Learn about the main writing styles: narrative, descriptive, persuasive, expository, and creative, and read examples of each.
Becoming a stronger writer, for work or play, isn’t as simple as sitting down and writing words. There are different types of writing that serve different purposes, and understanding the goal you’re trying to achieve (and the technique that will work for it) will make your work stronger.
Read on to learn more about the five types of writing styles, when you should use each one, and how to it mprove your skills no matter what type of writing you want to develop.
The 5 Types of Writing Styles and Why You Should Master Each of These
Narrative writing is storytelling in its most basic form: it is about sharing something that happens to a character. It can be an epic tale or a small anecdote; it can last for years or a few minutes; It can be something real or a fiction.
Narrative writing uses many of the most common storytelling elements , such as plot, character, setting, conflict, emotion, and a central message that you are trying to communicate. There are also story archetypes or narrative structures that have been proven to work and can be used to shape your narrative writing, such as the passage of time, poor people become rich, or the hero’s journey.
While narrative writing can take many forms, one thing is always true: You must take the reader on a journey with a beginning, middle, and end. Even if you are telling the story of a funny incident that happened to you yesterday, your character must have a starting point, encounter an interesting conflict or experience, and eventually reach a resolution.
When to use narrative writing
Narrative writing is most commonly used in fiction and creative writing, but it can also be used in nonfiction to help make true stories more compelling to your reader. Whatever you’re writing for, it pays to master the narrative style because people tend to connect better with stories. For example, you can use narrative writing in:
- novels and short stories
- creative essays
- news stories
- Presentations or speeches
Narrative Writing Examples
Pick any of your favorite novels and you’ll find narrative writing, but here are some great examples from around the internet, all recommended by writer Noah Milligan in his Skillshare class on writing short stories :
- ” Disobedience ” by Noah Milligan
- “ Wounding Radius ” by Constance Squires
- ” You Are Going to Be a Good Man ” by George McCormick
Descriptive writing involves capturing every detail of the place, person, or scene you are writing about. The goal is to immerse the reader in the experience and make them feel like they are there.
When you’re trying to achieve a descriptive writing style, think of it as painting a picture with your words. What can you say to help the reader see the character in his mind’s eye? This usually involves making vivid descriptions with all five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. But it can also involve the use of simile and metaphor to evoke a mood or feeling that is too difficult to capture with physical descriptors. This can help elevate your writing from a simple description to something that connects with others on a deeper level.
According to Skillshare teacher Kathy Fish , descriptive writing is about more than just making your story pretty. “A great description accomplishes four things. It immerses the reader and gives them a feeling of ‘lived experience’. It also sets, enhances, or changes the tone of the story. It can move the reader further into the story, especially if you include something surprising or unexpected in your description. It can give the reader an idea of the inner state of your character.”
When to use descriptive writing
Descriptive writing is more prevalent in creative writing and can be used alongside narrative writing to build scene and setting. It is sometimes used in more formal writing to help further explain an idea or connect the reader emotionally with the story you are telling. Some examples of how you can use descriptive writing include:
- poems or songs
- Fiction , such as novels or short stories
- Creative writing, such as describing a product or a travel destination
- Narrative nonfiction, such as memoirs
Descriptive Writing Examples
To see descriptive writing in action, read some of this recommended reading from Kathy Fish’s Skillshare class on writing descriptively :
- Syndication by Allegra Hyde
- “ The Sea Urchin ” by Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello
“ Summer Scalping; Scarecrows ” by Len Kuntz, Storyglossia
Persuasive writing is all about getting your point across. The goal is to share your opinion in a thoughtful way or, even better, to convince the reader of a point of view or idea. Whether you have a strong stance on an issue or need to inspire people to take action on a cause, persuasive writing is the way to do it.
Of course, you can’t just expect to get your point across and everyone is convinced, but you have to effectively back it up to bring the reader to your side. There are several main types of writing evidence that you can use when trying to persuade, including:
- Statistical evidence, such as hard data or studies
- Anecdotal evidence, such as personal experiences or interviews
- Testimonial evidence, such as quotes from subject matter experts
- Textual evidence, such as book passages or primary sources
Whatever evidence you use, it’s often best to keep emotions at bay in persuasive writing. While sharing a bit of your personal story can help create a compelling argument, too much emotion can cloud your key points and turn off the reader. Instead, think from the reader’s point of view and ask yourself: what are the most important things I can say to help win them over?
When to use persuasive writing
Persuasive writing is often found in nonfiction and is almost never used in fiction. It’s worth mastering if you’re into any kind of business writing, even writing emails to your colleagues, as clearly convincing people of your ideas or point of view can be invaluable at work. You’ll also see persuasive writing in the following:
- Opinion articles
- speeches or presentations
- Creative writing for conversion
- sales writing
- Recommendation letters
Persuasive Writing Example
For some examples of persuasive writing, check out this suggested reading from author Sara Eckel’s class on writing persuasive essays :
- “ Smart, Educated and Skilled—But Stuck at Home ” by Kavita Krishnan
- “ Why I Love Political Canvassing ” by Sara Eckel
- “ Many of the Soldiers Securing Our Border Are Immigrants Who Are Proud to Defend the US ” by Adebayo Adeleke
Expository writing exists to explain a topic or report on a particular subject area. The goal is simply to teach the reader something.
Expository writing should aim to answer any question a reader has about a topic: think about the classic who, what, why, when, and how questions. You must state everything clearly and avoid jargon or overly technical language that can confuse people. Try to approach expository writing from a beginner’s mindset so that your piece is as useful as possible.
The most important thing is that you put aside your emotions and opinions on the subject. Unlike persuasive writing, expository writing should not have an angle or hidden intent, it should just state facts.
When to use expository writing
Learning to write in this style is valuable if you ever need to teach through writing, even if it’s simply training your colleague in a particular process. While expository writing was historically considered primarily an academic style, you can now see it all over the web, with content marketing blogs and articles teaching readers how to master all forms of skills. For example, you’ll see expository writing in the following:
- How-To or Explanation Articles
- Help center articles, FAQ pages, or other copy that explain how something works
- Technical or business writing
- training materials
Examples of Expository Writing
This blog post is a classic example of expository writing, it’s here to share facts and teach you something! Beyond that, here are a few more places to find expository writing:
- Google “how to” anything and read the articles that come up.
- Vox “explanatory” articles
- Creative writing
As with any artistic medium, rules really exist only to be broken, and creative writing is any writing that exists outside of the above styles, or even combines the styles in surprising new ways. The goal of creative writing is to find new ways to tell stories that can surprise and delight readers.
When it comes to creative writing, you can literally afford to rewrite the rules of what great writing can be. You can try a new format or a structure you haven’t seen before. You can include other languages or multimedia elements in your work. Let yourself have fun!