10 Types of Essays That You Can Use to Convey Your Message

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Effective written communication is a necessary skill in many career paths. There are several common types of essays that writers use to convey a message in a direct and well-organized manner. Whether you're a student whose teacher assigned you an essay, or a professional hoping to improve your written communication skills, you can benefit from learning about different essay types. In this article, we discuss what essays are and provide a list of 10 types of essays that you can use to communicate your message effectively.

What are essays?

Essays are long-form writing assignments that persuade or inform a reader about a particular topic. Knowing which type of essay to use can help you efficiently deliver your message because you can tailor it to your readers and structure it effectively.

In some instances, such as school or job applications, the organization requires you to write a specific type of essay. In other cases, you can choose the style. Before writing, consider your goals and select an essay type based on what you want to accomplish. It may be to try and convince readers to take your side, explore an abstract topic, or try to evoke an emotional response. For example, if you want to teach the reader how to perform a specific task, use a process essay that divides directions into individual steps.

10 types of essays

Here's a list of ten types of essays that you can use to communicate your message effectively:

1. Argumentative essays

You may write an argumentative essay to convince your reader to take a particular stance on a topic based on the information you provide. Argumentative essays rely on facts rather than emotion to sway readers. For example, an argumentative essay that discusses why companies might offer wellness packages as part of their benefits plan can incorporate research about how regular exercise increases productivity and how people who eat well and work out take fewer sick days.

Argumentative essays avoid I and you statements. Instead, they support one side and may argue against other sides using objective information. You can use phrases such as research suggests or according to when presenting facts that support your argument.

2. Cause and effect essays

Cause and effect essays detail why certain events or situations led to other events. Writers can create a special connection between the two sets of circumstances and explain what features of the initiating event caused the subsequent incidents. Cause and effect essays are a type of expository essay and state facts instead of opinions. For example, a cause and effect essay may examine how Charles Darwin's scientific discoveries led to the origin of new social science theories.

3. Compare and contrast essays

Compare and contrast essays discuss two subjects and detail their similarities and differences. These essays include an introduction, at least one paragraph to explain the subject's similarities, at least one paragraph to discuss differences, and a conclusion. They are common in academic settings. An example is an essay describing the similarities and differences between bees and wasps.

Related: How to Write a Conclusion (With Examples and Tips)

4. Critical essays

Critical essays provide an in-depth analysis of a topic. They critique works, such as paintings, books, movies, or restaurants. Many post-secondary courses, especially literature and humanities, require critical essays to test students' ability to think critically and identify evidence from a specific work that validates their observations by using facts from the subject to justify an opinion. For instance, for a movie review, a film critic might note that a movie uses cliche dialogue and support their observation by citing the action hero's line, "Danger is my middle name," as evidence.

5. Definition essays

Definition essays are exposition pieces that define a term or idea. They typically discuss complex or abstract topics and provide in-depth analysis and explanations. For example, a definition essay might discuss what existentialism is or the meaning of quantum physics. These essays are common in academic and research settings.

6. Descriptive essays

Descriptive essays provide a detailed description of your subject, a person, place, object, or event. These essays allow for a more creative approach to writing, but unlike narrative essays, descriptive essays only discuss the subject, not the complete story.

Consider including imagery and incorporate the "show, don't tell" technique, which involves using actions, thoughts, sensory details, and emotions to immerse the reader instead of explaining situations or events. For example, you might write the cherry red sparkled from bumper to bumper, and it had two slick doors instead of writing my first car was a red, two-door coupe.

7. Expository essays

Writers use expository essays to explain ideas neutrally. Using these essays, writers can show their knowledge or expertise in a specific area. Often, teachers assign them to test their students' understanding of a topic. Expository essays can take different formats but typically include the following sections:

  • Introduction: This section introduces the topic of your essay. It also includes a thesis statement that tells the reader what the rest of your essay covers.

  • Body: This part is the bulk of your essay. It includes details of the subject and usually references cited sources as support.

  • Conclusion: This last section summarizes your main discussion points and concludes your essay.

Avoid emotion or opinion in expository essays and instead focus on factual information. For example, if you're writing about environmental conservation, avoid writing opinion statements. Consider having a friend, or family member read your expository essay to ensure it's free of opinions.

8. Narrative essays

Narrative essays, or personal statements, tell a story and are generally the most intimate type of essay you can write. They allow you to exercise creativity and imagination. Often, writers base their narrative essays on a particular prompt. For example, the prompt may be, write about the first time you drove a car by yourself or a time you overcame a fear. Typically, post-secondary schools require candidates to submit narrative essays as part of the application process. You can use literary techniques in this type of essay to create one that reads like fiction, including:

  • Metaphors: This figure of speech applies words to an action or object that aren't applicable. For example, her ocean eyes filled with tears.

  • Analogies: Writers use analogies to compare two concepts to explain better or clarify them. For example, love is like the ocean, deep and vast.

  • Alliteration: This literary device uses the same letter or sound at the start of closely related words. For example, the bomb blasted the bricks into broken bits.

  • Imagery: Imagery is a descriptive writing technique that allows readers to envision better what they're reading. For example, the autumn leaves are a red, orange, and vibrant yellow blanket stretched across the green grass.

  • Dialogue: This literary device is a conversation or spoken words within a literary work. For example, "Do you even understand the severity of what just happened?" asked Wynonna.

In your narrative essay, include an opening that gains the reader's attention and provides enough background information for the story to make sense. Aim to have a conclusion to summarize the main point of your essay or to reiterate your goals. For example, this experience solidified my desire to become a lawyer.

Related: How to Write a Common App Essay for University (With Steps)

9. Persuasive essays

When writing a persuasive essay, you aim to convince readers to adopt an opinion or take a side using facts and emotional appeals. In supporting an argument or cause, persuasive essays can include moral and emotional reasoning to connect to the reader. For example, an essay on reducing deforestation can consist of quotes from people who lost their homes due to forest fires. The essay might include statistics about the number of trees cut down each year and the animals killed or displaced.

Related: How To Develop Persuasiveness Skills in the Workplace

10. Process essays

Process essays, another type of exposition essay, describe how to complete an action or how to operate a tool or item. Write your process essay in chronological order to maintain organization and clarity. Typically, process essays include the following elements:

  • Introduction: Introduce the process described in the rest of your essay.

  • Body: These paragraphs describe each step in chronological order. Consider using transition words that signal where you are in the process, such as first, next, after, and lastly.

  • Conclusion: Finish your essay with a conclusion that summarizes the process. For example, learning how to fly a kite is a fun experience that almost anyone can enjoy.

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