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Four Different Types of Writing Styles: Expository, Descriptive, Persuasive, and Narrative

Updated on May 10, 2016
Definitions and explanations of the four types of writing: expository, persuasive, descriptive, and narrative.
Definitions and explanations of the four types of writing: expository, persuasive, descriptive, and narrative. | Source

Four Types of Writing

A writer’s style is a reflection of his or her personality, unique voice, and way of approaching the audience and readers.

However, every piece writers write is for a specific purpose—for example, writers may want to explain how something works or persuade people to agree with their point of view. While there are as many writer's styles as there are writers, there are only four general purposes that lead someone to write a piece, and these are known as the four styles, or types, of writing. Knowing all four different types and their usages is important for any writer.

Here are the categories and their definitions:

1. Expository

Expository writing explains or informs. It talks about a subject without giving opinions.
Expository writing explains or informs. It talks about a subject without giving opinions.

Expository writing's main purpose is to explain. It is a subject-oriented writing style, in which authors focus on telling you about a given topic or subject without voicing their personal opinions. These types of essays or articles furnish you with relevant facts and figures but do not include their opinions. This is one of the most common types of writing. You always see it in textbooks and how-to articles. The author just tells you about a given subject, such as how to do something.

Key Points:

  • Usually explains something in a process.
  • Is often equipped with facts and figures.
  • Is usually in a logical order and sequence.

When You Would Use Expository Writing:

  • Textbook writing.
  • How-to articles.
  • Recipes.
  • News stories (not including opinion or editorial pieces).
  • Business, technical, or scientific writing.

Example:

Many people associate the taste of pumpkins with fall. In October, companies from Starbucks to McDonalds roll out their pumpkin-flavored lattes and desserts. Here is how to make an easy pumpkin pie using only five ingredients. First, make sure you have all of the ingredients.

This writing is expository because it is explaining. In this case, you can already tell that the piece will be about how to make a pumpkin pie.

Non-example:

Everyone knows that the best part about fall is all of the pumpkin-flavored desserts. Pumpkin pie is the best fall treat because it is not only delicious but also nutritious. Pumpkin is filled with vitamin A, which is essential for a healthy immune system and good vision.

This is not expository because several opinions are stated, such as “Pumpkin pie is the best fall treat…” Although this excerpt contains a fact about pumpkin containing vitamin A, that fact is used as evidence to support the opinion. These opinions make this an example of persuasive writing.

2. Descriptive

Descriptive writing focuses on communicating the details of a character, event, or place.
Descriptive writing focuses on communicating the details of a character, event, or place. | Source

Descriptive writing's main purpose is to describe. It is a style of writing that focuses on describing a character, an event, or a place in great detail. It can be poetic when the author takes the time to be very specific in his or her descriptions.

Example:

In good descriptive writing, the author will not just say: “The vampire killed his lover.”

He or she will change the sentence, focusing on more details and descriptions, like: “The bloody, red-eyed vampire, sunk his rust-colored teeth into the soft skin of his lover and ended her life."

Key Points:

  • It is often poetic in nature
  • It describes places, people, events, situations, or locations in a highly-detailed manner.
  • The author visualizes what he or she sees, hears, tastes, smells, and feels.

When You Would Use Descriptive Writing:

  • Poetry
  • Journal or diary writing
  • Nature writing
  • Descriptive passages in fiction

Example:

The iPhone 6 is unexpectedly light. While size of its screen is bigger than those of the iPhones that came before, it is thinner, and its smooth, rounded body is made of aluminum, stainless steel, and glass. The casing comes in a whitish silver, gold, or a color the company calls “space gray,” the color of the lead of a pencil, with darker gray accents.

This is an example because it describes aspects of the phone. It includes details such as the size, weight, and material.

Non-example:

So you just brought home a shiny new smartphone with a smooth glass screen the size of your palm. The first thing you will want to do when purchasing a new cell is buy a case. Cracking your screen is an awful feeling, and protection is inexpensive when you compare it to the costs of a new phone.

Even though this example uses adjectives, you can tell that this is not an example of descriptive writing because the purpose is not to describe the phone—it’s to persuade you to buy a case.

