Depending on your purpose, you’ll want to use one of the four main types of writing styles: descriptive, expository, narrative, and persuasive. Each style has its own purpose, and you may find some styles are more natural for you than others. These writing style examples and tips will help you become a pro at all four.
What Are the Different Styles of Writing?
There are four main types of writing styles. Each has a distinct purpose.
- expository - Write in this style to explain or expose a topic.
- narrative - Write in this style to tell a story.
- persuasive - Write in this style to convince the reader of something.
- descriptive - Write in this style to create an image in the reader’s mind.
The key to knowing when and how to use these styles is mostly about being aware of what you want to convey to your reader.
Expository Writing: Explain or Expose
When you want to convey information to your reader or help the audience better understand something, use expository writing. There are several types of expository writing, including compare and contrast, cause and effect, and analysis, among others.
Types of Expository Writing
There are several kinds of expository writing. In every type of expository writing, the style is all about converting facts with clarity and focus. In great expository writing, nothing is confusing or unclear.
- business writing
- expository essays
- how-to/instructional articles
- news writing/journalism
- scientific reports
- technical writing
Expository Writing Examples
Great news reporting is expository in nature, as is writing that is focused on providing instruction or education. It tells the facts and explains details the reader needs to understand those facts. Even better, it exposes or “sheds light on” things the reader needs to know. A great example is the Watergate reporting done by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in 1972 for The Washington Post. Notice how the reporters add detail and background information while keeping the article on-topic in this Pulitzer prize-winning example:
"President Nixon's assistant for congressional relations and two officials of the President’s re-election committee were among the persons sent memos describing wire-upped conversations of Democratic Party officials, according to Alfred C. Baldwin III. Baldwin, the ex-FBI agent who says he transcribed the wiretapped conversations of Democratic officials in the Watergate, is known to have told the FBI that memos summarizing some of the conversations were addressed to the following persons, among others ..."
For more insights, consider these brief examples of expository writing:
- The resolution passed by a significant majority, with all but two of the 15 committee members voting in favor of it. The new rules will be effective as of June 1, 2022. Details about enforcement are expected to be released next week.
- The most common relative adverbs are where, when and why. To choose the correct one, decide if you need to provide information on location (where), time (when) or reason (why).
- To grow your own plants, you'll need seeds, potting soil, a small container, and water. Fill the container with potting soil. Use your finger to create a few small holes. Place one seed in each hole, then lightly cover with soil. Lightly water the soil and place in a sunny location. Water every few days.
Tips for Writing in an Expository Style
When you use this writing style, it's important to keep in mind your purpose: you are writing to explain and illuminate. Don't add your own opinion or make anything up.
- Choose a topic and narrow your focus.
- Create a thesis statement or main idea.
- Only include information that directly relates to your topic or provides necessary background context.
- Consider what your reader knows about your topic and decide what you need to explain.
- Include facts and concrete details. Connect these back to your main idea with clear statements.
Narrative Writing: Tell a Story
Narrative writing tells a story, real or fictional. Whether or not the events described really happened, this type of writing is all about presenting the story in a way that readers will enjoy and understand. The events don’t have to happen in chronological order, but they must capture and hold the reader’s attention.
Types of Narrative Writing
Narrative writing can take many forms. It can be your own story, such as a memoir or a personal essay. It can also be the story of a historical event or a work of fiction, such as a short story or novel.
- oral history
- short stories
Narrative Writing Example
In this type of writing, the goal is to tell the reader what happens in a way that is compelling. This can involve creating characters and describing settings in a way that makes the story more realistic. However, while descriptive details are part of narrative writing, this type of writing is not solely about description. This is about what happens in the story. You can see this in action in this example from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.
"Not having a very clearly defined notion of what a live board was, Oliver was rather astounded by this intelligence, and was not quite certain whether he ought to laugh or cry. He had no time to think about the matter, however; for Mr. Bumble gave him a tap on the head to wake him up, and another on the back to make him lively, and bidding him follow, conducted him into a large whitewashed room where eight or ten fat gentlemen were sitting round a table, at the top of which, seated in an armchair rather higher than the rest, was a particularly fat gentleman with a very round, red face."
Consider a few original examples of narrative writing.
- Seeing eight missed calls from her nephew first thing in the morning filled her with dread. Surely she knew what he wanted to tell her. The moment in time that they had been dreading for so long had finally come to pass. She dialed even though she knew what he was going to say. "It's done," he said. She replied, "I know."
- She checked her email, hoping against hope to receive some positive news about her job search. She noticed a message in her inbox from a company she applied to work with. Good news or bad news? She wasn't sure. But there was only one way to find out. With hope and trepidation, she clicked the message.
- The little dog looked suspiciously at the dog door. She had never seen such a thing. Being a shelter rescue she was accustomed only to the bars of a crate, with a door fully opened or fully closed, with no ability to move about freely. The pup pushed the flap gently with her nose but did not know what to do.
