Exposition (expository writing): Exposition is writing that explains or informs. It is a practical kind of writing (the kind you are reading right now!). Examples of expository writing include encyclopedia entries, news reports, instruction manuals, informative essays, and research papers.
Description (descriptive writing): Think of description as painting a picture with words. Of course, when you use words, you can paint more than what you see, but also what you feel, hear, smell and taste. The idea of description is to make the thing described seem real to your reader’s imagination. Not much writing is purely descriptive; writers typically weave description into longer narrative works. Some essentially descriptive writing, however, might include certain forms of advertising, character sketches, and photograph captions.
Brian, in the old days, many textbooks presented three purposes: inform, entertain, and persuade. This was sort of a taxonomy for student writing. Most of the “modes” will work under the three divisions. For example, narrative sometimes entertains, informs, and persuades…Huckleberry Finn might be an example. It informs us about “boyhood” and good times on the Mississippi, but also comments on the historical moment in satirical way.
It is also persuasive in dealing with the satirical targets. Moreover, there are lots of chuckles as Huck comes of age. Nevertheless, you might make case if you were careful about presenting your paradigm. Keep on keeping on. You may have the small end of a big idea.
Read Mark Twain's little piece (below) about the troubles he has with his new watch, as another example of narrative writing. (There is very little in the way of paragraphing in this narrative, and as you read along you might want to think about how you would break this piece into smaller units of thought for your reader.) Answer the questions we pose after Twain's essay and apply them as well to Jeffrey Tayler's essay above.
Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Tell a story from your own life; this is not an opinion piece about social ideals. Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. We recommend you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.
The ability to describe something convincingly will serve a writer well in any kind of essay situation. The most important thing to remember is that your job as writer is to show, not tell. If you say that the tree is beautiful, your readers are put on the defensive: "Wait a minute," they think. "We'll be the judge of that! Show us a beautiful tree and we'll believe." Do not rely, then, on adjectives that attempt to characterize a thing's attributes. these are all useful adjectives in casual speech or when we're pointing to something that is lovely, etc., but in careful writing they don't do much for us; in fact, they sound hollow.
Narration (narrative writing): Narration is story telling. In many ways it is the easiest kind of writing because it comes so naturally to most people. Practically everyone enjoys telling and hearing stories. Narratives usually progress chronologically, and must have a clear beginning, middle and end. Short stories, novels, personal narratives, anecdotes, and biographies are all examples of narrative writing.
When we think of writers, we normally think of those who craft creative fiction — short stories, poems, novels, maybe even dramas or screenplays. One key to successful writing, however, is the ability to write in multiple forms and for a variety of purposes. At , we believe it’s important to expose developing writers to a wide spectrum of writing modes or purposes. Even if they eventually specialize in a particular type of writing, there is great benefit in learning to write broadly.
Read Jeffrey Tayler's "The Sacred Grove of Oshogbo" (first published in , used with permission) and try to determine exactly at what passage in the text do you become aware of the point of Tayler's essay. Take note of the rich detailing of the forest, the caretaker, and the minister from the city and try to describe how the details lend themselves toward the purpose of the article. Another Atlantic essay, Jeff Biggers' filled with wonderful details of a remote town in Mexico is also available here.
Persuasion (persuasive writing): Persuasive writing seeks to convince the reader of a particular position or opinion. Persuasive writing is in many ways the most difficult to do well because it requires knowledge of the subject, strong convictions, logical thinking, and technical skill. Some examples of persuasive writing include literary essays, editorials, advertisements, and book, music or movie reviews.
Although we are no longer accepting new essays on our website, we thought we would share these essay writing suggestions in case you wished to write an essay for your own benefit. Writing your own statement of personal belief can be a powerful tool for self-reflection. It can also be a wonderful thing to share with family, friends, and colleagues. To guide you through this process, we offer these suggestions:
Other purposes for writing certainly exist, and more specific sub-purposes can exist within these four categories. You may write to pass an English class, to express your feelings to a loved one, to get your money back on a disappointing purchase, or to remind your brother to take out the trash. Still, just about any kind of writing imaginable fits into one or more of these four categories, and strong writers master the techniques and strategies required for each.
Do not forget that the business of the essay is to make a point. In his essay, Orwell succeeds in portraying the horrors of an imperialist state, showing how the relationship between the oppressed Burmese and the British oppressor is dehumanizing to both. When writing a narrative, it is easy to get caught up in the telling of the story and forget that, eventually, our reader is going to ask So What? and there had better be an answer.