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The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples

Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.

Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type. 

In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.

Table of contents

Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about types of essays.

An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.

Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.

The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:

  • The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement
  • The body presents your evidence and arguments
  • The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance

The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

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An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.

Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.

The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.

A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.

The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.

A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.

Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.

A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.

Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.

Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.

Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.

A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.

The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.

A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.

Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.

A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.

Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.

On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.

My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.

With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…

Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.

Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.

Rhetorical analysis

A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.

The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.

The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.

The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

Literary analysis

A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.

Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.

The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.

Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

  • In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
  • In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
  • In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

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what are the different types of essay formats

Learn the Standard Essay Format: MLA, APA, Chicago Styles

what are the different types of essay formats

Being able to write an essay is a vital part of any student's education. However, it's not just about linearly listing ideas. A lot of institutions will require a certain format that your paper must follow; prime examples would be one of a basic essay format like MLA, the APA, and the Chicago formats. This article will explain the differences between the MLA format, the APA format, and the Chicago format. The application of these could range from high school to college essays, and they stand as the standard of college essay formatting. EssayPro — dissertation services , that will help to make a difference!

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What is an Essay Format: Structure

Be it an academic, informative or a specific extended essay - structure is essential. For example, the IB extended essay has very strict requirements that are followed by an assigned academic style of writing (primarily MLA, APA, or Chicago):

  • Abstract: comprised of 3 paragraphs, totaling about 300 words, with 100 words in each.
  • ~ Paragraph 1: must include a research question, thesis, and outline of the essay’s importance.
  • ~ Paragraph 2: Key resources, scope and limits of research, etc.
  • ~ Paragraph 3: Conclusion that you’ve already reached in your essay.
  • Table of Contents (with page numbers)
  • ~ Research question
  • ~ Introduction
  • ~ Arguments
  • ~ Sub-headings
  • ~ Conclusion
  • ~ Works cited (bibliography)
  • Introduction
  • ~ The research question is required
  • Bibliography (Works Cited)

This outline format for an extended essay is a great example to follow when writing a research essay, and sustaining a proper research essay format - especially if it is based on the MLA guidelines. It is vital to remember that the student must keep track of their resources to apply them to each step outlined above easily. And check out some tips on how to write an essay introduction .

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How to write an essay in mla format.

To write an essay in MLA format, one must follow a basic set of guidelines and instructions. This is a step by step from our business essay writing service

  • Font : 12pt Times New Roman
  • ~ Double spaced everywhere
  • ~ No extra spaces, especially between paragraphs
  • Heading : Example of the heading on the first page of the essay (upper left corner)
  • ~ Your name (John Smith)
  • ~ Teacher’s / Professor’s name (Margot Robbie)
  • ~ The class (Depends on course/class)
  • ~ Date (20 April 2017)
  • Margins : One-inch margin on the top, bottom, left and right.
  • Page Numbers : Last name and page number must be put on every page of the essay as a “header”. Otherwise, it would go in place of the text.
  • Title : There needs to be a proper essay title format, centered and above the first line of the essay of the same font and size as the essay itself.
  • Indentation : Just press tab (1/2 inch, just in case)
  • Align : Align to the left-hand side, and make sure it is aligned evenly.

mla format

It’s important to remember that the essay format of MLA is usually used in humanities, which differs from other types of academic writing that we’ll go into detail later. For now, feast your eyes upon an MLA format essay example:

Essay in MLA Format Example

Mla format example essay, mla vs. apa.

Before we move on to the APA essay format, it is important to distinguish the two types of formatting. Let’s go through the similarities first:

  • The formatting styles are similar: spacing, citation, indentation.
  • All of the information that is used within the essay must be present within the works cited page (in APA, that’s called a reference page)
  • Both use the parenthetical citations within the body of the paper, usually to show a certain quote or calculation.
  • Citations are listed alphabetically on the works cited / reference page.

What you need to know about the differences is not extensive, thankfully:

  • MLA style is mostly used in humanities, while APA style is focused more on social sciences. The list of sources has a different name (works cited - MLA / references - APA)
  • Works cited differ on the way they display the name of the original content (MLA -> Yorke, Thom / APA -> Yorke T.)
  • When using an in-text citation, and the author’s name is listed within the sentence, place the page number found at the end: “Yorke believes that Creep was Radiohead’s worst song. (4).” APA, on the other hand, requires that a year is to be inserted: “According to Yorke (2013), Creep was a mess.”

Alright, let’s carry over to the APA style specifics.

How to Write an Essay in APA Format

The APA scheme is one of the most common college essay formats, so being familiar with its requirements is crucial. In a basic APA format structure, we can apply a similar list of guidelines as we did in the MLA section:

  • Spacing : Double-space that bad boy.
  • Margins : One Inch margins on all sides.
  • Page Numbers : Insert a header at the top left of every page that includes a shortened title of your essay, below 50 characters including punctuation. Slap a number in there too (top right corner).
  • Title Page : Title of the paper, author’s name, institutional affiliation. Additional information may be required, such as course title, instructor name and date.
  • Headings: All headings should be written in bold and titlecase. Different heading levels have different additional criteria to apply.

You can also ask us to write or rewrite essay in APA format if you find it difficult or don't have time.

Note that some teachers and professors may request deviations from some of the characteristics that the APA format originally requires, such as those listed above.

apa format

Note that some teachers and professors maybe have deviations to some of the characteristics that the APA format originally requires, such as those listed above.

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Essay in APA Format Example

Apa format essay example, chicago style.

The usage of Chicago style is prevalent in academic writing that focuses on the source of origin. This means that precise citations and footnotes are key to a successful paper.

Chicago Style Essay Format

The same bullet point structure can be applied to the Chicago essay format.

