various writing purposes can be achieved. Importantly, and one of the key tenets of the book, these texts and the writing tasks in the books should be intrinsically interesting and relevant to much of the book’s audience. For teachers of writing to advanced students, Essential Knowledge and Skills for Essay Writing warrants serious consideration as a textbook to guide students to become highly proficient writers.
Richard Watson Todd, Associate Professor, School of Liberal Arts, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand

Bowen’s book addresses the needs of the intelligent, engaged English language learner. He goes beyond just indicating how to formulate accurate English sentences at the more advanced level – he explains why.
This is a treasure-trove of insights into the workings of English that learners will find enjoyable and enlightening. It unifies the challenges of learning a second language with those of constructing effective text, so learners can become good writers as well as accurate ones. The book also offers guidance on how to identify the main messages in texts, to enhance more effective reading and comprehension.
With separate sections on different genres of writing, the book can meet its readers where they are, and guide them to what they most need to know.

Professor Alison Wray Centre for Language and Communication Research, Cardiff University