3. Persuasive

Persuasive writing tries to bring other people around to your point of view.
Persuasive writing tries to bring other people around to your point of view. | Source

Persuasive writing's main purpose is to convince. Unlike expository writing, persuasive writing contains the opinions and biases of the author. To convince others to agree with the author's point of view, persuasive writing contains justifications and reasons. It is often used in letters of complaint, advertisements or commercials, affiliate marketing pitches, cover letters, and newspaper opinion and editorial pieces.

Key Points:

  • Persuasive writing is equipped with reasons, arguments, and justifications.
  • In persuasive writing, the author takes a stand and asks you to agree with his or her point of view.
  • It often asks for readers to do something about the situation (this is called a call-to-action).

When You Would Use Persuasive Writing:

  • Opinion and editorial newspaper pieces.
  • Advertisements.
  • Reviews (of books, music, movie, restaurants, etc.).
  • Letter of recommendation.
  • Letter of complaint.
  • Cover letters

Example:

Following the 2012 Olympic Games hosted in London, the UK Trade and Investment department reported a £9.9 billion boost to the economy. Although it is expensive to host the Olympics, if done right, they can provide real jobs and economic growth. This city should consider placing a bid to host the Olympics.

This is persuasive writing because the author has a belief—that “this city should consider placing a bid to host the Olympics”—and is trying to convince others to agree.

Non-example:

According to legend, the Olympics were founded by Hercules. Now almost 100 countries participate in the Games, with over two million people attending. So cities from Boston to Hamburg begin considering their bid to be a host city more than 10 years in advance.

All of these statements are facts. Therefore it’s expository. To be persuasive writing, you must have an opinion that you’re trying to persuade people of—then, of course, you will support that opinion with evidence.

4. Narrative

A narrative tells a story. There will usually be characters and dialogue.
A narrative tells a story. There will usually be characters and dialogue. | Source

Narrative writing's main purpose is to tell a story. The author will create different characters and tell you what happens to them (sometimes the author writes from the point of view of one of the characters—this is known as first person narration). Novels, short stories, novellas, poetry, and biographies can all fall in the narrative writing style. Simply, narrative writing answers the question: “What happened then?”

Key Points:

  • A person tells a story or event.
  • Has characters and dialogue.
  • Has definite and logical beginnings, intervals, and endings.
  • Often has situations like actions, motivational events, and disputes or conflicts with their eventual solutions.

Examples of When You Would Use Persuasive Writing:

  • Novels
  • Short stories
  • Novellas
  • Poetry
  • Autobiographies or biographies
  • Anecdotes
  • Oral histories

Example:

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Jaelyn.

“You never used to be such a girl!” retorted Orin, pushing open the door.

Reluctantly, Jaelyn followed.

This is a narrative because it’s telling a story. There are different characters conversing, and a plot is unravelling.

Non-example:

Cutting Edge Haunted House holds the Guinness World Record for the largest haunted house on earth. It’s located in a district in Fort Worth, Texas known as "Hell's Half Acre" in a century-old abandoned meat-packing plant. The haunted house takes an hour to complete, winding through horrific scenes incorporating the factory's original meat-packing equipment.

While this would serve as a worthy setting for a story, it would need a plot before it could be called a narrative.

Conclusion

These are the four different types of writing that are generally used. There are many sub-types of writing that may fall in any of those categories. A writer must know all these styles in order to identify the purpose of his or her own writing and make sure it's something the audience wants to read.

Poll Time!

Which type of writing style do you prefer to use?

See results

© 2011 Syed Hunbbel Meer

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      K.Williams 96 minutes ago

      Great post. This was very helpful.

    • profile image

      kk 40 hours ago

      I really am glad that this will help me with my reaport

    • profile image

      Shahid Vistro 2 days ago

      This is quite informative which provided a lot of knowledge to me.

      Thanks

    • profile image

      LIFE 8 days ago

      helpful thx

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      i dont knoe 9 days ago

      thanks for the help dude it help me in summit

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      lymna 10 days ago

      very learningful thank you

    • profile image

      LIFE 10 days ago

      a really good web helpful thanks

    • profile image

      lymna 10 days ago

      Im in fith grade and it helps me in sumbit.