  • ~ Chicago style title page is all about spacing.
  • ~ Down the page should be the title, with regular text. If longer than one line, double-spaced.
  • ~ Next, in the very middle, center your full name.
  • ~ Down the page - course number, instructor’s name and the date in separate double-spaced lines.
  • Margins : Use one-inch margins apart from the right side.
  • ~ Double spaced everywhere.
  • ~ No extra spaces, especially between paragraphs.
  • Font : Times New Roman is the best choice (12pt)
  • Page Numbers
  • ~ Last name, page number in the heading of every page on the top right
  • ~ Do not number the title page. The first page of the text should start with a 2.
  • Footnotes : The Chicago format requires footnotes on paraphrased or quoted passages.
  • Bibliography : The bibliography is very similar to that of MLA. Gather the proper information and input it into a specialized citation site.

chicago style

Essay Format: Video Guide

Tips for writing an academic paper.

There isn’t one proper way of writing a paper, but there are solid guidelines to sustain a consistent workflow. Be it a college application essay, a research paper, informative essay, etc. There is a standard essay format that you should follow. For easier access, the following outline will be divided into steps:

Choose a Good Topic

A lot of students struggle with picking a good topic for their essays. The topic you choose should be specific enough so you can explore it in its entirety and hit your word limit if that’s a variable you worry about. With a good topic that should not be a problem. On the other hand, it should not be so broad that some resources would outweigh the information you could squeeze into one paper. Don’t be too specific, or you will find that there is a shortage of information, but don’t be too broad or you will feel overwhelmed. Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor for help with your essay writing.

Start Research as Soon as Possible

Before you even begin writing, make sure that you are acquainted with the information that you are working with. Find compelling arguments and counterpoints, trivia, facts, etc. The sky is the limit when it comes to gathering information.

Pick out Specific, Compelling Resources

When you feel acquainted with the subject, you should be able to have a basic conversation on the matter. Pick out resources that have been bookmarked, saved or are very informative and start extracting information. You will need all you can get to put into the citations at the end of your paper. Stash books, websites, articles and have them ready to cite. See if you can subtract or expand your scope of research.

Create an Outline

Always have a plan. This might be the most important phase of the process. If you have a strong essay outline and you have a particular goal in mind, it’ll be easy to refer to it when you might get stuck somewhere in the middle of the paper. And since you have direct links from the research you’ve done beforehand, the progress is guaranteed to be swift. Having a list of keywords, if applicable, will surely boost the informational scope. With keywords specific to the subject matter of each section, it should be much easier to identify its direction and possible informational criteria.

Write a Draft

Before you jot anything down into the body of your essay, make sure that the outline has enough information to back up whatever statement you choose to explore. Do not be afraid of letting creativity into your paper (within reason, of course) and explore the possibilities. Start with a standard 5 paragraph structure, and the content will come with time.

Ask for a Peer Review of Your Academic Paper

Before you know it, the draft is done, and it’s ready to be sent out for peer review. Ask a classmate, a relative or even a specialist if they are willing to contribute. Get as much feedback as you possibly can and work on it.

Final Draft

Before handing in the final draft, go over it at least one more time, focusing on smaller mistakes like grammar and punctuation. Make sure that what you wrote follows proper essay structure. Learn more about argumentative essay structure on our blog. If you need a second pair of eyes, get help from our service.

Read also our movie review example and try to determine the format in which it is written.

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 3 popular essay formats: which should you use.

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General Education


Not sure which path your essay should follow? Formatting an essay may not be as interesting as choosing a topic to write about or carefully crafting elegant sentences, but it’s an extremely important part of creating a high-quality paper. In this article, we’ll explain essay formatting rules for three of the most popular essay styles: MLA, APA, and Chicago.

For each, we’ll do a high-level overview of what your essay’s structure and references should look like, then we include a comparison chart with nitty-gritty details for each style, such as which font you should use for each and whether they’re a proponent of the Oxford comma. We also include information on why essay formatting is important and what you should do if you’re not sure which style to use.

Why Is Your Essay Format Important?

Does it really matter which font size you use or exactly how you cite a source in your paper? It can! Style formats were developed as a way to standardize how pieces of writing and their works cited lists should look. 

Why is this necessary? Imagine you’re a teacher, researcher, or publisher who reviews dozens of papers a week. If the papers didn’t follow the same formatting rules, you could waste a lot of time trying to figure out which sources were used, if certain information is a direct quote or paraphrased, even who the paper’s author is. Having essay formatting rules to follow makes things easier for everyone involved. Writers can follow a set of guidelines without trying to decide for themselves which formatting choices are best, and readers don’t need to go hunting for the information they’re trying to find.

Next, we’ll discuss the three most common style formats for essays.

MLA Essay Format

MLA style was designed by the Modern Language Association, and it has become the most popular college essay format for students writing papers for class. It was originally developed for students and researchers in the literature and language fields to have a standardized way of formatting their papers, but it is now used by people in all disciplines, particularly humanities. MLA is often the style teachers prefer their students to use because it has simple, clear rules to follow without extraneous inclusions often not needed for school papers. For example, unlike APA or Chicago styles, MLA doesn’t require a title page for a paper, only a header in the upper left-hand corner of the page.

MLA style doesn’t have any specific requirements for how to write your essay, but an MLA format essay will typically follow the standard essay format of an introduction (ending with a thesis statement), several body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

One of the nice things about creating your works cited for MLA is that all references are structured the same way, regardless of whether they’re a book, newspaper, etc. It’s the only essay format style that makes citing references this easy! Here is a guide on how to cite any source in MLA format. When typing up your works cited, here are a few MLA format essay rules to keep in mind:

  • The works cited page should be the last paper of your paper.
  • This page should still be double-spaced and include the running header of your last name and page number.
  • It should begin with “Works Cited” at the top of the page, centered.
  • Your works cited should be organized in alphabetical order, based on the first word of the citation.

APA Essay Format

APA stands for the American Psychological Association. This format type is most often used for research papers, specifically those in behavioral sciences (such as psychology and neuroscience) and social sciences (ranging from archeology to economics). Because APA is often used for more research-focused papers, they have a more specific format to follow compared to, say, MLA style.

