Just like you would wear different types of clothing to different types of events, there are different writing techniques for different purposes. Writing techniques can seem overwhelming to master at first, but don’t worry! Read on to learn about the different writing styles out there and tips and tricks to make your writing stand out.

Know who your audience is

Before you start writing, it’s useful to have a clear picture in your mind of who is going to read your work. If you’re writing a cover letter for a job you want, you’ll have different goals in mind than if you’re writing a poem for someone you love. Those goals are going to show in your writing. For a cover letter, you want the writing to be clear, well organized, and free of any spelling or grammar errors. For the poem, grammar is less important, but you have to use a lot of imagery to show your loved one how you feel.

Person at desk in front of laptop writing in notebook

Once you know your audience, you can start thinking about what type of writing is most appropriate for you to reach your goal. If you’re writing for school, the job is easy: Usually, your teacher will tell you exactly what type of writing they want you to use. But if you’re out of school, it’s up to you to figure it out. Here is a list of the common types of writing.

The four types of writing techniques:

1. Descriptive

Descriptive writing is most commonly used in short, creative writing, like poems and song lyrics. Some authors insert descriptive segments in their stories. The purpose of the descriptive writing style is to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind.

When people write in the descriptive style, they use literary devices to help their images come to life. Some of those tricks include:

Metaphors and similes 

When you compare one thing to another completely different thing as a way of describing it, you are either using a metaphor or a simile. Duran Duran’s song title “Hungry Like the Wolf” is a good example of a simile used in descriptive writing. Do you want to learn more about metaphors and similes? Check out this blog article on metaphors and similes

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Using your senses

Using all the senses, including smell and taste, to describe something can be a very powerful technique when you’re doing descriptive writing. For example, instead of writing “The drink was ice cold,” you might write something like, “As I drank, I felt the back of my teeth hurt and my insides clench at the shock of the cold water.”

Internal rhymes

This neat trick gives your writing a sense of pace and movement without being obvious about it. Internal rhymes are usually challenging to pick out unless you’re really looking for them, but they give your poems and songs a little something more. Paul McCartney’s songs are full of internal rhymes. “Lovely Rita” is a good example (the internal rhymes are in boldface): 

Lovely Rita meter maid

Nothing can come between us

When it gets dark I tow your heart away

Standing by a parking meter

When I caught a glimpse of Rita

Filling in a ticket in her little white book

In a cap she looked much older

And the bag across her shoulder

Made her look a little like a military man

2. Narrative

Narrative writing is a writing technique you use when telling a story. Along with descriptive writing, it’s the type of writing that tends to be the most creative, which is probably why many people like it best. When you’re being creative, it’s okay to bend the rules a little bit, so you don’t need to be perfect about grammar (though your writing will look sloppy if you’re not careful). Narrative works, like novels and short stories, usually include a bit of descriptive writing in them. Good narrative writers use many literary devices to make their writing stand out. Here is a list of the most common ones.


When you structure all the parts of your sentence for effect, you’ve created a parallel structure, also known as parallelism. “Love it or leave it” is a good example. Another example is the first two lines of Shel Silverstein’s poem, “Hug o’ War”: “I will not play at tug o’ war / I’d rather play at hug o’ war.” If you rewrite those lines without the parallel structure, it looks like this: “I’d rather play at hug o’ war than at tug o’ war.” It’s nowhere near as engaging!


This is when a series of words starts with the same letter. It’s a great technique if you want to create a dramatic effect. British tabloids love to use alliteration in their headlines: “Nattering nabobs of negativity” is one example. Alliteration is also lots of fun to play around with, especially if you want your writing to sound over the top.

Great characters with a strong voice

To write a great narrative piece, you need to make sure your characters are interesting and believable. You also need to pay close attention to how your characters talk to others and to themselves. Paying close attention to the characters in your story is super important! If you want to learn more about developing great characters, take a look at this blog article on characters.


Foreshadowing is a fantastic tool to keep your reader engaged. In foreshadowing, you give your reader a hint that something is about to happen without giving away any details. Here is an example of foreshadowing: “Mary closed the door to the office, happy to finally be done with the day, and hopped into the elevator. Already focused on the weekend ahead, she did not hear the tinny sound of the telephone ringing at her desk.”

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3. Expository 

Exposition, also known as expository writing, is a type of writing used to explain, inform, or describe. If you’re writing a book report, chances are that most of it will be expository writing. Journalism uses this style, as do most essays. Here are some tips to help you.

Know the difference between fact and opinion

It sounds obvious, but many people state an opinion and claim it is a fact. For example, “Gelato has less fat, less sugar, and a lower calorie count than ice cream” is a fact. But “Gelato is healthier than ice cream” is an opinion because “healthier” is a value judgment: It is not measurable. Check your work for comparatives and words like more, most, less, least, better, and worse to ensure you aren’t stating opinions as facts.

Stick to the third person

The third person is when you use pronouns like he, she, it, or they. If you see I in your writing, you’re probably stating an opinion, which is generally discouraged in expository writing. If you see you in you’re writing, you’re probably being too informal. Learn more about how to write in third person in this blog

Save your opinions for argumentative and persuasive writing

Expository writing aims to explain, inform, or describe. It can be difficult to do, but in good expository writing, you need to keep your opinions out of your writing. Pretend you’re a journalist, reporting on the facts.

4. Argumentative and persuasive

In argumentative writing, you research a topic and take a position on it. Your job is to convince the reader that your position deserves consideration. In persuasive writing, you also research a topic and take a position on it, but your job is to convince the reader that your position is correct and move them over to your side. While the two types of writing are slightly different, they have enough similarities that the same techniques apply to both. Here are a few:

Know your fallacies

There are many ways to twist your arguments so that you sound convincing without actually addressing the issue you’re supposed to be talking about. These are logical fallacies. A common fallacy is the ad hominem attack, where you focus on the person who disagrees with you instead of what they are saying. Take this sentence, for example: “My brother prefers city living to country living, but he’s an idiot, so what does he know?” Here, the writer doesn’t make arguments for or against city living versus country living. He prefers to dismiss the argument by dismissing the person who makes it. 

Use facts and emotions

In good persuasive writing, you have to strike the right balance between the data that supports your position and providing examples that appeal to your readers’ sense of right and wrong. Too much fact, and your writing will seem dry and unappealing. Too much feeling, and you might sound maudlin.

Consider opposing viewpoints. 

A good argumentative writer will always consider the arguments of those who disagree with them. It’s a powerful technique because it makes your reader feel heard. It also gives your writing more authority because it shows that you’ve considered many different perspectives before reaching your position.
That’s it! Those are the four most common types of writing. As you write, remember that you’ll rarely write in just one style. For example, persuasive and argumentative writing require some exposition. You’ll rarely write a narrative piece without including at least a little bit of description. If you want to work on your English writing skills, check out this blog article about different writing styles.

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