Types of Essay Writing

Woman working on an essay

Learn to write an essay well and you'll have an effective tool for communication in your arsenal. There are four main types of essays.

Descriptive Essays

A descriptive essay is exactly as it sounds - it describes something. Whether you're describing a summer day or how to do something, the goal in a descriptive essay is always to show, not tell.

Tips to follow when writing a descriptive essay:

  • Choose your words carefully. Of course, you always want to choose great words, but when you're writing descriptively, you want to pay special attention word choice. Avoid simple sentences like, 'She was sad.' Instead, you can talk about tears in her eyes or a downcast countenance. All of these phrases let the reader know she was sad, without you saying so specifically.
  • Describe your senses. When you're brainstorming, try to describe the situation through each of your senses. What does the situation or thing you're describing sound, look, taste or feel like? If you do this, you will be well on your way to ensuring that your description shows, rather than tells.
  • Ban all forms of 'to be.' A simple trick to keep you on track towards describing something well is to not allow yourself to use the verb 'to be' - especially in your first draft. You can always go back and add in a few, but if you force yourself to say things without saying 'it is' or 'it was,' you will find your descriptive writing really kicks up a notch.

Narrative Essays

The narrative essay tells a story and is often anecdotal in nature. It is different from a descriptive essay in that the narrative essay is decidedly more personal. Additionally, narrative writing tends to flow chronologically, because it narrates a series of events.

Key tips for writing a narrative essay include:

  • Focus on your intro. The best introductions often put the reader directly in the middle of a scene. A popular way to do this is to start at the climax of the story, and then begin to recount, from the beginning, what happened to get you there.
  • Write it in the first person. Unless you're specifically told not to, write a narrative essay in the first person rather than in second or third person.
  • Avoid the thesaurus. Many students make the mistake of trying to use bigger words in these kinds of essays. Instead, make sure you choose words you'd actually use in conversation.

Expository Essays

An expository essay expands on an idea, evaluates something in particular, and frequently supports a position on the topic. If you've ever wondered how to improve your thesis statement, you're probably writing an expository essay. It is different from a narrative essay because you are not telling a story, and it's different from a descriptive essay because to truly explore an idea, you need to support a thesis rather than narrate a scenario.

Key tips for expository essay writing include:

  • Write an outline. Outlining your points will help you stay on task and ensure your essay makes sense.
  • Craft a clear thesis. When you have a clear idea to support, it makes a huge difference in how easily the rest of your essay comes together.
  • Restate your thesis. While you don't want to sound redundant, you should restate your thesis in some way, shape or form in your conclusion. This makes it clear what you're supporting and helps to wrap up your essay neatly.

Persuasive Essays

A persuasive essay is an essay where you are trying to change someone's point of view. It's different from an expository essay because you are not only supporting your opinion, but you are actively trying to change someone's mind using logical arguments.

Tips to follow when writing a persuasive essay include:

  • Pick a side. The temptation is to try to explain both sides and give good arguments for both. Instead, clearly pick a side and do not offer arguments that support your opposing side.
  • Clearly support your argument. Most of the time, you can follow a pattern of offering an argument and giving three supporting reasons. This helps ensure you're really supporting your ideas.
  • Do your research. Try to offer statistics and research your audience might not be aware of in support of your argument.

Writing Your Best Essay

The best tip for writing a good essay is going through the whole process of writing. Take some time and brainstorm what you want to say. Write a rough draft and put it away for a while. Come back to it later and rewrite or edit it. Then, then have someone else proofread it. It seems tedious to do all this when a deadline is looming, but it's the absolute best way to ensure you have a stellar essay.

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Types of Essay Writing