Your guide to writing a Familiar Essay

Familiar essay

The familiar essay is a type of essay that has fallen by the wayside in most primary and secondary school curricula because it is difficult to write. The familiar essay is a personal reflection on an elevated topic, such as "people worth knowing," or "How religion informs morality."

It is similar to a personal essay because the observations are unique to the author and research is not required. However, the familiar essay diverges from the personal essay because of the philosophical nature of the topics.

Tone and Audience

The author of a familiar essay writes as if they have an audience consisting of one person. They may even interact with their audience by using "you" or phrases such as "dear reader." Because of the lofty nature of the topics for a familiar essay, the tone for this type of essay is typically elevated and geared toward an educated reader.

Planning the Essay

Even though the familiar essay is personal in nature, it is important to gather your thoughts before you begin writing. Many professors and instructors recommend freewriting about the topic or clustering as useful activities for planning a familiar essay. From the freewriting activity, the author can then create an outline to use as a general guide for organizing the essay.

Writing the Familiar Essay

As you write, use the outline you created during the planning phase. Working from an outline is important for any essay that is personal in nature because writers have the greatest tendency to ramble or get off topic when they are writing about their observations. Many authors find that writing the familiar essay is easiest if it is written in one session. This helps the writer to stay on track and prevents them from losing their focus.


Most familiar essays do not cite other essays or use references. However, you might make an exception to this rule by discussing a famous author, philosopher, or politician's point to illuminate your point or to serve as a counterpoint to your assertions. In that instance, you would need to cite the reference.

Revising the Essay

Like other types of essays, the familiar essay should be carefully revised before it is turned in. Pay close attention to the tone of the essay. The tone should remain consistent. For example, if you began the essay with a light-hearted tone, make sure to continue that tone to the end of the essay for consistency. The exception would be if you have good reason to dampen the tone of the essay.