All APA style papers begin with a title page, which contains the title of the paper (in capital letters), your name, and your institutional affiliation (if you’re a student, then this is simply the name of the school you attend). The APA recommends the title of your paper not be longer than 12 words.

After your title page, your paper begins with an abstract. The abstract is a single paragraph, typically between 150 to 250 words, that sums up your research. It should include the topic you’re researching, research questions, methods, results, analysis, and a conclusion that touches on the significance of the research. Many people find it easier to write the abstract last, after completing the paper.

After the abstract comes the paper itself. APA essay format recommends papers be short, direct, and make their point clearly and concisely. This isn’t the time to use flowery language or extraneous descriptions. Your paper should include all the sections mentioned in the abstract, each expanded upon.

Following the paper is the list of references used. Unlike MLA style, in APA essay format, every source type is referenced differently. So the rules for referencing a book are different from those for referencing a journal article are different from those referencing an interview. Here’s a guide for how to reference different source types in APA format . Your references should begin on a new page that says “REFERENCES” at the top, centered. The references should be listed in alphabetical order.


Chicago Essay Format

Chicago style (sometimes referred to as “Turabian style”) was developed by the University of Chicago Press and is typically the least-used by students of the three major essay style formats. The Chicago Manual of Style (currently on its 17th edition) contains within its 1000+ pages every rule you need to know for this style. This is a very comprehensive style, with a rule for everything. It’s most often used in history-related fields, although many people refer to The Chicago Manual of Style for help with a tricky citation or essay format question. Many book authors use this style as well.

Like APA, Chicago style begins with a title page, and it has very specific format rules for doing this which are laid out in the chart below. After the title page may come an abstract, depending on whether you’re writing a research paper or not. Then comes the essay itself. The essay can either follow the introduction → body → conclusion format of MLA or the different sections included in the APA section. Again, this depends on whether you’re writing a paper on research you conducted or not.

Unlike MLA or APA, Chicago style typically uses footnotes or endnotes instead of in-text or parenthetical citations. You’ll place the superscript number at the end of the sentence (for a footnote) or end of the page (for an endnote), then have an abbreviated source reference at the bottom of the page. The sources will then be fully referenced at the end of the paper, in the order of their footnote/endnote numbers. The reference page should be titled “Bibliography” if you used footnotes/endnotes or “References” if you used parenthetical author/date in-text citations.

Comparison Chart

Below is a chart comparing different formatting rules for APA, Chicago, and MLA styles.

How Should You Format Your Essay If Your Teacher Hasn’t Specified a Format?

What if your teacher hasn’t specified which essay format they want you to use? The easiest way to solve this problem is simply to ask your teacher which essay format they prefer. However, if you can’t get ahold of them or they don’t have a preference, we recommend following MLA format. It’s the most commonly-used essay style for students writing papers that aren’t based on their own research, and its formatting rules are general enough that a teacher of any subject shouldn’t have a problem with an MLA format essay. The fact that this style has one of the simplest sets of rules for citing sources is an added bonus!


What's Next?

Thinking about taking an AP English class? Read our guide on AP English classes to learn whether you should take AP English Language or AP English Literature (or both!)

Compound sentences are an importance sentence type to know. Read our guide on compound sentences for everything you need to know about compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences.

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Different Types of Essays Writing: 4 Main + 12 Additional

By: Angelina Grin

Different Types of Essays Writing: 4 Main + 12 Additional

An academic essay is a piece of writing whose focus is to persuade and inform. It achieves these goals by developing ideas and arguments through analysis, evidence, and interpretation. Several essays fall into four major categories: descriptive , expository , argumentative , and narrative essays .

16 Types of Essays

 1) argumentative essay ,  2) expository essays ,  3) descriptive essay ,  4) narrative essay ,  persuasive essays ,  process essay ,  analytical essays ,  expository essay ,  reflective essays ,  critical analysis essay ,  compare and contrast essays , what are the 4 major types of essays, what are the 10 types of essays, what is the most common type of essay, what is an essay format, how many types of essays are there.

There are also different types of essays for elementary, middle school, high school, and higher learning levels like universities and colleges.

While paper writing is part of academic progress, many students do not differentiate the various types of academic essays. Understanding all the paper types makes it easier for the scholar to create a well-organized paper that is understandable to the reader.

The internet makes it easy for students to research and get relevant information, but that is not enough without knowing essay writing styles. Every topic in academic writing falls under a particular type of essay.

The main types of essays include:

  • Descriptive
  • Argumentative
  • Cause and effect
  • Comparison and contrast
  • Explicatory

4 Major Types of Essays

There are 4 main types of essays. 

Before settling to write any essay paper , it is critical first to answer the question, “what are the different types of essays?”  Know their distinguishing features and where to apply each of the essays. Four modes of essay writing are known as the organized, the chronological, the functional, and the cause-effect.

It would also help to understand the different kinds of essay formats since each paper follows a specific format. Check out the main essay types and definitions below.

An argumentative essay focuses on an intensive argument concerning a particular thesis statement . The writer has to take a firm stand on one side of the argument and aim to convince the reader about your thesis by citing pieces of evidence. Your stance on the discussion should be clear near the end of your introduction.

An argumentative essay has three distinguishing features.

Introduction - it captures the reader's attention and prepares them for what to expect. It should present the appropriate topic and clearly outline the writer’s point of view.

The body paragraphs - should present your main ideas in a systematic order. Present your argument and evidence for it to your audience.

Conclusion - construct a summarizing paragraph emphasizing the importance of your argument. You need to create a strong conclusion, and the following tips might help:

  • 🤝 Sum up the main points of your paper .
  • 🤔 Make it clear why your stance matters in the argument.
  • 🎯 Aim at impressing the reader .

Argumentative essays are common in higher learning levels like college and university. It tests your research skills and your ability to defend your position on a given topic.