Tips for Writing in the Narrative Style
If you’re writing a narrative, keep in mind that you are telling a story. Include details and information that will keep your reader engaged.
- Include all the pieces of the story. How did it start? What happened to make it exciting? How did it end?
- Know why you’re telling the story. Even though the story is the purpose, keep your reason for telling it in mind.
- Keep the point of view consistent throughout the story.
- Stick to the story. Avoid extraneous details that will distract the reader.
Persuasive Writing: Convince the Reader
Persuasive writing is unique because it has a very clear and important purpose: convincing the reader to do something or think something. To succeed at this type of writing, you need a clear goal. Know what you want the reader to do or believe after reading your work.
Types of Persuasive Writing
Any writing designed to sell readers on something is an example of persuasive writing. It can take many forms.
- business proposals
- college admissions essays
- cover letters
- elevator pitches
- letters of recommendation
- opinion/editorial articles
- product reviews
- sales pitches
Persuasive Writing Example
Persuasive writing is only successful if you are clear about your goal and then support that goal with relevant points. This builds a case for your reader. You can see this type of writing in action in this excerpt from the Declaration of Independence.
"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them ..."
Review a few more modern examples of persuasive writing.
- Are you ready to grow in your career? Is your lack of skill working with modern technology holding you back? Register today for the Computer Tech training program and master the applications you need to know to attain the career of your dreams.
- Do you love the great outdoors? Did you choose to live here because of the proximity to lakes, rivers and white sand beaches? Are you concerned with protecting the natural beauty of the local environment? Show your commitment by joining Environment Now today.
- My background makes me uniquely suited for the position you are seeking to fill. Not only do I have experience teaching Interpersonal Communication classes, but I also have direct experience teaching this course via the same online platform your institution uses.
Tips for Writing in the Persuasive Style
Whether you’re writing a persuasive essay or creating a speech, this type of writing requires a clear purpose and good organization.
- Select an angle that will help you accomplish your goal.
- Decide what will help convince the reader that your goal should also be their goal.
- Research supporting details.
- Adjust the tone of your writing to appeal to the reader. Aristotle’s methods of persuasion can help. Know whether you’re appealing to emotion, logic, or ethics.
- End with a clear call to action. Tell the reader what to do next.
Descriptive Writing: Form a Picture for the Reader
This type of writing is about sharing perspective. In effective descriptive writing, you create a picture in the reader’s mind using your descriptions. Often, this type of writing includes vivid imagery and involves many of the five senses.
Types of Descriptive Writing
Descriptive writing can be fiction or nonfiction. It often uses figurative language, but also provides concrete information. There are many types of descriptive writing.
- first-person accounts
- journal writing
- product descriptions
- reflective writing
- statement of teaching philosophy
- travel writing
Descriptive Writing Example
An example of descriptive text can help you understand how this type of writing works. Bringing in sensory details can create a much more vivid picture for the reader, as you can see in this example from Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler. In the space of two short paragraphs, she uses descriptive sensory details from four of the five senses.
"The car drew in around them like a room. Their breaths fogged the windows. Earlier the air conditioner had been running and now some artificial chill remained, quickly turning dank, carrying with it the smell of mildew. They shot through an underpass. The rain stopped completely for one blank, startling second. Sarah gave a little gasp of relief, but even before it was uttered, the hammering on the roof resumed. She turned and gazed back longingly at the underpass. Macon sped ahead, with his hands relaxed on the wheel."
Peruse a few brief examples of descriptive writing.
- When she entered the house, she observed what seemed to be a spotless environment. The counters were clear and the floors were spotless. The furniture was perfectly aligned. Not a single thing was out of place and she could smell bleach in the air.
- The hiking trail appeared very well kept. The gravel trail was even, with no accumulation of leaves or debris. Trees lined both sides of the trail. She could make out the river just to the east of the trees.
- Traffic on the interstate seemed heavier than usual. There was a line of cars filling both lanes ahead as far as the eye could see. There were cars behind her vehicle as well, stretching out as far as was visible. Traffic was moving steadily, though below the speed limit.
Tips for Writing in the Descriptive Style
When you use this style of writing, you are creating an image for your reader. Don’t include details that distract the reader from the image you are creating.
- Before you begin your description, imagine you're in the scene. Consider what you experience with your senses.
- Use sensory descriptions instead of adverbs as much as possible.
- This writing style requires thought, so take your time.
- Focus on details that are important to the story.
Each Type of Writing Style Has a Purpose
Each of the four main types of writing styles has a different purpose. Keep that purpose in mind when you choose the style for your writing. Then, consider closely related elements like examples of tone and examples of mood to help convey your message to readers in an appropriate manner. Vary the literary devices you use, adjusting as needed for different types of writing.