Why Jaffa Cakes Teach All There is to Know About Essay Writing
Why is writing an essay so difficult? I used to spend hours staring blankly at an essay title, poised over the keyboard waiting for inspiration to strike. One day, during a kitchen visit on a break from the first sentence, I discovered the Jaffa Cake. However, it was not the delicious chocolate-coated sponge that I discovered, but that Jaffa Cakes could inspire the perfect essay. The way we argue about the important things in life, like whether a Jaffa Cake is a cake, a biscuit or something else entirely, is the perfect model for writing a knock-out essay. So, here is my own personal recipe for a Jaffa Cake inspired essay.
A good essay is simply an argument and whenever you are in an argument you have to make your position clear. You are not boringly passive when you argue; saying things like ‘oh, some argue a Jaffa Cake is a cake’ or ‘some claim a Jaffa Cake is a biscuit’. Instead, you make an impassioned opening: asking ‘how could anyone honestly think it is a biscuit: it is obviously a cake?!’. Your essay introduction needs to work in the same way; the reader needs to know exactly your position. There’s no need to dance around the point; decide where you stand and make it explicit. So, you should be saying something like: ‘though some argue that Jaffa Cakes are cakes, in this essay, it is argued that they are biscuits; not least because of their shape, size and name’.
The First Paragraph
The first paragraph you write should put forward your view; explain why you think that Jaffa Cakes are biscuits and describe the reasons behind it. You may argue that their shape, size and the fact they are often eaten in place of digestives, all seem to put them in the category of ‘biscuit’ over ‘cake’. Or, that McVities only styled them as ‘cakes’ to avoid the UK VAT charge. Whatever your argument, whether it involves corporate conspiracy or something less exciting, you have to state your position and back it up with evidence. Try and convince the reader, in the same way you would your friends, that Jaffa Cakes are biscuits, and nothing else. It is important to wrap up your paragraph with ‘interim judgements’; a couple of sentences at the end of the paragraph, which clearly state what you have just argued, and the rationale you put forward.
The Last Two Paragraphs
The last two paragraphs of your essay should be the place you defend the claim you make in the introduction and first paragraph; where you consider what objections might be raised to your argument, and explain why they don’t quite work. For our Jaffa Cake essay, you may want to dedicate a paragraph to their moisture content; that no biscuit could ever be as soft as Jaffa Cakes are. At the end of the paragraph, however, you have to explain why you think this is a bad argument and why you stand by the line of thought outlined in the introduction. A quick Google search, you may argue, returns plenty of (quite appetising) recipes for ‘soft biscuits’. Being soft, that is, does not disqualify Jaffa Cakes from being biscuits at all! You should then end your paragraphs with a couple more interim judgements; reaffirming your position in light of the argument you have just responded to, and explaining why your position has yet to change.
The conclusion is just a collection of all the interim judgements made in your essay. It collects all of the objections, your responses to them, and outlines why you remain firmly convinced that Jaffa Cakes are biscuits. Just find different words for your interim judgements, and restate them here.
In any essay, no matter how irrelevant the subject, argue as you would for something truly important – like the true definition of a Jaffa Cake. Take a stand, back up your arguments with evidence, and destroy any arguments to the contrary.
Next week I will be turning to how calculus can be inspired by the custard cream. And, in case you are wondering, this article has not been sponsored by McVities, but we are open to offers; particularly if they come with a truck load of Jaffa Cakes.