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Writing 5 Popular Essay Types

You’ll find as you progress through your educational experience that there are numerous types of essays you’ll be required to write. While grade school basically focused on one type of basic essay, there are a wide variety of different essay types with very different purposes which you’ll encounter. Here’s a quick guide to understanding five of the most popular types.


Narrative essays are intended to convey a story of a real life (often personal) experience. The key to writing a successful narrative essay is to show rather than tell—that is, create a vivid experience for the reader by “showing” them the story rather than just telling it. Narrative essays are also one of the few types of essays frequently written from a first person perspective.


Similar to narrative essays, the ability to write vividly is a plus when writing descriptive essays. However, a descriptive essay is not focused on a story or event but a single experience or object. To score well on a descriptive essay, be sure to imbue your words with deeper, more complex meaning rather than simply describing.


This is an informative type of essay which has the goal of presenting the reader with a balanced, factual view of a topic. Expository essays are neither emotional nor descriptive; instead, they focus only on facts. These facts are typically required to have been cited from certain types of sources. For example, peer-reviewed journals, literary critics, or other similar sources may be required.

Persuasive Essays

Persuasive essays are similar to expository essays in that they are fact-focused, but they differ in that the writer intends to convince the audience of an opinion rather than to simply present a balanced case. Nonetheless, the writer must research both (or multiple) facets of the argument and present them to do their job thoroughly.

Compare and Contrast Essays

An essay may be assigned which asks a student to specifically compare two things, to contrast them, or to do both. For example, comparing and contrasting two different political parties, two events in history, or two people would be great topics for compare and contrast essays.

Each type of essay you learn to write is an important building block in bettering your skills in written communication, and each presents the student with new opportunities for learning and research. There are many other types of essays, but the five listed here are some of the most common.

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