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How Many Types Of Essays Are There In English

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.

Essay Types: Three Categories of Writing

by Owen Fourie

How Many Categories of Writing Are There?

Commonly, you will find the types of writing divided into four categories: persuasive, expository, narrative, and descriptive. In my opinion, it is better to include narrative and descriptive in one category, which we’ll call creative.

Doing this allows us to have three main categories: persuasive, expository, and creative. This is how I categorize things in my mind when I am faced with the works that are available in a library or in a bookstore.

In this article, you will find a listing of the kinds of essays that fit into each of these categories. Some essays will be found in only one of the categories. Others will be in two of them, and a few will be found in all three.

Please do not regard this as an infallible standard. It is simply a guide to help you as you think about the essays that are assigned to you. Which category describes your particular essay on this occasion? Is it to be persuasive, expository, or creative?

Let me know in your comments, if you think that any type listed here would be better listed in another category.

This listing should not be regarded as exhaustive.

First Category: Persuasive

Persuasive writing is intended to induce the reader to belief or action concerning a particular matter. Exposition is necessary here, but persuasion is the primary objective.

  • Argumentative
  • Cause-and-Effect
  • Compare-and-Contrast
  • Dissertation
  • Evaluation
  • Evaluative
  • Five-Paragraph
  • Informal
  • Opinion
  • Persuasive
  • Problem-and-Solution
  • Research Report
  • Rhetorical
  • Scholarship
  • Statistical
  • Term Paper
  • Thesis

Second Category: Expository

Expository writing clearly explains a particular topic, especially a difficult matter, in detail. This is for the benefit of those who wish to be informed and who would like to understand the subject more thoroughly. Either there is no persuasion involved here, or persuasion is not the primary objective.

  • Admission
  • Analysis
  • Analytical
  • Business
  • Cause-and-Effect
  • Character Analysis
  • Classification or Division
  • College
  • College Admission
  • College Application
  • Compare-and-Contrast
  • Critical
  • Critical Analysis
  • Deductive
  • Definition
  • DBQ (Document-based Questions)
  • Evaluation
  • Evaluative
  • Explanatory
  • Exploratory
  • Expository
  • Five-Paragraph
  • Illustration
  • Inductive
  • Informal
  • Informative
  • Inquiry
  • Interview
  • Literary
  • Literary Response
  • Literature
  • Personal
  • Poetry
  • Problem-and-Solution
  • Process
  • Process Analysis
  • Reaction
  • Reflective
  • Research Report
  • Response
  • Response-to-Literature
  • Review
  • Scholarship
  • Statistical
  • Summary
  • Synthesis
  • Technical

Third Category: Creative

Creative writing requires originality of thought, imagination, and expressiveness. It produces works that entertain, inspire, and revivify the reader.

  • Autobiographical
  • Creative
  • Creative Writing
  • Descriptive
  • Expressive
  • Five-Paragraph
  • Informal
  • Memoir
  • Narrative
  • Personal Narrative
  • Scholarship
  • Short Story

In the several posts that follow, you will find some brief and some not-so-brief descriptions of the different terms used for essays. The various terms are grouped together in sections of the alphabet:

Under some of the terms appearing in this glossary, you may find a note telling you to look for the information under a different term.

You may also see links to articles in the “Different Types of Essays” category where you will find more information about a particular kind of essay.


What is your experience with the many different terms used for essays? Which types of essays listed here do you think should be listed in another category in addition to where they now appear or instead of where they now appear? Do you have any useful insights? What are your particular struggles? Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

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