Writing an academic essay- question for Steve

(I originally planned to send this by email, but since I don’t have your email I thought I would post my question here.)

Hello Steve.

I am currently in the early stages of writing an academic essay in French. It is quite a daunting task and the subject area (finance) is not something I am an expert in. I seem to remember that in your book you recommend writing in a simple, clear style regardless of the context. We all have to admit this is easier said than done, even in one’s native language! I would, however, be interested in any more advice you could give on writing à la française or indeed in any other language.

  • Do you plan in your native language, i.e English, or go straight into French?

  • I find the whole French “plan” for writing very difficult to follow and a little restricting. Do you hold it to be a valuable device for writing?

  • It may be difficult to come off as a native in one’s writing, in the short term at least, but how should one ensure that an essay in a foreign language is easily understood and readable to a native?

I’d be grateful for any comments you have as to the above or on any other aspect of writing.

I must say I have been enjoying my studies in Japanese and French at Lingq. Whether is because of your method or your pure enthusiasm I do not know, but I am finding myself even more motivated than before in my language study. I would like to participate in discussions in the future too. Keep up the good work!




I am glad you put the question here on the form since that way more people can participate. The short answer is that the formal French approach to writing essays is the way to go. Once you get used to it you can come up with an organized essay or oral expose in no time. I could not have passed Sciences Po without it. And I still remember what my International Law professor told me. “La forme est plus important que le contenu”.

Part 1 These a) and b)
Part 2 Antithese a) and b)
Conclusion or synthese

The antithese can sometimes be an expansion on the original point, not only, but in addition. They key is balance. Two important points Part 1 and 2 more in Part 2. I still use it if I have to give a speech,although I recently favour the more classical approach that I described in a recent post on Pick-the-Brain. In fact I will do a blog post on this subject.