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Online Writing Lab
Types of Academic
Most essays written in an academic setting fall into one of
four categories, or modes: exposition, narration, description,
and persuasion. There are variations (or subcategories)
of different essays that are written in each main mode, but each
variation ultimately has the same overall purpose:
Exposition: an essay that attempts to inform the reader about
something important or explain something to him/her (a process,
a set of rules, the benefits of an activity, etc.). Common expository writings:
technical writing, process writing, compare and/or contrast essays, reaction
essays, response essays, and often research-based essays.
Narration: writing that tells the reader about a particular event(s) that
took place. Common narration writings: personal essays, short stories,
Description: writing that uses vivid language to describe a person,
place, or event so that the reader can picture the topic clearly
in his/her mind. Fiction
and poetry often use large amounts of descriptive writing, and sometimes only
attempt to serve this descriptive purpose.
Persuasion: writing that takes a stand on a principle (oftentimes a controversial issue) and
attempts to persuade the reader
to adopt a similar mindset. At
the collegiate level, persuasive writing assignments are quite common. The
most common persuasive essay is the argument paper. The reason for this
is because writing an argument essay involves incorporating critical thinking
and often the use of outside sources. Many papers written in disciplines other
than English are a variation of the argument paper and should be treated in a
similar fashion (ex-an analysis essay for literature that defends a particular
form of literary criticism for the literary work).
It is important to note that while an essay generally falls under
one of these main modes, good writing usually incorporates a
variety of these into the same assignment. For instance, a narration piece will benefit
heavy amounts of description, and often a persuasive essay must first explain
certain facts to the reader (exposition) before arguing for or against a certain
Writers of all disciplines and backgrounds should study these
modes and learn how to write each one successfully and incorporate
them into different forms of writing.