Types of Writing

The writing you're required to do in your lifetime varies—for example, timed writings and essay questions on exams; autobiographical essays for college applications; high‐school and college papers on a variety of subjects; and business letters, proposals, memos, and reports related to your work. In most of your writing you'll do one of the following:

  • Describe a person, place, or thing

  • Tell a story or recount an incident or event

  • Report information

  • Provide instructions or explain a process

  • Argue a position, prove a point, or persuade

  • Analyze or critique something—a text, theory, situation, or event

The techniques you use will overlap. For example, if you're writing a descriptive essay about your Aunt Stephanie, you might narrate an incident that reveals her personality.

Many college writing assignments focus on argument and analysis. But within an essay arguing a position, you might use descriptive and narrative techniques. In a paper arguing for or against capital punishment, for example, you might recount the steps of an execution, or narrate an incident of lethal injection. In choosing your approach to any writing task, you must clearly understand and be guided by the purpose of your writing.