Academic papers for colleges and universities are more detailed and complicated than the lower levels. It requires you to employ your research techniques in practice. In addition, the knowledge and skills you gain from experience will help you stand by your opinion even after graduation.  

Expository refers to the art of describing or explaining something. An expository essay clearly describes a given topic , set of ideas, or process. It provides a balanced view on the topic rather than proving any point. They are more natural than argumentative essays, which rely majorly on research.

It is a type of essay that provides facts and information. It aims to test the scholar’s ability to express themselves or present an explanation on a given topic. You need to consult statistics and find factual examples to write a perfect descriptive essay.

Below are the five main features of an expository essay.

  • Instructive - it should provide accurate information with facts.
  • Specific - you need to be clear and precise when giving a factual explanation.
  • Well-organized - always follow the order of events.
  • Semi-formal – there are no first-person nouns in the paper.
  • Objective - its purpose is to equip the reader with information without subjective opinions.

A perfect expository essay structure requires the following components.

  • An introduction that provides background information on the topic in question.
  • Body paragraphs that elaborate on the facts.
  • A solid conclusion to wrap up the main ideas in the essay.

Expository writing is the most common kinds of essays for middle and high school levels. These academic essay genres intend to test the student’s understanding of the subject and composition skills.

Expository essay writing styles are helpful in school and teach the student how to express any issue in their own words. 

A descriptive essay vividly describes a general situation, object, or place. It mainly involves a more abstract case, like an emotion. It is the most creative of all types of essays. It tests the writer’s ability to use language to convey a memorable image of the object creatively and originally.

These genres of essays are common assignments for students in high school and also for composition classes. A well-structured descriptive piece of writing has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

 Introduction  - should establish the purpose of your writing. Also, set the tone of the impression by clearly showing what you want your audience to focus its attention on.

 The body  - the body includes factual, sensory, and figurative details. It also involves your feelings and thoughts and should be in local order. Use a transition to connect your ideas.

 Conclusion  - restate the main idea and briefly summarize the ideas in the body.

A descriptive paper equips the writer with the skills to use language figuratively to describe life’s events, both in school and after-school life. 

Narration is a story, and therefore a narrative essay involves telling a story. Most of the time, it consists of the narrator’s personal experience. Unlike other essay forms, the narrative gives you room to get creative and unique when telling your story, and you can freely use first-person nouns.

The following are the five distinctive features of a narrative type of essay with examples.

Plot refers to the events and how they follow each other in your story. For instance, you can narrate your first day in college, what happened, and how the events influenced who you are currently.

Setting : it refers to the location and time of the events, for example, at a particular school in the winter of a specific year.

Character : a protagonist drives your story, but you may have some support characters. In this case, you are the protagonist; your support characters could be the people you met on your first day in school.

Conflict is the challenge, problem, or moment of tension the protagonist has to solve or win.

Theme : it is the moral of the narrative or what you learn and want the reader to know. For instance, the challenges you face as a new student and how to counter them.

Narrative essays are common in high school and university composition classes. It places a student in a position to write a personal statement correctly when making applications even after graduation.

Common Types of Essays for Elementary School

Elementary school is the second-lowest level after kindergarten and ranges from grades one to seven. 

Learners in these grades are equipped with writing skills in easy essay types and different types of essay formats. The following are some types of academic essays for the elementary school level.

A persuasive essay aims at convincing the reader to take sides or adopt the writer’s opinion. It involves factual pieces of evidence and emotional appeals. A writer can include emotional and moral reasoning to connect with the audience to support a cause or argument.

The basis of a persuasive essay is sound reasoning, relevant facts, and evidence. The following features distinguish a persuasive paper from other types of essay writing styles.

 Clear and concise thesis :  as a writer, you need to present your thesis in the first paragraph. Clearly define your take on the particular topic.

 Introduction :  you need to create a strong introduction that captures your readers' attention and presents the ideas of the central issue in question. Clearly communicate the background information of the issue. A strong introduction will persuade the audience to buy the writer’s opinion on the topic.

 The body :  the body develops the argument in a clear evidential manner. The writer needs to start from known to unknown. Consider the reader’s point of view on the topic before introducing your take as a writer.

 Conclusion :  a firm conclusion in persuasive writing readdresses the thesis touching on the evidence provided in the essay.

A persuasive paper must meet the following characteristics:

  • 👉 Readability
  • 👉 Understandability
  • 👉 Relevance
  • 👉 Reliability
  • 👉 Logical consistency

The skills in persuasive writing enable the learner to tackle more complicated different type of essays at higher levels.   

It isa type of exposition essay that explains how something works or how to do something. A process essay writer must maintain clarity and organization by following a chronological order. It must have the following elements.

 Introduction:  it presents the process you will be communicating in your essay.

 The body  paragraphs should describe the process step-by-step in chronological order. Transitional words will help you to connect one step to the next.

 Conclusion:  summarize the entire process in your conclusion. For example, learning how to prepare chicken is the best experience anyone can enjoy.

Process essays are common in elementary school, as early as the third grade. They equip the learner with skills and the ability to break down the process of writing and achieve better results in other types of academic essays.

Common Types of Essays for Middle School

Middle school is like a bridge between elementary and high school. It serves adolescent students in grades five to nine. The higher middle school grades, 7 to 9, are commonly referred to as junior high school grades.

Some types of papers at the elementary level are part of the middle school curriculum, while some high school essays start in middle school. The following are the types of essays in English for middle school.

It is a type of argumentative writing that outlines the relationship between two subjects. In an academic paper for a typical cause and effect essay writing, the writer details how an event, person, or object influences another one directly.

In a school setup, cause and effect essays are meant to teach persuasive writing, logic, and critical thinking. In a professional setting or academic writing, these paper formats are in the form of a research paper, scientific studies, or lab report abstract. In either case, the author explains a phenomenon and attempts to explain its causes.

There are different essay structures for each type of paper. Below are the structure and main features of a cause-and-effect essay.

