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Types of writing and literary genres are not the same, but they are closely related.

There are four basic writing styles: narrative, descriptive, persuasive, and expository. Each of them serves a particular purpose. Writers choose one of them based on their intentions and audience.

One written piece can have elements of multiple writing types. For example, a novel usually has both narrative and descriptive passages, and a political speech can blend expository and persuasive types of writing.

Narrative writing style

The narrative type of writing — the good old storytelling — is one of the first writing styles in the history of literacy. Ancient literary masterpieces, such as Homeric epics and the Old Testament, are filled with narration. People of all epochs have enjoyed countless stories, fables, fairy-tales, legends, novels, biographies, historical accounts, and various other genres, old and new.

While there’s a world of difference between some of them (for example, fairy tales and historical nonfiction), they all utilize narration. They have common elements such as settings, plots, conflicts, protagonists, antagonists, and points of view.

Today, we can find examples of narrative writing everywhere. In addition to novels, stories, and non-fiction books, there are storytelling elements in blog posts, news articles, and even some commercials.

Descriptive writing style

This type of writing aims to create a mental image of something or someone in the reader’s mind. It uses multiple literary devices to provoke the reader’s imagination and make a complete impression of a real or imaginary setting, character, situation, and so on.

While narration tells us what happened and gives us simple explanations for a series of events, descriptive writing makes entire situations alive in our minds. It tells us how people and things looked like, sounded, and smelled. It takes us to the inner world of the character’s feelings and motivations. For this reason, descriptive writing is the essential element of all fiction genres, poetry, plays, reflective essays, and many others.

Descriptive writing developed alongside narration. The two writing styles coexisted (and still coexist) from the beginning. In fact, almost all of the examples mentioned above — from The Iliad, The Odyssey, and the Bible to modern novels and stories — contain descriptive writing. But if there’s a single literary class that should be particularly mentioned for descriptive writing, it is poetry.

Persuasive writing style

The persuasive type of writing is trendy today, and many people are trying hard to learn it. It is the language of advertisement, various manifestos, opinion articles, argumentative pieces, and many other forms of writing.

The purpose of persuasive writing is to persuade. It serves to convince people to buy something, support a cause, vote for someone, or change an attitude on just about anything in the world and beyond.

While persuasive writing has been trending in the last decades, it is not new. The first examples of persuasive writing known to the author of this article originated in ancient Greece. Along with poetry and drama, ancient Greeks studied and practiced the art of rhetoric. They used rhetoric in public debates, and you can learn all about it in Aristotle’s book of the same title.

Expository writing style

Expository writing should be all about facts - informative, dry, and, yes, boring. It’s the language of science, textbooks, statistics, and evidence. Also, you can recognize this style in tutorials and technical manuals. Technical, scientific, and business writings are some of the sub-types of expository type.

However, keep in mind that individual articles and books that claim to be objective often contain subtle elements of persuasion. In the end, it turns out that we can find elements of several writing styles in almost every book in the world.


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