Most common types of essays – “What essay?” no more

Panic sometimes overcomes a student when seeing an unfamiliar word prior the term ‘essay’ in their homework. The confusion probably lies the most between a descriptive and expository essay or between descriptive and narrative essay. The threat then grows leading to procrastination and cramming – which is what we want you to avoid. The importance of learning the differences among various types of essays can never be overrated, so, for a start, here are the most common types of essays you will encounter at school:

The most common types of essays.

Descriptive Essay

Descriptive essay is perhaps the most required essay since middle school because your English composition teacher wants you to master the figures of speech or the literary devices through application. When writing descriptive essays, keep in mind that you are not supposed to narrate, instead, you have to describe something. Your aim is to give your reader an overview of your subject be it an object, a person, a research, or a literary piece. Also remember that when writing a descriptive essay, you need to ensure that your readers can imagine your subject, hence, do not hesitate to utilize similes, metaphors, personifications, and any other figures you can apply. Descriptive essays usually takes form as a journal and the like. For a start, address descriptive writing by reiterating your senses, such as outlined in the image.

Narrative Essay

Closely related to descriptive essay is the narrative essay which also aims to show a picture through careful choosing of words, however, from the word itself, the main task is to narrate which is basically to recount an event just as how you would tell a story. Descriptive essays can work without narration, but narrative essays cannot work without description, because in order to successfully narrate a story, you have to paint a clear picture of what happens and what happens after.

Expository Essay

Among all types of essays, the expository essay holds the largest scope depending on the purpose of the paper. An expository essay can be written as:

  • Explanatory. The most popular form of expository essay presents a straightforward explanation of the subject. Usually, explanatory essays answer the question “how”.
  • Definitive. The simplest form of definitive essays presents a definition of a topic, but not just the dictionary form, but also its connotation as well as relevance depending on the theme of the paper.
  • Reflective. It is also a common mistake to identify reflection as a descriptive essay because most people think that writing a reflection means describing one’s feelings toward its subject, however, it is important to note that a reflective essay must embody one’s personal reasoning of the subject and explaining such reasoning. Therefore, a reflective essay also requires analysis but it can be written on a casual/conversational tone.
  • Cause and Effect. Cause and effect essay falls under expository because of its nature where one explains the relationship between a catalyst and its effect.
  • Critical Analysis. Arguably, writing a critical analysis can be overwhelming because of the need to research and understand a subject adeptly. First and foremost, it is important to understand that a critical analysis is different from a reflection because writing an analysis is not as subjective as how reflection is done. Critical analysis requires an intricate study of the subject and objective reasoning which justification must be anchored from various published researches.



Knowledge certainly is strength. It is always best to learn about the differences among various types of essays before commencing a write-up, and when in doubt, you can always ask for professional help.