All the writing in the world falls into 4 genres that are more or less distinct: narrative, persuasive, descriptive, and expository.

The world is full of readable content. When the internet first started, there were millions of blogs and posts and online articles that competed for our attention. That is in addition to the millions of novels, non-fiction books, essays, and journal articles that have existed for a very long time. In spite of the fact that there are many kinds of texts that span many cultures, languages, and centuries, there are only four types of writing styles. Pop quiz: Which four types of writing styles do you think are the most common? What exactly is the meaning of writing styles? How do I know which writing style to use? When do I use all of them?

In the end, the pop quiz turned into a guided lesson. Let’s take a closer look at each of the four styles, and we will show some examples. Then we will dive into these definitions, and we will find out what uses are appropriate for them, and maybe have some fun along the way.

Different writing styles.

It doesn’t matter what you say, it matters how you say it. Source: Yourdictionary.com.
It doesn’t matter what you say, it matters how you say it. Source: Yourdictionary.com.

You are on a long journey. Up ahead, I will build a bridge. As you come closer, a troll climbs out from beneath some rotting wooden planks. Then he gnarls his finger at you and screeches, “Before you cross the street, I ask that you list the four types of writing styles.”

The chances of this happening are low, but you never know what it will happen. So in the event that you find yourself in this situation, here is the answer that I will give you. The four types of writing styles are narrativepersuasivedescriptive, and expository. Each of these styles has a purpose, so it is important that you match your topic and goals with the correct style so that you properly communicate your message.

Writing narratives.

The use of narrative writing styles is for any writing that tells a story, especially from the viewpoint of a character or personality.

All narrative writing must be fiction or nonfiction. It is necessary that it tells a story from a specific point of view, with a clear succession of events. This writing style features many kinds of narrative literary devices and writing techniques. Among the most common narrative devices, they include:

  • There are often talks or excerpts of talking or thinking that occur between characters.
  • First person or second person perspective.
  • It is important to talk about certain things in the order in which they happen.
  • When describing the setting and characters, before describing the events that surround them.
  • There is a clear beginning, middle, and end.

The narrative writing that we do is usually chronological, but we can also divide the writing into sections in any order that we want, as long as the text that is written in each section is still chronological. Most people do not know that chronologically written narratives are the most common, but there are some exceptions.

Quentin Tarantino’s screenplays are some of the most notorious examples of non-linear storytelling, including films such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and The Hateful Eight. Even though the events in these films are not told sequentially, each chapter in the script is told from beginning to end. As a result, they are all examples of narrative writing.

Many examples of nonfictional narrative writing exist. If someone writes about something that happened during their lifetime, they must call that collection of stories a ‘memoir’. Memoirs are often useful as leisure material or first hand accounts of important events. Famous memoirs include A Promised Land by Barack Obama and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.
Narrative nonfiction does not necessarily need to be written like memoir. People who write biographies and third party writers also tell plenty of narratives. One of the most famous examples of this is Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand.

I will give you some examples of narrative writing.

If you are like me, any story that someone tells you is an example of narrative writing. One such story can be told in the form of the following:

  • Novels
  • Short stories for the younger people.
  • We write scripts for plays, TV shows, and movies.
  • Memoirs and Biographies of great individuals.

The majority of books and television are considered narrative, with the exception of guides and reference books and documentaries and news, which are considered expository.

Writing that is persuasive.

We are not able to discuss persuasive advertising and aspca commercials. (Source: AASPCA)
We are not able to discuss persuasive advertising and aspca commercials. (Source: AASPCA)

The persuasive writing style is defined as any writing that attempts to convince the reader into agreeing with the writer’s opinion. By using persuasive writing, people try to persuade other people to think or act in a certain way. That is why if you are writing persuasively, your words should be chosen carefully. I often find that authors use sarcastic diction to get the reader to feel what they are trying to convey through words.

By using persuasive writing, you can use three different rhetorical devices to persuade the reader to buy something.

