Common Essay Types Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Oct 1, 2011

Narrative Essays

Narrative essays tell a story, or report an event, or describe an experience. Usually, but not always, narratives are told from the writer's point of view. Like other essay formats, narrative essays must include a point, a thesis statement that engages the reader as well as sufficient vivid details to make the story come alive.

Not all narratives are written in the writer's voice. You could easily write a narrative in the voice of a character you have invented, or indeed, in the voice of a historical person. (For example, you could write an imaginary letter from George Washington to his parents.) Here are sample essay topics for which you might use the narrative essay format:

  • If I could have a super power, it would be _____.
  • Are there still heroes to admire?
  • the best advice I ever got
  • surviving a tornado
  • How would you reduce crime in urban areas?

Narrative essays are an ideal place to apply the 5 W questions: who, what, where, when, and why. Because narrative essays are often personal stories, or at least ideas presented using the first person (I believe that . . .), you must be sure that you are writing from a thesis statement. Your thesis statement might not be actually spelled out in your first paragraph, but it must be the guiding principle that makes this story of interest or value to the reader.

Often narrative writers conclude their essays with a summary statement, such as And so I learned from this _____ experience, never to trust _____. Another conclusion of this type might be Be careful, then, when you wish for a super power. My experience having such a power proved _____.

Applying Common Essay Formats To Other Writing Projects

While this lesson has concentrated on essays you might be assigned as classwork, these formats are perfectly adaptable to other forms of writing projects. Here are other ways in which you might use these formats.

  • Journal writing. Nothing improves your writing as much as practice. Experiment by writing in the expository form for ten minutes every night for a week. Choose a topic every night and try to write in the third person instead of writing in the first person, which is the one most often used by journal keepers. If no subjects come to mind immediately, use one of the sample expository formats provided in this lesson.
  • Poetry. Poems don't have to rhyme, and they don't have to be about love, or pain, or any personal feelings for that matter. If you've never written a poem, try to write one. If you start by choosing a surprise format, such as the persuasive format, you may have fun writing in a new way.
  • Text messaging or instant messaging. Instead of writing texts of messages in your usual personal narrative format, try writing your next text or IM in an expository format. Write to your friend and explain something—anything—and see how workable that format can be.
  • Songs. Even if you're not a musician, you may be a lyricist (a person who writes the words of songs). Try applying what you've learned about creating a strong thesis statement supported by relevant details to the practice of writing lyrics for a song. You may have fun.

Practice 1: Writing Strong Thesis Statements

In this exercise, you will practice writing strong thesis statements for sample essay topics. In addition to proposing a thesis statement, include the essay format that you think would work well for your thesis.

Choose your favorite three topics from the sample topics provided in this lesson, and write concise, clear, meaningful thesis statements for them.

A chart and sample are provided to help you.

Common Essay Types

Practice 2: Writing About The First Day of School

In this exercise, write a first sentence in each of the three essay formats discussed in this lesson about the same subject. The purpose is for you to experiment treating the same event in several different ways.

Think about the first day of school—your own first day or someone else's. It can be preschool, kindergarten, or any other grade. Now write interesting, engaging first sentences for each type of essay format.

Common Essay Types

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