To the novice writer, it would seem like writing is just writing. Most people, writers included, simply focus on their writing skills and don’t often stop to think about the fact that there are actually several types of writing.
When an author writes, whether it’s nonfiction, fiction, business writing, short stories, news stories, or novels, he or she is employing various writing styles. There are four main types of writing, each with its own requirements and rules. Those types are: expository writing, persuasive writing, descriptive writing, and narrative.
This article will explain what those writing styles are and will name and describe the individual types of writing.
Expository writing is a writing style that tells you how to do something, how something works, or explains something. There is no opinion given, and there’s no real story involved. It’s just the facts laid out for the reader. Expository writing is technical writing.
Expository writing style doesn’t rely on the writer’s own opinion of anything but instead gives you a vivid picture of how to do something. Expository style may explain, logically, how to make a Thanksgiving dinner, or how World War II got started, in chronological order of events.
Just the Facts
Readers of expository writing aren’t looking for a story. They are looking for instructions. Expository writing is what you find when you look up articles about how to make a craft or want to learn how to sew, or need to know how to change a part out on your vehicle.
The audience can look up the subject and get right to business learning the facts. Detail only goes as far as making the process of what you are trying to learn clear to the reader, and description serves a different purpose in expository writing than it does in different types of writing.
Examples of Expository Writing
Expository writing is what you encounter when you attend school and have to read a textbook. Expository writing is what you get when you pick up a cookbook to expand your knowledge and practice the culinary arts. Expository writing is what you get when you want to remodel your basement but would rather learn to do it yourself than hire someone to do it.
If the type of writing tells you how to do something or explains something rather than telling a story (technical writing), it’s expository.
When you are interested in a movie that has just come out and want to know whether it’s worth it to pay for a movie ticket, you might look up movie reviews. When you read those reviews, you are reading persuasive writing.
Persuasive writing includes anything from a review, to an editorial, to a blog post, to ads, and more. The writing requires asking your audience to hear you out about something, whether it be an issue, a product, society, or anything else and then asking that audience to change their opinion so that it matches or mirrors yours. At the end of your persuasive style book or piece, you ask the reader to take action about the issue you’ve raised concern about.
Let’s take that movie review example mentioned above in this article. You have a little interest in the movie that is coming out, so you get online, and you look up movie reviews on the movie. The good news is that the movie was well-reviewed, and the articles you read all give the opinion that the movie is well worth paying to see. These movie reviewers write these articles with the sole purpose of convincing people to take their advice based upon their own opinions.
Examples of Persuasive Writing
Examples of persuasive writing exist in every single ad that you see (Buy this product! It’s life-changing!), every editorial that you read (The American health care system is broken, and you should care about it!) and every book and movie review you look up (Read this new writer’s book! It’s a thrill ride!)
Persuasive writing also exists in business writing. When you write cover letters, you are doing persuasive writing. This type of writing is also used when writing letters of recommendation or when proposing projects at meetings for work.
Heavy on Opinion
This is one of the main types of writing that is heavy on opinion (as the name implies). It has very little basis in fact because it deals with subject matter that’s based on an idea rather than expository evidence or fact. Ultimately, in the end, after presenting what evidence there is to be obtained to support the writer’s idea or opinion, the aim is for the reader to believe that evidence and support the writer’s stance.
Persuasive writing comes at a reader with, “This is what I think. This is why I’m right. Change your opinion to mirror mine. Do something to support my opinion.”
If you read or write fiction, this is narrative-style writing. Narrative writing tells a story. Whether it is a short story or a novel, anything that tells you a story with characters and a plot qualifies as narrative writing. As far as types of writing styles go, narrative writing is the one that is probably most popular, especially for a reader.
Writing skills for narrative writing include creativity and the ability to make the reader care about the characters and the plot. Even in short stories, where you have a limited amount of words and pages to get the story told, you still have to make the reader feel invested in the story.
Creative writing of all types are examples of narrative writing. Narrative writing can be written in first person, second person, or third person. However, third person is the most common way that this type of writing is done. First-person is also fairly popular.
In narrative writing, you have to write in a way that appeals to the reader on several levels. In fiction, when telling a story, you not only have to describe things so that the reader can form a mental picture. It’s also your job when doing creative writing to immerse your reader in the story in a way that makes them feel as though they are there with your characters.
Examples of Narrative
Different types of narrative writing exist when you start to break down the different types of fiction that exist. In poetry, if it tells a story, it’s narrative writing. Some articles (mostly feature pieces) qualify as narrative. For example, letters that tell a story qualify as narrative writing, and novels are most certainly narrative writing.
Descriptive writing appeals to the five senses. The descriptive writing style means writing about things in great detail so that the reader not only gets a feel for the plot or the story but feels as though they are actually there. The writing appeals to the five senses to completely entangle the reader.
Description in Fiction
Descriptive style writing is a type of writing that exists in almost all fiction. A lot of poetry uses descriptive writing. Even diary writing qualifies as descriptive writing. Readers enjoy descriptive literature because it is made out to be so realistic through its use of description that they understand both the point of the writing and the emotion involved.
Description in Nonfiction
Descriptive writing can also be used in nonfiction. If you are a writer and want to write a book about the Vietnam War, you should explain the setting and the overall feeling of that war by using both examples and description. The writer can add descriptive language in the form of symbolism or metaphor to get his point across.
Combination Writing Styles
Many things that you read include a combination of the different types of writing. The four main types aren’t separate and aren’t used strictly for a certain type of writing.
Examples of this include:
In creative writing, there is often the use of narrative writing, descriptive writing, and sometimes persuasive writing. Satire is a genre that qualifies as a type of creative writing. However, it is also persuasive and uses bullying, mockery, and fictional storylines to make the reader change their views and act in a manner that the writer prefers.
In expository writing, such as a cookbook, descriptive writing, and persuasive writing is often used. Readers are told not just how to make a dish, but the recipe is often laced with descriptive language in an effort to both convince the reader to make the dish and as a means to make the reader understand what the dish should look like, taste like, and smell like. There is sometimes even narrative style present in a cookbook. The author may write the story of how a specific recipe came to be passed down through generations of his or her family.
Other examples exist as well. Poetry can encompass basically any type of writing. Business writing can have hints of persuasion, descriptive writing, and narrative styles as well.
What’s the Point?
You may wonder what the point is in knowing the differences between the types of writing if they all intersect and get used in most forms of writing, from creative writing down to business writing. The answer there is simple.
Knowing the differences and usages of the four writing styles can help you improve your writing skills, decide which writing styles you prefer, and know who your potential readers are.
Improve Your Skills
The point in knowing the differences and the definitions is that you can be a better writer, reader, and student of the English language and written word. They can help you to propel your career forward or give you an understanding of what you would like to do as a career.
For example, suppose you know that your chosen field of work is heavy on the ability to persuade or convince a consumer. In that case, it is probably a good idea to learn everything you can about persuasive writing.
As a student, whether it’s high school, or college, having a basic understanding of these four styles will be beneficial to you when you are assigned papers or stories to write. You may be told that a paper needs to be a certain style and that you need to stick to that style to get a passing grade.
Knowing what the types are will not only help you to obtain that grade, but it will also help you get an understanding of what styles are more difficult for you, which ones you enjoy more, and which are most appealing to the reader.