 Introduction:  the introduction should give background information about the topic to the context of your essay. To make a solid introduction, avoid cliché phrases and words.

 Body:  the body paragraphs include a topic sentence and supportive sentences. A topic sentence introduces the paragraph's main idea and captures the reader’s attention to the supporting sentences. Support sentences give persuasive facts.

 Conclusion:  summarize the content of your essay in conclusion. Please do not introduce any new information at this point. You can re-state your thesis in the introduction. Listing the causes in your essay body is another alternative way of creating a solid conclusion for the cause-and-effect essay.

It is an essay genre where the student has to investigate and expound on an idea. The scholar then examines the evidence and clearly presents an argument on the same idea. Accomplishing this requires comparison and contrast, definition, or cause and effect analysis.

The features of exposition or expository writing include the following.

Informative: the main point of expository text is to give information.

Clarity: the writer needs to use words that communicate what the text is talking about.

Text organization: an excellent exposition should retain its focus on the topic and outline the events in chronological order.

Impersonal: it does not encourage the use of the first person but instead uses the second-person pronouns “you.”

Unbiased: an exposition aims at providing information and does not openly disclose the author’s opinion.

The structure below holds an exposition together.

A statement of the thesis should be clear, concise, and defined.

The Introduction gives a clear link or transition between the introduction and the body. The body paragraphs should concentrate on the main idea of your writing to maintain clarity and direction all through the essay. It should be creative and factual, logical, or statistical evidential support. Create a solid conclusion by readdressing your thesis in light of some of the evidence in the body.

Common Types of Essays in High School

High school teachers introduce more complex essays to students than those in middle school. Some of the papers in high school progress to the college level. Below are some essays for high school students.

A reflective means you have to reflect on your own experiences. A reflective essay requires the writer to communicate their thoughts and feelings about a specific person, situation, or place in their point of view. Many scholars confuse a reflective paper with a narrative essay.

A reflective piece of writing includes an introduction, body, and conclusion.

 Introduction:  you need to be specific about what you reflect upon in your paper. Make the reader understand your position in the subject you are assessing.

 The body:  each paragraph in the body must start with a topic sentence. Speak your thoughts and experiences concerning the topic. You may include a thesis and statements if you are writing an academic paper.

 Conclusion:  it requires a precise articulation of your thoughts and feelings to create a solid conclusion.

  • ✍️ The writer should maintain the essay formal and conceivable to differentiate it from the narrative essay.
  • ✍️ Apply some descriptive skills.
  • ✍️ Use a classical structure.
  • ✍️ Avoid being personal.

It is an essay writing style that incorporates critical thinking, reading, and writing to communicate to the audience. The writer identifies a piece of art or literature and tries to analyze the author or artist’s thoughts. It focuses on the writer’s opinion, thesis, and argument using logical reasoning and citing evidence.

The significant parts of a critical analysis essay include an outline, introduction, body, and conclusion.

 The outline:  think critically about what you are writing about. Outline the main ideas in bullet form.

 Introduction:  the introduction should state the aim of the initial author of the work you are writing about. Make the introduction as engaging and captivating as possible to capture your reader’s attention.

 Body:  focus on the ideas in your outline and introduction. Each body paragraph should tackle a single notion for flow and consistency.

These tips 👇 will help a writer create a captivating critical analysis essay.

  • 📝 Use transitional words to link your ideas.
  • 📝 Be logical and concise.
  • 📝 Use third-person narration.

Common Essays in College

The highest level of essays applies to college and university scholars. The following are some of the paper types for college.

It is an essay style that shows the differences and similarities between two subjects or more. It is a perfect way of showing what unites or separates two subjects or objects, especially if people tend to confuse them.

Compare and contrast essay has some similarities to other paper types, but it has the following distinguishing features:

 Thesis:  Carefully pick the subjects you want to compare. If it is not given in the question, you have to be keen to select the one you can handle comfortably.

 Organization:  These essays follow a specific paper structure. The essay format includes an introduction, body, and conclusion.

 Introduction:  you need to elaborate on your thesis or the subject you will be discussing.

 Body:   it is the central part of your paper. It would be best to list the differences and similarities between your subjects of discussion here.

 Conclusion:  summarize and clearly wrap up your points.

There are three ways a writer can approach a compare and contrast essay:

  • Block method where you will discuss one subject after the other.
  • Alternating method where you have to give point by point. Here you tackle one subject on a particular aspect then the other subject follows immediately.
  • Similarities and differences. Start by discussing all the similarities between the two variables, then handle the differences.

Other essay types for college include research and definition. Reflective papers are also part of the college curriculum.

The four major types of essays include argumentative, descriptive, narrative, and expository. Expository and argumentative aim at giving clear points and information, while narrative and descriptive test the writer’s creativity.

There are more types of essays besides the four major categories. Below are ten of these essays.

  • Comparative

An argumentative paper is the most common essay type. It tests the writer’s research skills and ability to present their position on a particular subject. It is common at the college level.

An essay format is a series of guidelines that influence how you arrange your academic paper. It includes:

  • Page basics
  • Essay outline

There are many different types of papers to write, but there are four major ones. The essays are subdivided according to their complexity and students’ level of education.

Learning the different types of essays in English language is the first step toward being an excellent writer. You will be able to differentiate each type with its format, writing style, and structure.

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Every section of this article was helpful. It gave me knowledge on the definition essays that can be used with data, to criticize, and how to include sources in my pages. From the popular forms of essays, to what you should include in each section, this was really great.

Angelina Grin, the author, is constantly on point; I follow her articles, and they are usually part of my resources for references when I'm assigned tasks. I like how she summarizes bulky topics and manages to illustrate them using pristine examples. I enjoyed reading every single part of this article.

Harriet L.J.

My teacher told me to examine the benefits of writing different storytelling essays. I now know which type is best to argue my point on any subject matter. It was really helpful and I now feel confident in my college work.