    • profile image

      fdajsgc 10 days ago

      helpful alot

    • profile image

      Fhcfuc 11 days ago

      Hjvhgvuyfc

    • profile image

      lymna 11 days ago

      very helpful It help me alot

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      Krishna 12 days ago

      Well-defined with important points! Thanks a lot.

    • profile image

      alvia 13 days ago

      There are only the important stuff well presented,helpful too!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      J. Moses 13 days ago

      Thanks for the help, I really needed it for my English Homework

    • profile image

      Free education for everyone 13 days ago

      Great lesson of how to know four styles of writing.

    • profile image

      Amy 2 weeks ago

      Very helpful thanks. I always got confused between those three.

    • profile image

      Shakira 4 weeks ago

      You have a word mistake. But other than that very helpful information.

    • profile image

      SHANZA MALIK 5 weeks ago

      very helpful thanks

    • profile image

      Anrdril Chan 7 weeks ago

      Thanks

    • profile image

      Abdul Ahad 2 months ago

      fantabulous writing process

    • profile image

      lucy 2 months ago

      thank you!!! very helpful!!!

    • profile image

      Elmore 3 months ago

      I've never really thought about general basic writing styles. What I look for in an article is understandability. If an article is too wordy, for the description at hand, then it becomes a tough read and hard to understand. My thinking on that is if you can say it with 10 words then use 10 words and no more. I call this efficiency of communication. As you can see by my description I’m taking about technical writing. But the idea can be applied, to a limited degree, to other styles of writing. What bothers me about some writers is that they would rather try to impress you with big complicated words instead of trying to communicate and idea or concept. Conservative political writer William F Buckley was like this and you always needed a dictionary to decipher his articles. As and example of what I’m taking about read the comments by Madhu is this blog. In my opinion he is right in what he said but he could have been less of a show off and more of a communicator.

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      kodak lightskin 4 months ago

      thanks for the help

    • profile image

      4 months ago

      thanks for helping me

    • profile image

      4 months ago

      Thanks

    • profile image

      fabian123 4 months ago

      IT'S good and helpful MR.Syed Hunbbel Meer

    • profile image

      Cathy 5 months ago

      Good and helpful reading material.

    • profile image

      Anthony Alcock 5 months ago

      Many people associate the taste of pumpkins with fall. In October, companies from Starbucks to McDonalds roll out their pumpkin-flavored lattes and desserts. Here is how to make an easy pumpkin pie using only five ingredients. First, make sure you have all of the ingredients.

      'Many people' is an opinion.

      'Here is how to' is an opinion/recommendation.

      'First, make sure ...' is condescending and unnecessary

    • profile image

      Mac 5 months ago

      It was very helpful for my project!!! I look forward to see your recent posts. Please post soon!

    • profile image

      Spy 5 months ago

      Thanks! It was very helpful.

    • profile image

      Tifiny 5 months ago

      This was awesome help thanks

    • Maria Cecilia profile image

      Maria Cecilia 5 months ago from Philippines

      Thanks for explaining the difference, Identifying my style, I can't see myself in one 100%, a little bit of descriptive and Narrative..

    • profile image

      Sophia 6 months ago

      Very good for study guide

    • profile image

      Demian Mulongo Nandi 6 months ago

      This an excellent guide.Very useful for academic purposes

    • profile image

      Ubeke Joshua 6 months ago

      It has given me more ways to hope

    • profile image

      Sailor Uranus 6 months ago

      this was helpful! thanks!!!

    • profile image

      Person in device. 6 months ago

      Cool.

    • profile image

      TTPOCOYO 7 months ago

      Very useful for school. I used this website for my school work project... :)

    • profile image

      BByard 7 months ago

      Very useful tips and the examples showing the different writing styles is excellent. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Nadia Haider from Pakistan 8 months ago

      this is so helpful for my interview ..

    • profile image

      Olivia short 8 months ago

      That is so helpful for my project and for my test too.

      Thank you for your help!

      That is an Exalt job.

    • profile image

      coco 8 months ago

      So helpful for my project!

