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Topics to Avoid in Essays


I had a student who wanted to write an essay about Edie Sedgwick--speed addict and member of the Warhol gang. Now, my job, even at the professorial level is to help students learn not only how to approach the writing of the essay but also to pick subject matter that will teach them something about the real are of writing a college level essay. This holds true for middle or high school essays as well.

You know when a topic will make your teacher uncomfortable. Ask yourself, "Would my Mother or Father Approve of this Topic," and, more importantly, why write on an inappropriate topic anyway. A teacher is going to be uncomfortable with any essay which makes them feel as if they are doing something wrong by allowing you to write about it. Period. If I were purporting a stance that advocates drugs, racism, violence, anything sexual--period. All these topics are taboo, not just for a teacher, but for your audience as well.

If you are struggling for a topic, approach your teacher and have them give you some suggestions to help you get a feel for what they're looking for. Write on one of these or a closely related topic instead.

Essay Topics to Avoid

  1. Anything overly personal.
  2. Don't write on personal topics that you would only tell your best friend or your parents in daily life. You'll feel uncertain the whole time -- you'll feel it in your gut--and this uncertainty will carry over to the quality of the writing anyway.

    Don't make your teacher squirm--they may just hand it back to you and say what they wanted was an academic essay. Not your diary.

  3. Avoid Abortion
  4. Abortion is kind of a nobody wins topic and teachers are not only aware of this, they know they will get this essay every time they teach a course--and they dread it. Give your teacher something good to read for a change and avoid this very sensitive subject. You don't know what he/she or your audience may have been through.

  5. Avoid the Legalization of Marijuana
  6. This is another very tired topic and another one that makes teacher's bored and uncomfortable. Why visit a tired old subject again? We've heard all the arguments, and yes, we know them. Again, give your teacher an essay with a better academic topic that you cannot find on some 3 million pages on Google.