What is Form in Writing?

For starters, what is a form in English?

Form means the style in which a text is presented. There are several different forms, including poems and novels. Writers can use a form, alongside structure and language, to create meaning within their writing.

What are the Different Forms of Writing?

Now that we know the answer to ‘what is a form in English?’, let’s take a look at some of the different kinds:

  • short story;
  • novel;
  • novella;
  • play;
  • script;
  • poem.

These are usually categorized into three primary forms: prose (stories), poetry, and drama (plays and scripts).

There can also be different forms within these forms. For example, a poem could be a sonnet or even a haiku.

Why is Form Important in Writing?

We’ve figured out the answer to ‘what is a form in English?’, but why is it such an essential part of the writing process?

The form of a piece of writing can tell us a lot about a writer’s intentions, as well as the characters and themes. For example, many novels are written in the first person so that the reader can sympathize and empathize with the main character.

The form of a piece of writing can completely change how we view it. For example, what if the novel Matilda by Roald Dahl was a considerable poem? What if Shakespeare’s plays were written as short stories? The result would be completely different from what they are now!

What Form Should You Use?

We’ve now explored ‘what is a form in English?’ and why it matters. But before any writer can start work on their writing, they first have to choose which form to write in.

Each form of writing has its strengths and weaknesses. Some stories fit best with one form over another. Below, you’ll find a handy breakdown of each of these different forms and when they might be most suitable:

Strengths Weaknesses  
  • Lots of room to play with language and rhyme.
  • Many forms of poetry to choose from.
  • Great for expressing emotions.
  • Appeals to children.
  • Epic poems are no longer in style.
  • Challenging to use characters in a poem.
  • Character and dialogue-driven.
  • Suitable for writing emotional conflicts.
  • Lots of room to develop characters.
  • Action is often unseen.
  • Little room to play with description and language.
  • Character movements are limited to stage directions.
  • Setting descriptions are limited.
  • Lots of room for character development and action.
  • There’s space to describe settings in great detail.
  • Choose between first, second, or third person.
  • Great for internal conflicts and thoughts.
  • The plot should be linear.
  • Less room for language exploration compared to a poem.
Short story
  • Driven by the plot and action.
  • Teaches word conservation and is concise.
  • You can keep the plot, characters, and themes neatly tied up.
  • Less room for emotional exploration and character development than in a novel.
  • Usually, focus on one main event.
Film script
  • Focuses on dialogue, similar to a play.
  • Good for showing visuals.
  • Limited on inner conflicts and internal emotions.

Most of these forms can be used when telling a story, but poetry is a less popular choice for a linear tale. Poetry is more likely to be used to emphasize a message or moral. However, the poem form has been used throughout children’s literature because they’re written in verse and rhyme.

What’s the Difference Between Form and Structure?

Earlier on, as we were talking about ‘what is a form in English?’, we mentioned how it’s used alongside structure and language. But what’s the difference between the two?

  • Form, as we know, refers to how a text is presented. In other words, it can mean the physical ‘form’ a piece of writing takes, such as a book or poem.
  • But when we talk about structure, we’re referring to how the text has been organized and put together. For example, poets might use different line structures and lengths to create a design that communicates their meaning. The structure is also essential in other forms, including novels. For example, writers might split their stories into paragraphs and chapters to change the story’s pace.

Now that we know the difference between form and structure, the question of ‘what is a form in English?’ might be easier to answer!

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