    • profile image

      eemy 9 months ago

      What kind of essay is '' why boys fail in college '' by Herbert e hawkers ...

      And ''a piece of chalk '' by g.k Chesterton??? Please reply fast and accurately...

    • profile image

      Abdirizak Awliyo 9 months ago

      Thank you for your help. This is actually very helpful.

    • profile image

      Craig von Gutengewer 9 months ago

      Thank you for taking time out of your day to write this and just thank you for helping me by describing the types of writing so in the future I can be a writer.

    • profile image

      Victor 9 months ago

      Fantastic

    • jamesplee profile image

      James Lee 9 months ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Keen insights into writing styles and a good read for anyone that writes. It's often a good exercise to examine your overall style or the one you're currently working on.

    • profile image

      Keilly 9 months ago

      Very helpful, thankyou.

    • profile image

      Harshdeep Singh 10 months ago

      Incomplete

    • profile image

      DOLON 10 months ago

      Its really very good..and useful for me.and it can save my 1 marks in English ..thanks...

    • profile image

      Milad23 10 months ago

      Very useful,Thanks :)

    • profile image

      Jeff 11 months ago

      I hate this

    • profile image

      tr 12 months ago

      Add Your Commett...tttttttttttrtytryergfdfytreyw4treytrh

    • profile image

      Tomfoolery 12 months ago

      Your description for "narrative" still has the identifiers of the category above it. Clean up on aisle #4 ...

    • profile image

      Ogbe Isaac 12 months ago

      Very useful! A very big thank you to the author.

    • profile image

      hi 12 months ago

      thx

      it was sure usefelllllll

    • profile image

      Bart 13 months ago

      Hi Letterpile,

      I found one mistake and am wondering if you could edit it? It is under the narrative section, where it says, "Examples of When You Would Use Persuasive Writing" and I believe you all meant to say, "...Narrative Writing". I would like to use this article with my class. Thanks.

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      Cato 13 months ago

      Thanks for the great article!

      Minor edit suggestion: Under the heading "Narrative", change subheading "Examples of When You Would Use Persuasive Writing" to "... Narrative Writing".

      Alexerratus.wix.com/Publishing

    • profile image

      hameed ullah 13 months ago

      Great, & very simple.. thnxx for sharing

    • profile image

      kanwar azlan 13 months ago

      Nyc and easy words

      thanks to give this information in such a easy manner

    • profile image

      Curtis 13 months ago

      Thank you for the information you provided, the information was very useful for me. The poll is clear, remove expository but do not remove expository ☺️

    • profile image

      haider ijaz 13 months ago

      useful information here.....thanks to author

    • profile image

      jeyakanthan 13 months ago

      very useful information and thanks you

    • profile image

      fabien 16 months ago

      excellent job..really helpful

    • profile image

      Parker 16 months ago

      This is awesome thank you. I am going to book mark this post and refer back to it as I work on different styles of writing for my blog. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      Artemis 16 months ago

      Great Hub!

      I really enjoyed writing my whole life, especially the Expository style :D But I can only write as long as I listen to some calming music like this, do you guys/girls feel similar?

      https://youtu.be/bwPYA2w4Jnk?list=PLfkfxk3Q1BOIVSr...

      I've no idea why, but this kind of music somehow helps me to relax and be creative :D

      Thanks for your Hub and have a nice day!

    • profile image

      Tony Garcia 17 months ago

      I thoroughly enjoyed your format. Your structure allowed for an easy read.

    • profile image

      tajammul 18 months ago

      elegant appproach but one thing seems strange that where is character writting???

    • profile image

      Bob Jones 18 months ago

      Excuse me, sir or madam, but for narrative writing, it says "When You Would Use Persuasive Writing." I am curious as to why this is so.

    • profile image

      chris roberts 19 months ago

      very informative love it

    • Cee-Jay Aurinko profile image

      Cee-Jay Aurinko 19 months ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Persuasive, Descriptive, and Narrative Writing. That's me. Before this Syed, I only had one word for the type of writing I did - writing. Now I have three! I'm glad I read your post today.

