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Types of Essays and When To Use Them

Effective written communication is a necessary skill for nearly every job. Often, writers learn how to convey a message by practicing the different ways to explain or describe their ideas. There are several common types of essays that help guide writers to streamline their work into a piece that is clear, focused and well-organized. In this article, we discuss what types of essays are and the 10 most common types.

What are essays?

Essays are long-form writing assignments that persuade or inform a reader about a particular topic. It\’s important to know which type of essay to use to best deliver your message to readers. When you choose the type of essay most relevant for your topic, your essay can be more tailored to your readers and better organized.

In some cases, such as school or job applications, the type of essay you\’ll write is decided for you. In other cases, you\’ll need to choose what type of essay to write. Before writing, consider what your goal is. You may need to convince readers to take your side, explore an abstract topic or try to evoke an emotional response. Select an essay type based on what you\’re trying to accomplish. For example, if you want to teach the reader how to do something, you\’ll want to use a process essay that breaks up the directions into individual steps.

Read more: 10 Essay Writing Tips

10 types of essays

Here are 10 types of essays you may use in your writing:

Narrative essays

Narrative essays tell a story and are generally the most personal type of essay you\’ll write. They allow you to exercise creativity and imagination. Narrative essays may be based on a particular prompt, such as \”Write about the first time you drove a car by yourself,\” or a more open-ended prompt, like \”Write about a time you had to overcome a fear.\” You may be required to submit a narrative essay (usually called a personal statement) for college or graduate school applications.

You can use literary techniques in narrative essays to create an essay that reads like fiction. Consider including:

  • Metaphors
  • Analogies
  • Alliteration
  • Imagery
  • Dialogue

Your narrative essay should have an opening that gets the reader\’s attention and provides enough background information for the story to make sense. You\’ll also want to include a conclusion to summarize the main point of your essay or reiterate your goals, such as \”This experience solidified my desire to become a lawyer.\”

Descriptive essays

Descriptive essays provide a detailed description of your subject matter. This may be a person, place, thing or event. Descriptive essays, like narrative essays, allow for a more creative approach to writing. Unlike narrative essays, which provide a complete story, descriptive essays need only discuss the subject.

You should consider including vivid imagery and incorporate the \”show, don\’t tell\” technique, which means to use action, thoughts, sensory details and emotions to immerse the reader as opposed to simply explaining the situation or events. For example, instead of writing \”My first car was a red, two-door coupe,\” you could write \”The cherry red sparkled from bumper to bumper, and the two sleek doors were masked with a dark tint, mysterious and cool.\”

Expository essays

Expository essays are used to explain something in a neutral way. Writers use expository essays to demonstrate their knowledge or expertise in a certain area. Teachers often assign expository essays to test their students\’ understanding of a topic. Expository essays can take different formats but typically include:

  • An introduction with a thesis statement explaining exactly what the essay will discuss
  • The body that details the facts of the subject matter, often citing sources
  • A conclusion that summarizes the main points

You should avoid emotion or opinion in expository essays and instead focus on factual information. For instance, if you\’re writing about environmental conservation, you should avoid writing statements like \”The government should\” since this kind of phrasing usually leads to an opinion.

Read more: What Is a Thesis Statement? Examples and How To Write One

Definition essays

Definition essays are a type of exposition essay that defines a term or idea. These essays typically delve into complex or abstract topics and provide in-depth analysis and explanations. For instance, a definition essay might discuss what existentialism is or the meaning of quantum physics. Definition essays are common in academic and research settings.

Process essays

Process essays, another type of exposition essay, describe how to do something or how something works. You should write a process essay in chronological order to maintain organization and clarity. Process essays usually contain the following elements:

  • Introduction: Introduce the process you will be describing.
  • Body: These paragraphs should describe each step in chronological order. Consider using transition words that signal where you are in the process, such as \”First, remove the cap from the bottle.\” and \”Lastly, replace the cap tightly on the bottle.\”
  • Conclusion: Finish your essay with a conclusion that summarizes the process, such as \”Learning how to paint with watercolors is an enjoyable experience that almost anyone can enjoy.\”

Read more: How To Write a Conclusion (With Tips and Examples)

Compare and contrast essays

Compare and contrast essays discuss two subjects and detail the similarities and differences between them. These essays should include an introduction, at least one paragraph to explain the subjects\’ similarities, at least one paragraph to discuss differences and a conclusion. Compare and contrast essays are common in academic settings. An example of a compare and contrast essay is one describing the similarities and differences between bees and wasps.

Argumentative essays

Argumentative essays are designed to convince the reader to take a certain side based on the information presented. Argumentative essays rely on facts rather than emotion to sway the readers. For instance, consider an argumentative essay that discusses why companies should offer wellness packages as part of their benefits plan. The essay could incorporate research about how regular exercise increases productivity and how people who eat well and work out take fewer sick days.

Argumentative essays avoid \”I\” and \”you\” statements. Rather, they support one side of an argument and may argue against other sides using objective information. You can use phrases like \”Research suggests\” or \”According to the Centers for Disease Control\” to present the facts that support your argument.

Persuasive essays

Persuasive essays are essays meant to persuade readers to adopt an opinion or take a side using both facts and emotional appeals. In support of an argument or cause, persuasive essays can include moral and emotional reasoning to connect to the reader.

For example, a persuasive essay about the previous topic of companies including wellness packages in employee benefits may include appeals to employers\’ satisfaction with providing an extra perk for their employees or employers\’ responsibility to ensure their employees have access to features that keep them healthy. Additionally, the essay may discuss how excited and grateful employees are for the new benefits.

Cause and effect essays

Cause and effect essays detail why certain events or situations led to other events. Writers should create a clear connection between the two sets of events or circumstances and explain what features of the initiating event created the subsequent incidents. Cause and effect essays are types of expository essays and, as such, should state facts and be free from subjective opinions. A cause and effect essay may examine how Charles Darwin\’s scientific discoveries led to the origin of new theories of social science.

Critical essays

Critical essays provide an in-depth analysis of a topic. They critique works, such as paintings, books, movies, plays and restaurants. Many college courses, especially literature and humanities courses, require critical essays as a way to test students\’ ability to think critically and identify evidence from a specific work that validates their observations. Critical essays use facts from the subject to justify an opinion. For instance, in a movie review, a film critic could note that a movie uses trite dialogue. Then the film critic could support that observation by citing the action hero\’s line \”Danger is my middle name\” as proof.

This article first appeared on Indeed.com

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