The William Hazlitt Essay Prize

Do you guys write essays?

The William Hazlitt Essay Prize sponsored by Notting Hill Editions is a contest for a 2,000-8,000 word essay on any subject. “The prize will be judged on the originality of the ideas, the quality of the prose and the ability to communicate to a wide audience.” The deadline is September 1, 2013, and the winner receives a whole lotta moolah.

What makes a good essay? Here’s how the contest’s namesake defined it:

English: Self-portrait by William Hazlitt
English: Self-portrait by William Hazlitt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It does not meddle with forms of belief, or systems of philosophy, nor launch into the world of spiritual existences; but it makes familiar with the world of men and women, records their actions, assigns their motives, exhibits their whims, characterises their pursuits in all their singular and endless variety, ridicules their absurdities, exposes their inconsistencies, ‘holds the mirror up to nature, and shows the very age and body of the time its form and pressure’; takes minutes of our dress, air, looks, words, thoughts, and actions; shows us what we are, and what we are not; plays the whole game of human life over before us, and by making us enlightened Spectators of its many-coloured scenes, enables us (if possible) to become tolerably reasonable agents in the one in which we have to perform a part. It is the best and most natural course of study.”

— William Hazlitt, ‘On the Periodical Essayists’


According to Grade Saver, there are 8 categories of essays:

    • Informative
    • Literature
    • Narrative
    • Definition
    • Descriptive
    • Persuasive
    • History
    • Classification

My two cents on style and delivery:

  • London : Notting Hill
    London : Notting Hill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    be factual, but PASSIONATE — face it, essays can be BORING

  • be serious enough for credibility
  • be engaging enough for likeability
  • inform without preaching
  • editorialize without ranting
  • back yourself up with specific, concrete examples
  • organize, structure, and tighten the hell out of it

I’ve got my topic! What’s yours?


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