The concept behind a literary analysis essay is for writers to detail everything from the storyline and the idioms to every literary tool used in a piece of literature. It gives readers full experience even if they've yet to read the work.

I was struggling with writing a narrative essay. This article helped to explain how to write different essays and improve the quality of my written work.

While reading this article, I learned the need for the inclusion of sensory details in essays. With literary analysis of any specific topic, you can easily spot the author's writing process.

I was looking for help to explore what an analytical essay and critical essay are to improve my grade band.

Descriptive essays are very critical essays because you need to use words to give your readers an insight into your mind. Thank you for the awesome guidelines.

what are the different types of essay formats

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what are the different types of essay formats

What Are the Different Types of Essay Formats?

An essay is a short piece of writing, generally focusing on a particular subject matter. There are a number of different essay formats that are used by writers depending on the subject matter or the purpose of the essay. Common essay formats include argumentative/persuasive, compare and contrast, and descriptive, as well as narrative, and cause-and-effect essays.

An argumentative, or persuasive essay , is an essay that is intended to convince the reader to adopt the point of view of the writer. Of all the essay formats, the argumentative essay is one of the most often used in higher education or professional settings. A persuasive essay begins by explaining the issue to be discussed and then makes a number of points in favor of the writer's point of view on the issue. A persuasive essay will also address the opposing viewpoint and include an argument that will dismiss the opposing view point as a rule.

A narrative essay is a way for the writer to tell a story from his or her own perspective.

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Another of the popular essay formats is the compare and contrast format. In this essay, the writer chooses two or more items within a category and explains each one to the reader, often including the pros and cons of each. For example, a compare and contrast essay on computers might explain the different features and capabilities of a laptop computer and a desktop computer. The writer is not trying to influence the reader, but rather attempting to educate the reader regarding the subject matter.

A descriptive essay, as the name implies, provides the reader with a description of the subject matter of the essay. This essay format focuses on one topic. The object is to provide both objective and factual information for the reader.

A narrative essay, on the other hand, is personal and subjective. A narrative essay is a way for the writer to tell a story from his or her own perspective. It is written in the first person.

Some university-level critical essays are based on analyzing a literary text.

The last of the common essay formats is the cause-and-effect essay. The cause-and-effect essay format is formal in nature and tone, and should include only facts and objective information. It generally begins with an outcome, or effect, and continues to explain to the reader the cause of the outcome. For example, an essay might assert that lengthy incarceration reduces recidivism rates. The reduction in recidivism rates is the outcome and the essay would then explain why lengthy incarceration produces, or causes, that outcome.

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A narrative essay is a way for the writer to tell a story from his or her own perspective.

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4 Major Types of Essay with Examples

what are the different types of essay formats

Writing various sorts of essays effectively has become important to academic success. Essay writing is a regular school task, a requirement on college applications, and an element of standardized tests.

Choosing the proper sort of essay to write in response to a writing prompt is crucial to answering the question correctly on examinations. Clearly, students cannot afford to be puzzled about the many forms of essays.

It’s easy to become perplexed because there are over a dozen different varieties of essays. However, rest assured that the figure is more manageable. There are four basic categories of essays, with variations accounting for the remaining.

Argumentative and Expository Essays are concerned with delivering facts and making clear arguments, but Narrative and Descriptive Essays are concerned with expressing oneself creatively and writing in an engaging manner. Argumentative essays are the most prevalent sort of essay at the university level.

You must know how to write an essay before knowing the 4 major types of Essays.

Here are the 4 Major Types of Essays for you to Learn, Once you are Clear with the Structure of an Essay.

1. narrative essay :.

The writer of a narrative essay presents a story about a real-life experience. While it may appear that narrating a tale is simple, the narrative essay requires students to think about and write about themselves.

When writing a narrative essay, authors should make the story as vivid as possible in order to engage the reader. Because narrative essays are frequently written in the first person, the reader is more engaged.

Readers will feel as if they are a part of the tale if you use “I” statements. A well-written narrative essay will also progress toward a conclusion or a personal statement.

The Christmas Cake

“First of all, let me clarify that I have grown up to be a complete amateurish in cooking. My parents performed their jobs quite efficiently and they always baked those perfect cakes for me every Christmas. That night, it was me, the inexpert chef, who took the initiative to make a Christmas cake and surprise them.

To today’s date, I’ve only made several hamburgers on my own. Unfortunately, I had no clue about baking a cake. All I knew were the ingredients that I would use throughout the process. He dived completely in-depth into the recipe reflected on a book and started to set for the Christmas cake.

Then I cleaned the kitchen first and made a huge bowl sit in front of me to mix the essentials. I was excited and tensed at the same time, as it was something I tried for the first time…”

Guidelines for Writing a Narrative Essay :

These are the most basic guidelines for writing an excellent narrative essay:

  • Use conversations in your article to make it more realistic.
  • When structuring the document, keep the chronological sequence in mind.
  • In the first paragraph of your essay , there must be a purpose.
  • To interest your readers, use highlighted descriptions and sensory data.
  • All of the characters, storylines, and the beginning, or climax, must be significant.

All of these factors work together in your article to accurately depict the entire scene in front of your readers’ eyes. So, if you want to write a good narrative essay, make sure you follow these rules to the letter.

2. Descriptive Essay:

A descriptive essay, like that of a narrative essay, uses words to create a picture. A writer could describe a person, a location, an item, or even a memorable memory. This is not, however, a descriptive essay for the sake of description. The goal of a descriptive essay is to convey a deeper meaning through description.

Through the use of vivid words and sensory details, the writer should show, not tell, in a descriptive essay. The finest descriptive essays appeal to the reader’s emotions, producing a vivid effect.

“Moving up to our north cabin and spending time there had always been something that I enjoyed and looked up to. It was a nice, beautiful, and serene place. It offered a lot in terms of peace and serenity that you will not find in cities. We used to look forward to our summer vacations.

