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Purpose of Writing an Essay

by Stacy Alleyne, studioD

People write essays for a variety of reasons. Many write them because they are required in a reading or English class, but others write them because they have strong views on various issues that they want to share with others. The motivation behind why a person is writing an essay often gives clues to the author’s purpose in an essay. According to Purdue University, the most common essay types are expository, descriptive, argumentative or narrative. Depending on the author’s purpose, essays can also be persuasive, entertaining or informative, or some combination of each. Essays help students to develop critical thinking, analysis and writing skills.


Expository essays are essays that allow students to expound on a certain idea or thesis and provide supporting examples, details and evidence in support of that thesis. These types of essays are often the essay of choice in high school and academic settings. Expository essays are usually shorter in length than argumentative essays. Instructors often assign these types of essays to help students learn to organize their thinking and writing.


Instructors often use descriptive essays as an exercise in creative writing or to practice and hone writing skills rather than critical thinking skills alone. This type of essay involves writing a description of anything from an object or a person to a memory or experience that a writer had in the past. When writing descriptive essays, writers use imagery and sensory language to bring their writing to life.


Persuasive or argumentative essays are essays that focus on a particular topic and include a thesis statement. Generally, this type of essay requires more research because the writer must state and defend a claim. When writing this type of essay, students should formulate logical arguments in support of the thesis as well as present possible counter arguments and rebuttals. Argumentative essays are similar in structure and form to longer theses and dissertations.


Narrative essays are essays that tell a story. The writer usually tells the story in first person point of view and often uses a story format to present a certain viewpoint or convey his thoughts on a certain issue, theme or event. The author may use anecdotal or personal experiences that incorporate the elements of fiction. The main difference is that narrative essays are not fictional but usually based on a true event or experience. Despite its many forms, essays are tools that sharpen a writer’s writing and thinking skills.


About the Author

Stacy Alleyne is a certified English teacher with a BA in English and graduate work in English, education, journalism and law. She has written numerous articles and her own dining column for the "Gazette."

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