What is Essay Writing? - Definition, Types, and Examples

Definition of Essay Writing

An essay is a form of writing that addresses a single subject or topic. The focus of an essay might be to describe a scene, place, or object, to narrate a story, explain an issue, or persuade the reader to share your point of view. All in all, a writer must research the topic and also know to what category of essay it belongs so as to pay attention to its convention and structure.

Four (4) Types of Essay Writing

There are four major types of essays: expository, narrative, descriptive, and argumentative. Basically, in writing a good essay, there must be a title, an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

1. Expository Essay

This type of essay gives a description and explanation of how something (a concept, idea, or process) works. An expository essay informs the reader of a particular topic using facts and examples.

Features of Expository Essay

The general features of an expository essay include:

  1. It explains and provides information about the topic.
  2. It presents facts on the topic.
  3. It presents detailed information on the topic.
  4. It is usually written in a formal language and usually in the passive voice.
  5. It is mostly presented in the present tense. This is because the process(es) or stages involved in the expository essay are mostly unchanging.
  6. It has transitional markers that show the relationships among the paragraphs.

2. Descriptive Essay

A descriptive essay is written to present or describe a vivid picture of a person, an object, an experience, or a situation in such a way that it appeals to the senses of the reader. Descriptive writing can be used as part of other essay types. For instance, in expository writing, It is used to describe the stages or steps involved in a process.

The objective and subjective description of a descriptive essay

  • The objective description supplies the actual details about something. In other words, a writer's emotions and personal opinion will not influence the description.
  • The subjective description, on the other hand, accommodates the writer's emotional reactions while presenting facts about the object being described.

Purpose of Description

  • Presentation of Facts: This is mostly used in scientific writing or research.
  • Entertainment: This is used by creative writers to entertain the readers.
  • Clarification: Descriptive writing is used to enhance clarity by making a description of an object more precise and detailed.
  • Persuasion: A subjective description is used to influence other people's opinions about an object.

General Tips on Writing a Descriptive Essay

  • Make sure you have a topic or subject matter to discuss.
  • Understand in detail the topic of concern.
  • Understand your audience—that is, who will be reading your work? Why are they reading your work? What do you want them to take away from reading your work?
  • Divide the object of description into parts and sort out your thoughts as you describe them based on the senses: taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound.
  • Arrange the parts of the description into a logical sequence such that one can see the transition from one part to the other.
  • Write the description in the simple present or the simple past tense.

3. Narrative Essay

A narrative essay simply tells a story or gives an account of an event involving people at a time and place. It is usually an event from the author's past or recent experience. A narrative essay is generally written in the first person and often adopts a conversational style. A narrative essay could either be fiction or non-fiction.

Features of a Narrative Essay

  • The essay must have an introduction, which introduces the reader to the story, event, or experience.
  • It should also be given sensory detail, that is, detail that reflects the senses of touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing.
  • It should have the elements of a story, such as theme, plot, setting, event, characters, conflict, and ending/resolution.
  • The language should reflect the appropriate tense, mostly the past tense.

4. Argumentative Essay

An argumentative essay is a piece of writing that uses reasoning and evidence (not emotion) to take a stand on an issue. The writer may explore the two sides of a topic and prove why the supported side is better.

In other words, the writer does not totally ignore the facts and opinions that are valued on the other side but convinces the audience that his or her points are of greater value. However, it must be noted that an argumentative essay is not necessarily a debate or a kind of writing with two sides for possible exploration. It is simply a kind of essay that makes use of reason and logic to persuade and possibly convince its audience about something.

For instance, you may be asked to simply argue for the prohibition of post-UTME in Nigeria or explain why you should be elected to an office.

The argumentative essay can also be used for these different purposes:

  • To present ideas in a logical and compelling manner:
  • To persuade the audience or readers to share your opinion;
  • To generate opinions or ideas for solving social problems; and
  • To bring about a change in people's opinion about a subject.

General Tips on Argumentative Essays

Argumentative essays follow the usual stages of a writing process, but the following tips would help in writing a good argumentative essay.

  • Supporting an opinion: There is a need to examine the topic and convincingly choose a side with enough points to back it up.
  • Backing up your opinion: Make sure you present all your points in a logical way and substantiate them with enough evidence, facts, and statistics from reliable authorities.
  • Refuting an opposing argument: You must anticipate and examine the opposing ideas and be ready to refute them using certain strategies, such as:
    • "To a certain extent, they are right, but..."
    • "After seeing the evidence, there is no way we can agree with what they said."
    • "They have a point but failed to see the..."
  • Avoiding a direct attack on your opponent: This happens when a writer directly abuses or attacks the other opponent instead of reacting only to his or her arguments.
  • Avoiding emotive language: Focus on facts and not emotions, such as:
    • "We all know that my opponent is only advocating for sex education in our secondary schools because she is a renowned sex worker.".

The Structure of an Argumentative Essay

  • The Introduction: This part gives the thesis statement of the essay and possibly provides background information on the topic.
  • The Body: The body of the essay is made up of the subsequent paragraphs after the introduction and just before the conclusion. The body of the essay can include a few paragraphs, or it may be as many as can complete your writing arguments. This part of the essay should introduce the opposing positions of the argument and later present the strongest points along with evidence, facts, and figures to support them (remember to present your points in paragraphs).
  • The Conclusion: This is the last paragraph of your essay. It should re-emphasize your position and summarize the entire essay.

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