Types of Essays: End the Confusion
Effectively writing different types of essays has become critical to academic success. Essay writing is a common school assignment, a part of standardized tests, and a requirement on college applications. Often on tests, choosing the correct type of essay to write in response to a writing prompt is key to getting the question right. Clearly, students can’t afford to remain confused about types of essays.
There are over a dozen types of essays, so it’s easy to get confused. However, rest assured, the number is actually more manageable. Essentially there are four major types of essays, with the variations making up the remainder.
Four Major Types of Essays
Distinguishing between types of essays is simply a matter of determining the writer’s goal. Does the writer want to tell about a personal experience, describe something, explain an issue, or convince the reader to accept a certain viewpoint? The four major types of essays address these purposes:
1. Narrative Essays: Telling a Story
In a narrative essay, the writer tells a story about a real-life experience. While telling a story may sound easy to do, the narrative essay challenges students to think and write about themselves. When writing a narrative essay, writers should try to involve the reader by making the story as vivid as possible. The fact that narrative essays are usually written in the first person helps engage the reader. “I” sentences give readers a feeling of being part of the story. A well-crafted narrative essay will also build towards drawing a conclusion or making a personal statement.
2. Descriptive Essays: Painting a Picture
A cousin of the narrative essay, a descriptive essay paints a picture with words. A writer might describe a person, place, object, or even memory of special significance. However, this type of essay is not description for description’s sake. The descriptive essay strives to communicate a deeper meaning through the description. In a descriptive essay, the writer should show, not tell, through the use of colorful words and sensory details. The best descriptive essays appeal to the reader’s emotions, with a result that is highly evocative.
3. Expository Essays: Just the Facts
The expository essay is an informative piece of writing that presents a balanced analysis of a topic. In an expository essay, the writer explains or defines a topic, using facts, statistics, and examples. Expository writing encompasses a wide range of essay variations, such as the comparison and contrast essay, the cause and effect essay, and the “how to” or process essay. Because expository essays are based on facts and not personal feelings, writers don’t reveal their emotions or write in the first person.
4. Persuasive Essays: Convince Me
While like an expository essay in its presentation of facts, the goal of the persuasive essay is to convince the reader to accept the writer’s point of view or recommendation. The writer must build a case using facts and logic, as well as examples, expert opinion, and sound reasoning. The writer should present all sides of the argument, but must be able to communicate clearly and without equivocation why a certain position is correct.
Learn How to Write Different Types of Essays
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In the elementary years, young writers get an introduction to essay writing through two courses designed to bring excitement and enjoyment to the writing process. Narrative Writing and Informative Writing take young writers on an animal-filled adventure to beginning essay writing. Our middle school online writing courses, Welcome to the Essay and Advanced Essay, teach students the fundamentals of writing well-constructed essays. The high school online writing class, Exciting Essay Writing, focuses in depth on the essay writing process with preparation for college as the goal. The online writing classes for kids also cover how to interpret essay writing prompts in testing situations. Read what parents are saying about their children’s writing progress in Time4Writing’s online writing courses.
Types of Academic Essays
Most essays written in an academic setting fall into one of four categories, or modes: exposition, narration, description, and persuasion. There are variations (or subcategories) of different essays that are written in each main mode, but each variation ultimately has the same overall purpose:
Exposition: an essay that attempts to inform the reader about something important or explain something to him/her (a process, a set of rules, the benefits of an activity, etc.). Common expository writings: business or technical writing, process writing, compare and/or contrast essays, reaction essays, response essays, and often research-based essays.
Narration: writing that tells the reader about a particular event(s) that took place. Common narration writings: personal essays, short stories, novels, poetry.
Description: writing that uses vivid language to describe a person, place, or event so that the reader can picture the topic clearly in his/her mind. Fiction and poetry often use large amounts of descriptive writing, and sometimes only attempt to serve this descriptive purpose.
Persuasion: writing that takes a stand on a principle (oftentimes a controversial issue) and attempts to persuade the reader to adopt a similar mindset. At the collegiate level, persuasive writing assignments are quite common. The most common persuasive essay is the argument paper. The reason for this is because writing an argument essay involves incorporating critical thinking and often the use of outside sources. Many papers written in disciplines other than English are a variation of the argument paper and should be treated in a similar fashion (ex-an analysis essay for literature that defends a particular form of literary criticism for the literary work).
It is important to note that while an essay generally falls under one of these main modes, good writing usually incorporates a variety of these into the same assignment. For instance, a narration piece will benefit from incorporating heavy amounts of description, and often a persuasive essay must first explain certain facts to the reader (exposition) before arguing for or against a certain solution.
Writers of all disciplines and backgrounds should study these modes and learn how to write each one successfully and incorporate them into different forms of writing.