So that we can go up north and experience things that we cannot do in the city. Even though time has changed and things are not as they used to be, the memory is still fresh. The atmosphere up north was quite different than in the city. When in the cabin, I marvel at how different the atmosphere and life here are then the cities.

Life in the city is full of noise and tension. You have to get up for work, and the noise of traffic would never let you relax and enjoy nature. Only if you are lucky to have it around. Things up north were different, you can enjoy the sunshine and greenery, and there is no hustle-bustle.

The air was fresh, healthy, and clean. The nights are quiet, and you can hear the animals coming out to hunt for food. Cities are filled with polluted air. This abundance of polluted air is mainly due to the heavy traffic and factories.

The air is thick due to smoke, smog, and other types of air contaminators that no one wants to breathe in. Getting clean air in a city is next to impossible…”

Guidelines of Writing a Descriptive Essay:

  • Make a decision on a certain issue. Descriptive essays that are well-written stay focused at all times.
  • Gather information.
  • Make a rough sketch.
  • Write the first paragraph of your essay.
  • Body paragraphs should be written.
  • In the final paragraph, summarize the essay .
  • Look for methods to make your language more lively.

3. Argumentative Essay :

An argumentative essay is a piece of writing that offers a lengthy, evidence-based case. It necessitates a solid thesis statement—a well-defined viewpoint on your subject. Your goal is to persuade the reader of your argument by providing evidence like quotes and analysis.

Argumentative essays put your abilities to investigate and convey your own point of view on a subject to the test. At the undergraduate level, this is the most prevalent style of essay—almost every paper you write will include some form of argumentation.

Students Who Study Abroad Achieve Greater Success

“Much of our learning takes place outside the classroom. We learn how to maintain budgets, forge friendships, develop business relationships, and more. Imagine extending those skills on a global level.

We would immediately cease to believe the world only contains the people and things we can see but, rather, a wide variety of opinions, customs, beliefs, and ethics. This is why every college-level student must study abroad during their undergraduate years. They will learn more in that semester abroad than in any other academic year.

According to IES Abroad, a company that encourages students to become international leaders, students who study abroad are more likely to be accepted into the graduate degree program of their choice. In fact, 90% of students who studied abroad with IES are admitted to their first or second choice for graduate school.

Imagine walking into an interview and being able to discuss preparing the most popular dish in India or organizing the best route to take from Sydney, Australia to Perth. Not only does this strike up a memorable conversation, but it also demonstrates a student’s fierce independence and determination.

All this makes someone who has studied abroad a more desirable candidate for their dream job. As if IES Abroad’s statistic above was not astounding enough, it has been proven that 97% of students who study abroad find employment within 12 months of graduation…..”

Guidelines of Writing an Argumentative Essay:

  • The thesis that is well-structured. The introduction to the argument is the first step in writing an argumentative essay.
  • Body Paragraphs that support the thesis statement.  The essay has three body paragraphs that support the thesis’ statements.
  • Arguments in opposition.
  • A conclusion that is persuasive.
  • Phrases that bridge the gap.

4. Expository Essay:

An expository essay is a piece of writing that provides a balanced overview of a subject. In an expository essay, the writer uses facts, data, and examples to illustrate or clarify a topic.

Expository writing includes a variety of essay types, including comparison and contrast essays, cause and effect essays, and “how to” or process essays . Expository essays do not show emotions or write in the first person since they are based on facts rather than personal feelings.

“This morning at 9 am, a school bus collided with a car at the intersection of Jones and Heard streets. There were no injuries on the school bus, but medical personnel performed checks on each student and the driver before those students were transported to their schools.

The driver of the car sustained slight, non-life-threatening injuries. He was transported to the local hospital. The accident is still under investigation at this time.

Advances in science and technology have made the use of “green” energy possible. In places where climate conditions permit, people are able to use solar energy or wind energy for power. Solar energy is the use of sunlight for energy and power.

Humans are able to harness the energy of the sun by installing solar panels on their homes or businesses . Humans have also found ways to harness the power of the wind by using wind turbines to capture wind energy. Both of these forms of “green” energy are being used more and more.

The school science fair was a success again this year! We had 15 teams participating, and they all had amazing projects. Each team consisted of two students who designed a science experiment to test a hypothesis, created a display of their experiment and results, and presented their display to the judges.

The winners this year are Sarah Jones and Mark Gordon, who hypothesized that students get into less trouble in the classroom on days when it is sunny outside.

The judges were very impressed with their data collection methods, which included asking teachers to share information on how many students earned stars at the end of each day. They correlated this information with their own data about the weather-sunny, cloudy, or rainy…”

Guidelines for Writing an Expository Essay:

  • Choose the essay structure
  • Start with an outline
  • Verify point of view requirements
  • Focus on clarity

Now that you know how to write an essay and the different types of essays, what are you waiting for? Start writing your essay today itself. Oh, do not worry about the errors and mistakes. We always have your back for that. You can close your eyes and rely on editing and proofreading services to make your essay completely immaculate.

-Isabell S.


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Top 10 Essay Formats for Students

Essay formats put structure to the writing. Here are 10 essay formats for students to follow in academic settings.

Writing essays is a common experience in high school and college. Even research papers are just expounded essays. Students who can present their ideas in an essay using clear writing and careful thought can do very well in school.

Writing an essay usually starts with creating an essay outline and choosing a thesis statement. Understanding the basic college essay format and the various styles will help you craft an essay that flows well and works for your teacher’s recommendations and requirements.

Here is a closer look at the basic essay formats you may see in academic settings. Each one has its own rules, from extra spaces to Oxford commas, and knowing these will help you craft winning essays.

For help with your essays, check out our round-up of the best essay checkers .

1. Standard Essay Format

2. expository essay format, 3. argumentative essay format, 4. narrative essay format, 5. descriptive essay format, 6. comparative essay format, 7. cause and effect essay format, 8. mla essay format, 9. apa essay format, 10. chicago essay format.

