The 4 Different Types of Essays

Nickee Leon Huld

Let’s face it. At some point in your life, you will be required to write an essay — whether for a school homework, college standardized tests or even for work-related purposes.

There are several basic types of essays to choose from, the most common are expository, narrative, persuasive and analytical. Which one you choose really depends on your objectives. We'll explore each type in depth, and offer recommendations on the typical word counts for each essay type.

Which of the 4 different essay types you should use depends largely on the assignment or desired outcome
Which of the 4 different essay types you should use depends largely on the assignment or desired outcome.

Expository Essay

An expository essay gives a brief explanation of an issue, idea or theme. Purdue OWL expands on this, offering some common requirements in step form: investigation of an idea, evaluation of evidence, a systematic and detailed explanation of the idea, and a clear and concise statement of an argument about the idea.

Because brevity is required for this type of essay, the recommended length is around 500-800 words.

In order to be effective, an expository essay should possess:

  • A clear-cut thesis statement, research question, or statement of intent
  • A no-frills approach to answering the question or addressing your thesis - factual evidence to support your claim or position
  • Conciseness

The first paragraph of an expository essay should be the shortest since it only seeks to briefly yet clearly state your thesis, research question, or intent. A maximum of 200 words should suffice.

Now, the succeeding paragraphs will be VERY crucial because they should contain all the necessary details to support your thesis statement. That means they would require a bigger chunk of your word count. But remember to still keep them succinct — no- frills, factual, and straightforward.

Finally, the last paragraph will serve as your conclusion to tie it all together. Emphasize your point but don’t dwell on it too much.

Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is all about the storytelling of real-life experiences. This essay type usually relays a personal or experiential account and uses a first-person point-of-view. Any story requires a beginning, middle and end — a narrative essay should be structured in the same way.

According to Essay Info a narrative essay possesses the following qualities:

  • It is usually written with a first-person point-of-view
  • It contains vivid imagery and sensory details
  • It has all the essential elements of a story (i.e. plot, theme, character, setting, style, tone, etc.)

Because descriptive and evocative language is needed for this type of essay, around 1,000 words may be required at the least in order to tell a full-bodied story. Think of a narrative essay as a short version of a novel — each paragraph represents a “chapter” in the story.

Make your essay riveting by adding anecdotes or dialogues into the narrative. Most importantly, end your essay with a conclusion or a personal statement — a takeaway will make your story more memorable to the reader.

Persuasive Essay

A persuasive essay (also referred to as an argumentative essay) makes use of logical reasoning to influence the reader to adopt the writer’s point of view. This essay type works harder compared to other essay types because the writer needs to convince the reader to espouse his position. In order to be eloquent and convincing, a definitive rationale or argument is imperative.

The qualities of a persuasive essay include:

  • Factual evidence
  • Valid reasoning
  • Sustaining the reader’s interest
  • A natural progression from one idea to the next - a forceful and convincing conclusion

To create a compelling argument, Scribbr advises an essay length of about 2,500 words. Anything under 2,000 words may be construed as “under-explaining” your point. However, your essay should go beyond just meeting the required length. Your writing should still be concise, on-point and progressive. Avoid fluff or fillers because they will only digress from the topic and may discredit your argument altogether.

Scribbr also provides some useful tips on how to structure paragraphs. It is important for paragraphs “to support a single claim or idea that helps establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.”

To be able to achieve this, having a topic sentence for every paragraph will be helpful. However, the core of a persuasive essay is its ability to provide substantial evidence to support one’s argument. Additionally, the use of transitional devices will make your sentences more coherent and cohesive.

Analytical Essay

An analytical essay requires the presentation of an argument or claim by breaking down and examining the core components of an issue, idea, or works of art such as films, books, paintings, etc.

Some of its characteristics include:

  • An introduction and presentation of argument to highlight the text in the literary work which you will be deliberating about
  • An analysis of said text which should be relevant to your argument as well as your own take on whether the author’s goals were met or not supported by examples
  • Sustaining the reader’s interest
  • A personal response to demonstrate your in-depth comprehension of the text in formulating your opinion — whether positive or negative

A literary analysis essay can be from 500-700 words. For as long as it covers all the principal points, it need not be lengthy. However, the bulk of your essay should concentrate on the analysis of the text.

Bucks Community College elaborates on these three principles to help you write an essay that has “tight organization and control.”

  1. Your writing “must stick with great determination to the specific point of development”
  2. Your essay should have a central idea or thesis that will dictate its development
  3. Your writing should be systematic and organized such that every paragraph aids the reader to have a deeper understanding of your central idea

Here are some other helpful tips to guide you through writing an analytical essay:

  • Always write in the present tense
  • Avoid using contractions and informal language or colloquialisms
  • Avoid writing in the first person
  • Analyze, don’t retell the story
  • Be critical — your personal response need not be positive

Now that you have a clearer idea of the different types of essays and how to go about each of them, it’s time to start writing one. Make sure to use our word counter to keep it succinct.