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The 4 Writing Styles

By August 13, 2018August 16th, 2018Writing


The SAT Essay and ACT Writing assignments ask you, in part, to consider how people make arguments. A knowledge of the four types of writing can help you identify and analyze the choices writers make. Consider these four types of writing: expository, persuasive, descriptive, and narrative.

Think you’ve got control over the 4 writing styles?  Read over the following examples and test yourself. We’ll break them down below.

  1. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? – Patrick Henry, (Henry’s rhetorical questions are a widely used device for persuasive writing).
  2. A narrow and deserted street in deep shadow, high houses, innumerable windows with venetian blinds, a dead silence, grass sprouting right and left, immense double doors standing ponderously ajar.” – Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  3. “Lennie rolled off the bunk and stood up, and the two of them started for the door. Just as they reached it, Curley bounced in.
    “You seen a girl around here?” he demanded angrily.
    George said coldly, “‘Bout half an hour ago maybe.”– John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
  4. The Latitudinal Defense Hypothesis predicts that levels of defense are highest near the equator and decrease toward the poles.  This hypothesis is based mainly on insect herbivory that occurs during the summer. – Sarah Brown and Michael Stevens, Biogeography of Chemical Defense in Birch Trees

Guessed persuasive for example 1? Congratulations!  Patrick Henry’s speech is clearly trying to convince the audience of his viewpoint.  Authors pepper persuasive writing with exaggerated language and strong rhetorical devices.

Thinking example 2 is descriptive?  You got it! Descriptive writing usually explores sense phenomenon, immersing the reader in a scene with powerful detail.

Chose narrative for 3?  That’s right! Narrative writing always propels a story with plot and characters along.  Often you’ll find dialogue, and of course, plenty of action.

Only one left, think you got it?  Yep, expository! Expository writing doesn’t share opinion, but is based on facts.  Sometimes this writing may seem dry, only because it is rich with data.

Great job!  With a solid understanding of these 4 types of writing, you will be prepared to craft writing that matches your needs, and recognize the intentions of authors more clearly.  

The Compass Team

Compass is one of the world's leading providers of in-home and online, live one-on-one tutoring for high school students aspiring to attend selective colleges.

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