    • profile image

      Calum Tingham 19 months ago

      Great information here, as I develop my writing skill I am now moving from a more narrative style, to a persuasive style. Just the advice/help I needed on this blog post. Thank you. www.calumtingham.com

    • Hunbbel Meer profile image
      Author

      Syed Hunbbel Meer 19 months ago from Karachi, Pakistan.

      125 comments and counting. WOW!

      I'm glad my article was so helpful to all of you. Please also share this on your social media profiles to help me reach more people. And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out :)

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      Reuben 19 months ago

      wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwooooowwwwwwwww this is awesome

    • profile image

      josh h 19 months ago

      really good mmmmmm

    • profile image

      Josh Borland 19 months ago

      Helped me get an a+!!!!!

    • profile image

      Guy Marccuci 19 months ago

      loved it

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      Brian Lima 19 months ago

      Thanks alot! Love this!

    • profile image

      Amit Gomango 21 months ago

      Thanks for the hub. It is quite informative.

    • profile image

      Fatima 21 months ago

      thank u. it's really help me out!!!

    • profile image

      Madhu 21 months ago

      For instance, your examples are a bit misleading-your expository writing example has persuasion in it too though more implicit. What looks neutral, 'looks' neutral. There is more to the story than that. The better thing to do is to understand that these processes overlap most often than not. Writing is multilayered. You can't rigidly compartmentalize it like this. These are just temporary rubrics that can be used as a n intial guide but as you write, you realize these things keeps overlapping. Writing is a more spntanoeus, and a hetrogenous process.

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      Madhu 21 months ago

      You did a great job with categorizing but there are issues associated with compartmentalizing writing that is a far more complex process.

    • profile image

      Zebairum 22 months ago

      Thanx hub

    • breathing profile image

      Sajib 22 months ago from Bangladesh

      A great and useful post for all kinds of writers. Any kind of writer can take help from this hub. I've some different prospects to discuss. If a writer has multiple writing skills then which one should he choose. Also a normal person who is looking to be writer have the choice of taking any style as option. But if he fails to choose the right style then the whole process of being a good writer can go in vain. I wish you will shed some light on this issue.

      Overall again thanks a lot for presenting the readers with sucha wonderful hub.

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      Muaddiq Ali 22 months ago

      there's a mistake in Narrative writing uses. You just wrote Persuasive instead of Narrative,

      overall a great work , and very helpfull :)

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      Joyette Fabien 22 months ago from Dominica

      Excellent hub. Well detailed, well laid out and well illustrated! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      klay thompson 2 years ago

      good site very good hub

    • rigey profile image

      Gey Rutaquio 2 years ago from Manila

      Thank you so much. I've been looking for something like this to help me out.

    • suraj punjabi profile image

      suraj punjabi 2 years ago from jakarta

      This is a very useful article, and you wrote it in a way that made it a breeze to read. I found out that I am more of a the persuasive type. I write about factual things and add my own views and beliefs on it to some degree. I guess this is my starting point to further go deeper into this kind of writing. Thank you.

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      kibish 2 years ago

      good work done.really helped me a lot especially in ma exams.good work Hub

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      Salinda 2 years ago

      I really like it. It's perfect! Information is very useful! Thank you so much!

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      Daphne D. Lewis 2 years ago from Saint Albans, West Virginia

      Great examples and information on different styles of writing. This will be a good reference for future writing.

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      sandeep eshanya 2 years ago

      great

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      Malcolm Massiah 2 years ago from Bristol, England

      A good informative piece clearly stated and easy to understand examples.

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      pauline 2 years ago

      very informative .thankyou

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      Melissa Reese Etheridge 2 years ago from Tennessee, United States

      This is such an interesting hub. You have taken a subject that is difficult for folks and put it in perspective. Voted up and useful.

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      Amy Julian 2 years ago

      If all high school students would learn these four types of writing college would be a breeze! Thanks for the reminder. It's been awhile since I've thought about the types of writing, even as a high school business teacher.

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      saurabh 2 years ago

      Very informative thank you nd keep going

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      liam 2 years ago

      Thank you . it is awesome

    • profile image

      coolman948 2 years ago

      cool website