Teaching Students About the 5 Genres of Writing

From early primitive drawings to text messages, written communication has seen a lot of changes since its beginning. As a result, writing can come in many styles depending on what the writer is trying to convey. Keep reading through our teaching wiki to discover the leading techniques and genres of writing that broadly cover all types of writing your children will encounter.

Most writing does fall into each of these types, but some writing can borrow aspects of other genres to create a piece of paper. There is no set rule for sticking to a particular genre when writing. For example, a writer might want to adopt some creative writing within their persuasive essay, or maybe they would like to use some expository writing while creating a narrative.

What is the craft of writing?

Writing is a diverse and necessary skill that adults need to function in the world. Whether we are reading books, watching television and films, or checking out social media – everything has been written with a purpose in mind and an audience to read it. By understanding the different forms of writing, you can better understand the world around you. Each type of writing has its rules and structures, and each can be used differently.

Below you’ll find a list of each genre of writing, plus some excellent links to help you and your students understand these types of writing through our range of craft of writing resources.

What are the different types of writing?

Writing has been all around us for centuries. Millions of people worldwide are currently writing books, newspaper articles, academic essays, restaurant menus, and traffic signs; someone wrote even the webpage you’re reading right now!

So, how exactly can we categorize all these different types of writing? While there are many reasons to get the notepad or laptop out. There are only five main kinds of essays: expository, descriptive, persuasive, narrative, and journal or letter writing. Each writing genre has its unique purpose and requires different skills.

Expository writing

Expository writing is a text that aims to describe, explain, or inform the reader about any topic. You might be thinking, hang on, wasn’t descriptive writing a whole other category? Yes, you’re right! While expository and descriptive pieces describe things, they differ in one crucial aspect. A vital feature of this non-fiction writing style is that there is no opinion or agenda; the author only wants to convey information.

Examples of expository writing are news reports (not opinion pieces, though!), scientific journal entries, or events calendars.

The subject of your expository piece will determine what kind of evidence you’ll need to put in. For example, if you’re working on a scientific report, you might want to include graphs, charts, or tables to help visualize all the data you’ve recorded. But, if it’s a book report instead, you’ll want to reference quotes, page numbers, and perhaps even aspects of the author’s beliefs or environment.

A good tip for writing expository pieces is to assume that the reader has little to no knowledge of your topic. That way, you’ll cover everything you need to know about something. Good expository writing is also clear and easy to follow.

Examples of expository writing:

  • Textbooks
  • Wiki pages
  • Presentations
  • Essays

Descriptive writing

Descriptive writing involves a detailed description of a place or person intended to create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind, giving them a better feel for the story. It’s hoped that if the reader is fully immersed in what’s happening, they’ll enjoy the text more.

This type of writing uses many small details to create a clear picture of what’s happening. Typically, these involve the senses and help the reader to feel like they’re a part of what you’re writing.

In fiction, descriptive writing is often used, but there’s no reason to stop there. You’ll often find elements of descriptive essays in non-fiction genres too. Ensuring the reader is fully immersed in your work can make any writing more enjoyable and effective.

This type of writing will typically feature many adjectives, but what else do we need to consider for an excellent descriptive essay? “Show, don’t tell” is a creative and descriptive writing motto you may have already heard. It is an immersive technique where sensory details are included to transport the reader to the story rather than merely describing a situation or place.

For example, simply telling the reader, “Kay is in a field next to a river, “certainly gets the point across, but it doesn’t bring the scene to life. So instead, focus on what Kay is experiencing with her senses to capture your reader:

“Kay felt the soft green grass under her feet as she stopped to look up at the clear blue sky. The soft, nearby bubbling of water on rocks began to sound in her ears, and the smell of fresh cut daisies surrounded her like a blanket.

See how we didn’t need to mention the words field or river to set the scene for our story. By describing things in sensory terms, we engage the reader’s imagination. They already know how the grass feels and what running water sounds like, which helps them create a more detailed mental picture. It is a much more engaging and effective technique to use in this type of writing.

Examples of descriptive writing:

  • Scripts
  • Poetry
  • Fiction writing
  • Comics

Narrative writing

Furthermore, this type of writing can be told in several forms. For example, narratives can be recounted in the third person by the author or as a character within a story discussed from a first-person perspective. Moreover, narratives can be told in either chronological or non-chronological order and various tenses.

It’s often said that there are seven key elements to a piece of narrative writing:

  • Characterization
  • Setting (check out the descriptive writing section for more tips!)
  • Theme
  • Plot
  • Atmosphere
  • Figurative Language & Literary Devices
  • Point of View (first person, second person, or third person)

Ultimately, this type of writing tells a story in the best way possible. It can be a very versatile endeavor and lends itself well to creative writing.

Examples of narrative writing:

  • Short stories
  • Autobiographies
  • Historical texts

Persuasive writing

The purpose of a piece of persuasive writing is, of course, to persuade the reader of something. So, for example, pieces of compelling essay might be a political leaflet, opinion piece, or book review.

This type of writing is usually less about facts and more about opinion. After all, how many times have you convinced somebody of something on facts alone? An excellent persuasive essay will likely appeal to the reader’s beliefs about the world.

Persuasive pieces commonly include personal pronouns (I, we, us, etc.), flattery, the rule of three, and lots of emotive languages. However, they also are very tailored to their audience. After all, different people are persuaded by other things. So, it’s essential to consider who your target audience is and what they’re like.

Persuasive pieces also often make use of rhetorical questions. It helps engage the reader in your topic and makes the subject feel much more personal. Usually, it’s not advised to repeat yourself in writing. However, persuasive pieces welcome repetition (within reason) since this emphasizes your point even more.

PEEL is a helpful pneumonic for this type of writing  (Point, Evidence, Explain, Link).

Examples of persuasive writing:

  • Advertisements
  • Promotional material
  • Political leaflets
  • Reviews
  • Fundraising letters
  • Propaganda

Journals and Letter Writing

Journal and letter writing is one of the oldest writing styles. We have been sharing correspondence for centuries. However, this writing style has dramatically changed since the dawn of computers and phones. This style is usually written in the first person and is usually quite personal, especially in journal writing.

Examples of journal and letter writing:

  • Diaries/Journals
  • Blogs
  • Letters
  • Text messaging
  • Emails

Why is it important to teach children the different types of writing?

Understanding the different types of writing helps improve children’s writing overall by offering them a clear purpose and techniques for how to get there with their writing. In addition, each genre has its codes and conventions, so your children will know what features to include in their report.

For example, persuasive pieces will include lots of rhetorical questions and emotive language, which would be inappropriate for an informative report.

So, children need to learn all the different types of writing.

Choose your Reaction!