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Modes of Writing

In your classroom, you will likely ask students to write for a variety of purposes: to persuade, to inform, to entertain, etc. Because of this, your certification exams will test your ability to decide which mode of writing is appropriate for a given rhetorical situation as well as your ability to identify what mode of writing samples represent. Use the brief descriptions below to refresh your memory about these modes, but don't forget that some rhetorical situations will require you to blend these modes rather than to use them in isolation.


Narrative writing tells a story, presenting readers with a sequence of events. If you see dialogue, characters, and a plot, the odds are good that you are reading narrative writing.

Examples:a fictional short story you write for your creative writing class, a true story about something that happened to you


Descriptive writing is what it sounds like, writing that describes a person, place, thing, emotion, situation, etc. in a vivid way. Descriptive writing appeals to the senses and paints a picture in the reader's mind.

Examples: a detailed discussion of your hometown that allows the reader to imagine each street and landmark, a profile of your grandmother that makes the reader feel like she has met her


Expository or informative writing is used to provide the reader with facts about a particular subject, to explain something that might not be familiar to readers.

Examples: an explanation of how to cook your favorite dish, an essay comparing and contrasting different forms of renewable energy


Persuasive writing is driven by the desire to convince readers to share your perspective on an issue. Persuasive writing often presents readers with facts, like expository writing does, but these facts are presented in a way that makes it clear how they support the particular viewpoint the writer is trying to defend. That is, the facts serve as evidence to support the argument the writer is making.

Examples: an essay in which you make an argument about which form of renewable energy is most promising, an editorial for your school newspaper protesting the dress code

Though many people use "persuasive" and "argumentative" writing interchangeably, the Common Core distinguishes between the two, using "persuasive" to describe writing that aims to persuade the reader through appeals to emotions and ethics, while "argumentative" writing aims to persuade the reader through appeals to expertise and knowledge.  To learn more, visit


Reflective writing is personal. The writer shares his/her own thoughts and/or experiences.

Examples: the kinds of essays you wrote as part of your college application, the portfolio reflection you wrote at the end of ENG 100

To write these descriptions, I consulted the following helpful sources:

Modes of Writing, Edmond Public Schools English Curriculum Department,

Essay Writing, Purdue Online Writing Lab,