Essay Formats for Students

The standard essay has three parts: the introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction is typically one paragraph with a topic sentence, supporting details, and a concluding sentence. The body is multiple paragraphs that cover the outline points. The conclusion summarizes the outline points and any concluding thoughts.

The introduction section of a basic essay introduces the problem or concern, then gives a thesis statement. The thesis statement limits the topic and defines the course of the essay, similar to what it does in a research paper. The difference is that an essay is much shorter than a research paper.

While the body of a basic essay can be any length, these traditionally have three body paragraphs. All three should cover one point that supports the thesis statement. You might also be interested in our guide on book formats .

The expository essay asks a student to investigate an idea or evaluate evidence. The main goal is to communicate factual information. This essay is common in high school and middle school classrooms where students are still learning to write.

Expository essays follow the standard essay format. They have a title and thesis statement, but the information to back that thesis statement comes from facts, not an argument or persuasive stance. They rely heavily on sources to back up the information presented rather than the author’s opinion about the topic.

Sometimes teachers call this type of essay an academic essay because the goal is to research and present information.

An argumentative essay is a common type of essay writing in high school classrooms. This essay follows the basic essay format, but the opening paragraph provides background information about the argument. The thesis statement is the writer’s opinion on the argument.

Each of the body paragraphs in an argumentative essay will support the writer’s opinion. They provide the proof for the thesis statement.

Other than the way the information flows in the essay, the argumentative essay will follow the general guidelines for essay writing. 

A narrative essay deviates from the standard essay format. This type of essay tells a story from a real-life experience. Teachers give students a writing prompt, such as “Tell about a time when you were really frightened,” and the students write.

However, this format still has some rules. First, it will use first-person to tell a story from the writer’s point of view. It will also start with an engaging opening hook in the first paragraph.

The body paragraphs of this essay format will focus on conveying the story’s details. Build towards the conclusion, which is the climax of the story. Sometimes narrative essays will end with some form of a personal statement.

A descriptive essay paints a picture of something. The writer receives a prompt about a person, place, or object to write about. They then use descriptive words to describe that item.

Descriptive essays use sensory details and words to appeal to readers’ senses. This type of essay can also have a lot of emotion. The goal is to communicate a deeper meaning through the writing.

Descriptive essays may not follow quite as strict of a format as the other types of essays. However, it should still have an intro, body, and conclusion.

A comparative essay compares two or more things. It looks at their similarities and differences and decides if they are more alike or different.

To write this essay format, start by listing the differences and similarities of the items. Then, see if they have more things in common or more things different. 

This format may require more than five paragraphs. In each paragraph, talk about a particular aspect of one of the items, then show the similar or different aspect in the other item in the following paragraph. Continue this back-and-forth structure until you reach your conclusion.

The cause and effect essay has a thesis statement showing an over-arching cause and effect. The body paragraphs support that thesis by showing each paragraph’s related cause and effect. 

This essay has one body paragraph called the antithesis paragraph. Here the writer shows the opposite side of the argument, outlining the causes and effects opposing the thesis.

Finally, the conclusion reiterates the points and shows why the writer’s original thesis statement is the logical conclusion.

The MLA format is a popular choice for college essay writing. It follows the basic essay format, but it has some specific rules about formatting the page.

MLA-style essays require a 12-point, easily legible serif font with double-spacing throughout the paper. The margins are 1-inch, and the style uses the Oxford comma for lists. Paragraphs have a 1/2-inch indentation.

With an MLA format essay, the format requires no title page. Students place the essay title at the top left-hand corner of the page. When referencing a source within the paper, the writer creates a citation in parentheses with the Author’s last name and the page number.

This essay style requires a works cited page that lists the references you used to write it. This page is the last page of the essay and has the words “Works Cited” at the top of the page, centered. The works cited are alphabetically organized and contain the following information in this order:

  • Title of the place you found the source (magazine, website, etc.)
  • Other contributors
  • Publication date
  • Location of the source (page numbers, website URL, etc.)

If this information is not provided for your particular source, skip that section. Each item is divided by a comma.

Essay Formats for Students: APA Style

The American Psychological Association (APA) has its essay format. This format is commonly the choice for research papers in the sciences.

APA style requires 12-point Times New Roman font. The type should be double-spaced, paragraphs have a 1/2-inch indent, and the margins should be one-inch on all sides. APA-style essays do not use the Oxford comma.

The first part of the APA paper is a title page that contains the title, the writer’s name, and the institution. The second page is the abstract, which summarizes the essay in one paragraph of 150 to 250 words. Any research methods or questions covered in the essay must be in the abstract.

After the abstract is the essay, you will use an introductory paragraph, body paragraphs, and conclusion. This format uses in-text parenthetical citations that include the author’s last name and the year of publication. Page numbers only show in citations that involve direct quotes.

The final page is the references page. This starts with the word REFERENCES at the top, centered on the page. All references are in alphabetical order. APA style requires different formatting for each reference type, so always check the APA style guide to see how to list a reference.

The final style guide is the Chicago style, also called the Turabian style. This style came from the University of Chicago Press and is the least common in school settings.

Chicago-style essays use Times, Times New Roman, or Palatino fonts with no less than 10 points. Margins must be 1 to 1.5 inches on all sides, and paragraphs have a 1/2-inch indent. This style of academic writing uses the Oxford comma. It also requires footnotes for in-text citations with a full citation for the first reference and an abbreviated citation stating the author’s last name and page number for subsequent notations. All paragraphs are double-spaced.

This style also begins with a title page as the first page. It starts 1/3 of the way down the page and has the paper’s title in all caps. Then, the writer pushes Enter eight times to type their full name, pushes enter again to type the name of the course, and pushes enter again to type the date.

Chicago-style essays follow the basic essay structure with an introduction, body, and conclusion. The last page of the essay is the Bibliography, with references written based on the Chicago Manual of Style .

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips !

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what are the different types of essay formats

Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.

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