4 Types of Essays

types of essaysEssays can be a complicated business even for a seasoned college student. There’s rules to follow for each different type of essay, and it can be difficult to keep them all in order. If there is an essay in your future, take a look at these four types of essays and remind yourself of what the rules are for each. It will help you out when you sit down to write that essay. If you need more help with your essay writing, try an online course.

Expository Essays

An expository essay is a specific kind of essay that involves investigating an idea, evaluating the evidence, presenting the idea, and supporting the presentation with an argument. Expository essays are usually written through comparison and contrast, definition, example, and the analysis of cause and effect. There is a specific structure that expository essays follow.

  • First, there should be a clear and expansive thesis statement somewhere within the first paragraph of the essay. This statement should be narrowed down to follow the guidelines of the assignment. It should include something involving the topic of the essay as that is usually included in the guidelines.
  • The transitions between the introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, and conclusion paragraph should make sense and be clear. Without these transitions, there is no logical path to follow throughout the essay, and the reader could end up lost in your essay. Your argument would then be lost.
  • Each paragraph of the body should include evidence that supports the thesis statement. You should only discuss one sub idea of the thesis statement in each paragraph. Discussing a number of ideas in each paragraph can lead to confusion.
  • Don’t forget the evidence! While this was just stated earlier, it’s important enough to be said again. Your essay will not be an expository essay if you don’t have some kind of proof to back up your thesis statement.
  • When writing your conclusion, don’t just repeat the thesis. Expand on it by discussing the evidence you revealed. Don’t present any new information or ideas into the conclusion.

This is the most common essay written while in elementary school. It is usually considered the five-paragraph essay – one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a single conclusion paragraph. However, as you enter later grades and college, you will come to realize that expository essays sometimes run a little longer than that. This format is usually just a way to begin introducing the idea of expository essays to students.

Expository essays are best thought of as conversations or debates with classmates. Just as your conversation will have a beginning, middle, and end, your essay should also. If it is not complete, you will likely leave behind questions in your readers. The most important thing to remember is to state the intent of your essay in the introduction, back it up in the body, and summarize everything in the conclusion.

If you need some help finding a topic, check out this list of expository writing prompts. Expository essays are commonly used on the SAT. If you are going to be taking the SAT soon, try taking a class in mastering the SAT essay.

Descriptive Essays

A descriptive essay is exactly what it sounds like. In this type of essay, you will be asked to describe something. Unlike the expository essay, this type of essay allows for much more artistic freedom as the main idea is to create an image in the reader’s mind. For this type of essay, you might be better off taking a creative writing class as they will touch on description that will help you write this type of essay.

While there is no exact format for this essay, there are some guidelines you should consider following as they will help you write a better descriptive essay.

  • Brainstorm before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. If your topic involves describing your dream last night, you’ll want to start jotting down specific details about it. For example, if you dreamed about your family you’ll want to write down who in your family.
  • Write down descriptive words in relation to the details that you will likely use in your essay. Again, you’re going to want to paint a picture in your reader’s mind so writing a sentence that says, “My cousin was in my dream” is not going to give your reader any kind of image. However, if you describe your cousin in more detail – using hair color, eye color, or even skin tone – will give your reader a better image.
  • Don’t forget that you have more than just the sense of sight. If you were describing a day at the beach, you would want to include more than what you saw. Include things you smelled, what you touched, sounds you heard, and things you tasted.
  • Emotions and feelings play a key role in description too. However, it’s important that you don’t write a sentence that says, “I was sad.” Again, this kind of language does not paint pictures in reader’s minds. Rather, describe it for them – “My shoulders drooped, and my chin trembled. Tears flooded my eyes.” A sentence like that will show your reader that you were sad and paint the picture in their mind. In fact, they will likely connect with you on an emotional level as they read.
  • Keep your essay organized. No matter how descriptive you are, no one is going to know what you’re describing if everything is out of order. If you just stuff your essay full of descriptive words, emotions, and senses, you might leave your reader thinking that you were describing one thing when in fact you were describing something completely different.

Descriptive essays are common in elementary school and are usually used as warm-up journal prompts at the beginning of a language arts lesson. These kinds of essays are also very common in creative writing classes as they are used to build your descriptive skills. If you’re looking for some descriptive essay topics, you might want to try this list of descriptive essay topics.

Narrative Essays

A narrative essay usually involves the telling of some kind of story. There are two common types of narrative essays – short stories and book reports. If your narrative essay is going to be more of a story, you might want to consider a creative writing class. There are some guidelines that should be followed no matter what type of narrative essay you’re writing.

  • If it will be in story format, include all the parts of story. This includes characters, plot, setting, etc.
  • If you’re going to be writing a book report, it should be an informative narrative about the book and not a retelling of the entire book.
  • Even narrative essays should have a point, just like the thesis statement of expository essays.
  • Choose a point of view for your essay and stick with it. The common point of view is first person, from the standpoint of the writer.

Narrative essays are similar to memoirs so many of the topics you might find regarding narrative essays are in that style. Here’s a list of ten narrative essay topics.

Persuasive Essays

A persuasive essay is also known as an argumentative essay. This type of essay will be similar to an expository essay in that you will be exploring a topic and collecting and evaluating evidence. However, unlike an expository essay, you will be taking a stand for or against this topic. Consider taking a course in college writing essentials if you need more help with essays.

The format of the persuasive essay is similar to the expository essay from the thesis statement to the layout to the concluding paragraph. However, it’s important to state that your persuasive essay will also include your opinion regarding the evidence and the topic itself. Like the expository essay, the persuasive essay can also use the five paragraph format, but there are also longer persuasive essays. Here’s a long list of 200 different prompts for persuasive essays.