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Lesson 5: Different Types of Essays

In this lesson, we’ll be taking a look at the different types of essays.


  • To enumerate the different types of essays
  • To discuss their goals
  • To define parameters as to how to go about writing these essays

As we mentioned in our previous lessons, one of the most important things to consider when writing your English essay is what kind of essay you’re writing. To help you decide this very crucial factor, this lesson is going to be dedicated to identifying, defining and discussing each of these kinds of essays and how they differ from one another. We’ll also be looking at what they involve and how to go about writing each type of essay.

1. Narrative Essay

Goal: To tell a story

Tone: Depending on the point of view you use, your tone can either be objective (3rd person) or distinctly narrative (1st person; coming from a distinct point of view).


Narrative essays are usually used to relay a number of events which have taken place. In school, these are usually papers about the Civil War or about World War II wherein you’re asked to explain certain events and their significance to present-day. Narrative essays always involve a certain timeline that you’re expected to work with. One of the best ways to write a good narrative essay is to master that timeline: think about the sequence of events and how all the events impacted one another.

In the workplace, narrative essays usually come in the form of reports. In this case, you have to select your point of view very wisely—if you’re being asked for a report as seen from your position (e.g. write a financial report and prediction for the next fiscal report as our Certified Financial Officer) then it’s okay to include your opinion and to write in 1st person. But if you’re being asked to write a report either on behalf of the company or of your department (e.g. write a report documenting the strategic planning session which took place from April 8th to 9th 2013), make sure that you write it in 3rd person, keep it objective and document all of the things which transpired without including your personal opinion.

2. Descriptive Essay

Goal: To describe something; very closely related to the narrative essay

Tone: Objective (usually—although sometimes, you may be asked to describe something from your personal point of view)


While descriptive essays are very closely related to narrative essays, they’re different in that they don’t involve a set timeline, necessarily. They can simply be describing something. In school, this can be in the form of science reports which ask you to write about what you observed during an experiment or it can be in the form of an English assignment that is asking you to describe how a poem was written. In the workplace, this can be in the form of product or program descriptions, brochures or proposals outlining the details of a certain project.

When writing descriptive essays it’s essential that you’re able to describe what you sense (see, hear, taste, smell, feel) rather than what you think or what you feel (unless you’re being asked for it as with product reviews). This allows you to properly describe what it is that’s being asked of you.

This is also sometimes called an expository essay—this is usually in the case that you have to use an objective tone of voice to be able to provide a balanced analysis of your topic or issue (e.g. Advantages and Disadvantages of Petrol Fuel).

3. Persuasive Essay

Goal: To convince

Tone: Objective but opinionated


When writing persuasive essays, it’s important to be objective when reporting facts (e.g. when convincing people to donate money for a Cancer fund, you need to be able to deliver figures involving the rate of cancer cases, survival and mortality) but opinionated when talking about what needs to be done about those facts. This allows you to get your audience on your side about the issue or topic you’re talking about.

However, you have to remember not to come on too strong about your point. If you are overly forceful, you will ultimately fail to convince the other person or party of your point. You have to talk calmly. When writing a persuasive essay your goal is not to subvert people’s opinions but to persuade them to change their minds themselves. It’s important to be able to outline the advantages, logical reasons and any available figures or support you might have on hand.

In school this can usually be in the form of reaction papers or reports about movies, documentaries or global issues which you’re being asked to analyze. In the workplace, this can be in the form of bids for projects where your task is to convince the client to choose your service or product over other available services and products.

4. Argumentative Essay

Goal: To debate in favor of or against a point

Tone: Opinionated, well-informed


While you have to be well-informed to be able to write any kind of essay, with this particular kind of essay you need to be especially armed because you aren’t simply supporting your own point, you’re also looking to discredit someone else’s argument. You need to know all the facts about both your own argument and the opposing party’s stand.

In school, this is usually used when asked to write papers about certain political or social issues (e.g. write a proposal to remedy the current bill on agriculture stating that farmers don’t need to be given medical benefits by land owners). In this case it’s important to do your research about the issues so that you can also prepare for any counter-arguments or flaws in your reasoning. In the workplace, this usually happens when you’re arguing for or against policies of the institution or else, when you’re lobbying for or against someone’s esteem (e.g. recommendation letters when a position opens up or filing a case against someone).

Make sure to state all the information that you need to support your stand and to invalidate the counter-arguments. Then proceed to state in full your argument or proposal and the advantages that it will have over the competition.

In this lesson, we were able to discuss the different types of essays, what they aim to achieve and how you might encounter them in school or in the workplace. We were also able to list down a couple of dos and don’ts when it comes to writing each of these kinds of essays.

Next we’ll be looking at the different formats that you might encounter when working on your English composition. We’ll be tackling the common essay formats, their guidelines and how they differ from one another when it comes to the appropriateness of use. Keep reading and you’ll be lesson closer to mastering English composition!




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