What Are the Different Types of Essays?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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High school and college students generally need to write essays for their courses. The types of essays they write will vary, depending on the subject matter and course requirements. An essay may try to convince the reader of something, or it can offer similarities or differences of two things. It could also define, describe, or evaluate something. Essays also might offer the author's personal experience or opinion. Additionally, some essays simply explain how to do something.

Argumentative, or persuasive, essays try to sway the reader toward a certain point of view. In this essay, the author offers facts that support his point of view. A writer trying to convince his readers that followers of the Wiccan religion are not evil could state that it is a nature-based religion that does not even believe in the devil. Usually, he is trying to change the reader's mind or persuade readers which way to lean on a subject.

In compare and contrast types of essays, writers generally show the similarities and differences between two things. Comparison essays may deal with just the similarities, while contrasting essays may deal with just the differences. Definition essays try to define a specific word, term, or phrase. Generally, these types of essays will go beyond the dictionary definition, including the origins of a particular word or phrase.


Descriptive essays are similar, but they usually describe a certain item, person, or event. This typically goes far deeper than a simple description of something. For example, a descriptive essay written about a flower will often go into detail about the colors, smells, and possibly even tastes.

Other types of essays include evaluation, or critical, essays. These essays are written to analyze or critique a subject. Many times, the topics of these essays are books, movies, plays, or pieces of art.

Essays based on the authors' personal experiences are commonly used for school applications or admissions essays. In this type of essay, the author will typically write something personal, and also state reasons why he would be a good fit for a particular college. Narrative essays and reflective essays are other types of essays based on personal experiences.

An opinion essay, as its name implies, states an author's opinion. He may write an essay stating that he believes global warming is false, for instance. Throughout this type of essay, the author should also spell out facts that support this opinion.

A process essay is sometimes referred to as a how-to essay. In this essay, the author will outline exactly how to do a certain task, from start to finish. For example, a process essay about changing a light bulb could talk about how to unscrew the old light bulb, find a new light bulb, and insert the new light bulb.


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