4 Different Types of Writing You Need to Understand
Whether you’re still studying or starting a writing career, learning how to write properly is critical to every stage of your journey. It’s also vital when embarking on anything that requires the eloquent use of the written word. After all, if you’re looking to get any message across, you need to develop a certain set of skills. Understanding the purpose of the pieces you’re working on is fundamental. For it helps you choose from the different types of writing that will enhance their overall quality.
There are essentially four different types of writing: expository, descriptive, narrative and persuasive. Within each category are subcategories that more or less follow the same rules, but with slight variations. Each of these types serves a certain purpose. Still, a single written piece may include more than one. In any case, learning the different types of writing is just the tip of the iceberg. If you seek to truly develop your writing skills, here is some great advice from famous authors.
As its name suggests, expository writing is based on the exposition of facts. In other words, it is most commonly used to lay out, explain and illuminate a certain idea or topic. Expository or informative writing is your go-to if your purpose is to solely educate the readers about a subject through your piece. Your content must be purely factual and unaffected by your personal opinions or biases. Also, it is ideally written in the third person perspective using a neutral, matter-of-fact tone and backed by solid evidence as cited sources such as supplementary statistical or scientific data.
AMC Entertainment Holdings had about $320 million in cash and cash equivalents as of Nov. 30, and in the absence of additional liquidity it expects existing cash resources to be depleted during January next year.
Mudrick, an existing holder of second lien notes issued by AMC, will also convert $100 million of existing AMC debt into AMC stock. As part of the transactions, the company will issue nearly 22 million shares to the investment firm.
This is an excerpt of a piece of news posted on Reuters. It fits the criteria as it communicates facts and figures about a certain topic. AMC Entertainment Holdings financial state, supports the piece of news with external credible sources without imposing an opinion or stirring an emotion.
Expository writing is typically used in academic material, how-to articles, news stories, technical, scientific and business content.
This type is, in short, objective and fact-driven. But that does not necessarily mean it has to be monotonic and stiff. You can still present unbiased facts as cause/effect, problem/solution, compare/contrast, or process essays to make it more entertaining. As long as your essay fits the primary criterion of expository or informative writing, you’re good to go.
Descriptive writing relies on “describing” something to the readers. Like expository, it can and should be thorough. It does, nevertheless, give the writer more room to get creative and artistic. But unlike expository writing, it doesn’t have to depend primarily on solid facts. Descriptive writing is most commonly used by writers who want the readers to visualize something. Your description should, ideally, bring a character or scene to life and invoke the reader’s emotions by using all or a few of the five senses. As if you’re painting an image with your words.
“Perhaps it had something to do with living in a dark cupboard, but Harry had always been small and skinny for his age. He looked even smaller and skinnier than he really was because all he had to wear were old clothes of Dudley’s and Dudley was about four times bigger than he was. Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair and bright green eyes. He wore round glasses held together with a lot of Scotch tape because of all the times Dudley had punched him on the nose. The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead which was shaped like a bolt of lightning.”
Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, Ch. 2, Pg. 20
“They just looked at him, smiling. And slowly, Harry looked into the faces of the other people in the mirror and saw other pairs of green eyes like his, other noses like his, even a little old man who looked as though he had Harry’s knobbly knees—Harry was looking at his family, for the first time in his life. The Potters smiled and waved at Harry and he stared hungrily back at them, his hands pressed flat against the glass as though he was hoping to fall right through it and reach them. He had a powerful kind of ache inside him, half joy, half terrible sadness.”
Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, Ch. 12, Pg. 151
The first excerpt describes the main character’s appearance and living condition for the first time. Even though the readers have never met this fictional character or seen a picture of him, they could visualize what he looked like and get a sense of how his life is like. The second conveys the main character’s feeling as he sees himself standing between his dead parents in a magical mirror. It stirs mixed feelings of surprise, happiness, sadness and sympathy in the reader.
Descriptive writing, because of its artistic dimension, is most commonly used in poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, memoirs, movie-scripts and song lyrics.
Some events, characters or scenes are more complex than others that would require the use of more adjectives, similes and/or metaphors to describe. Also, typically, a poem would make use of more similes and metaphors than, perhaps, a memoir.
Often confused with descriptive writing, narrative writing relies on narrating a story from the beginning all the way to the end. Of course, telling a story would require a little “description” and that’s why some might use the two terms interchangeably. However, narration is not only about description. You’re still going to need to finish the story. Thus, the two types are not the same, they just go so well together, like peanut butter and jelly. You typically use narrative writing when you want to tell the readers ‘what happened’ in a chronological, compelling order. That way you can keep them hooked until they get to the bottom of thing.
“On a hot, humid day in August 1994, Morrie and his wife, Charlotte, went to the neurologist’s office, and he asked them to sit before he broke the news: Morrie had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Lou Gehrig’s disease, a brutal, unforgiving illness of the neurological system. There was no known cure.
“How did I get it?” Morrie asked.
“Is it terminal?”
“So I’m going to die?”
Yes, you are, the doctor said. I’m very sorry.”
Tuesdays With Morrie, Ch.2, The Syllabus
As exhibited in the previous example, the use of dialogue can enhance the quality of the story, contribute to the characters’ roundness, and keep the readers engaged. Too much description and monotonic narration can bore the readers. Though it bears mentioning that you should use dialogues wisely and only when necessary. For more on that, you can learn How to Write Dialogue in a Book.
We usually use narrative writing in memoirs, biographies and autobiographies, fictional and non-fictional novels, and novellas. Although they should be supplemented with a fair share of expository writing, news stories can be done in narrative writing as well.
The final type is very distinctive and easy to spot as it rests on a single important pillar: convincing the reader to do or think something. The question of “how” depends on the context. Persuasive writing typically reflects the writer’s opinions and stances. You can persuade someone to do or think the same thing you do by using emotional appeal and/or well-researched facts, reasoning, arguments and justifications. Your passion alone can convince the reader that whatever you’re saying is right. Still, using a more argumentative style, a subcategory of persuasive writing, by preparing for counter-arguments, will convince them even further.
“Above all, My Lord, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy.
But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another…”
I Am Prepared to Die Speech by Nelson Mandela
Because of his three-hour-long speech, Nelson Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader, served 27 years in prison instead of getting a death sentence. He moved the addressees to the extent that after his release he was elected president and continued his endeavors to end institutionalized racism. In fact, this 1964 speech still inspires many grassroots and political leaders.
Persuasive writing is not exclusive to emotion-infused political speeches. It is also used in editorial and opinion sections in newspapers and magazines, motivation and recommendation letters, products and/or services reviews and brand marketing material such as advertisements.
The rule of thumb is that if you want to drive the readers’ thoughts or actions in a certain direction, you must have a very clear idea of where it is and how you plan on getting them there.
It is safe to say that a successful piece of writing is one with a clear, defined purpose. A poem and a legal document are both pieces of writing but with very different characteristics. Keep the purpose in mind when you choose the style you are going to use.
This is only the tip of the iceberg though, there is much more to add to your skill set to be a great writer and that can happen mostly through practice. It is advisable to write every day and always remember, writing is rewriting! Revisit old pieces you’ve written, edit them, and keep track of your modifications to record your progress, you can also learn a few tips on how to create a solid writing strategy here.