  1. Logic (logos) is any evidence that supports a certain idea or a particular line of thinking. Logic will explain why one conclusion is true, because it uses facts and reasoning to prove a certain point.
  2. You must have legitimacy (ethos) – good persuasive writers back up their writing with trustworthy sources. When famous celebrities post an Instagram caption recommending a certain product, they are using their public reputation to persuade their followers to buy the product or to use a service. In other cases, you can convince people that they are credible by using advertisements that say ‘9/10 doctors recommend’, or by using medical articles that are signed by someone with an “md.”
  3. Emotion (pathos) – Sometimes persuasive writers use writing that is designed to induce readers to feel something. When you see a brand say “20% of proceeds go to charity,” you are witnessing some very persuasive emotional writing.

Some persuasive writing examples.

Common examples of persuasive writing include commercial advertising. Anytime a text is written in a manner that persuades someone into buying a product or service, it’s a persuasive writing example. Every ad you see in the paper or any pop-up on your mobile device is written to be persuasive.

Persuasive writing is also used outside of the marketing world. In this case, the text will always contain a “call to action” somewhere in it, asking the reader to make some kind of behavioral decision. Some examples are the following:

  • Notices public services that are made by government agencies or public organizations.
  • All essays that have a clearly stated thesis and a clear line of reasoning.
  • Sometimes I read op-eds in newspapers.
  • Speeches made by politicians, particularly regarding the outcome of an election.
  • Proposal letters to be sent for jobs, projects, grants, relationships, etc.

Written in a descriptive way.

A description of a person, place, or thing is a writing style that describes it. The purpose of descriptive writing is to give a summary of a subject.

What is written in descriptive writing differs from writing that is expository in that it contains opinions and relatives. Journal entries are a valuable source of descriptive writing. They also include writing that is both factual and opinionated. People who are writing journals might tell what happened that day: sky was blue, it was 84 degrees, the neighbor across the street was taking out their garbage, and they might share what they thought about the day: it was a beautiful day, it was too hot, the neighbor was rude, and he did not take anything out.

If descriptive writing is the main part of a written text, it is called a poem. When someone places the words of a poem to music, they call those words ‘lyrics’. What does that mean? Any poem or song lyrics can be a sample of descriptive writing.

Backward Hill, sounds fascinating. The author of the saying is Shel Silverstein.
Backward Hill, sounds fascinating. The author of the saying is Shel Silverstein.

Writing examples that are descriptive.

When you are writing a descriptive document, it is often much shorter than the other types of writing. It is sprinkled into every written work. These are some examples of descriptive writing that you can find:

  • Journal Entry by Beth Harrington.
  • These are product descriptions.
  • Item menu items.
  • Poems are often longer and contain more information. They are written in a narrative, persuasive, and expository style.

Writing that is expository.

It is possible to describe expository writing as any text written with the intention of educating the audience about a particular subject (hint: this article is expository).

Writing is considered to be expository whenever something is presented in a matter-of-fact way. As for this type of text, there is no particular opinion, storyline or persuasive goal. The focus of your expository writing should be on facts. That is, graphs, data, cited references, or quotes from real people.

Writing that is descriptive covers all the written statements that tell people about a certain topic. That means that any book, report, or informative essay that you have ever written or read is a good example of expository writing. It also means that many of the things that you say or phrases that you use are considered to be expository.

Examples of expository writing.

Sometimes the words that I write about are very technical. As an example, here are some examples:

  • Step-by-step guides to help you learn.
  • Encyclopedias
  • Cookbooks
  • Infographics
  • News articles from around the web.
  • Presentations
  • Journalists.
  • School books.

A lot of the texts that you encounter in your daily lives can be considered to be expository, which has caused it to become one of the most popular writing styles. Whether it is the menu at a restaurant or the manual for your car, or the labels of the food in the grocery store, I am sure that you are aware of these things. Any factual writing that is written without bias is expository.

Final Thoughts about Writing Styles.

When the troll comes calling, you will know the meaning of the riddle. When you write in a particular style, it will help you write more intently and stronger. It can also be fun to learn how to write in the different styles of your day-to-day life. The more you know, the more you will know.