What Common Types of Essays Are There

There are many types of essays out there that are commonly assigned to students. Understanding their differences can help make the process of writing much easier.

Descriptive Essay

A descriptive essay is one which describes something. That “something” could be a tree, a favorite ice cream, a person, a visit to a church, etc… The purpose of the descriptive essay is to offer detail about something using all of the senses. It should describe for the reader how something feels, tastes, smells, sounds, looks, or makes one feel. It can also describe how something took place or what something is. The essay can provide details in a list or it can present information in the form of a story, one which has a plot and theme.

Definition Essay

The definition essay is one which defines a specific term. It might define the true meaning of honesty, or the abstract meaning of love, or how the meaning of family may run beyond blood relatives. This style of essay goes beyond a mere dictionary definition and then explains why the term is defined as such. It should tell a story, imply the definition, or require the reader to infer the meaning of something.

Compare/Contrast Essay

A compare/contrast essay might discuss the similarities between Paris and New York City, or discuss the differences between Los Angeles and London. It might discuss similarities and/or differences between two people or two religions. The purpose of this essay is to compare and/or contrast two concepts, places, people, things, events, and more. The essay can attempt to convince the reader of one side of an argument or it might just offer an unbiased discussion. It can be written in such a fashion as to arrive at some deep insight at the end, or it just can just focus on the similarities and/or differences of something. If assigned a “comparison essay”, it will typically just discuss the similarities while a “contrast essay” will just discuss the differences.

Cause/Effect Essay

The cause/effect essay might tackle the cause of an event or the effect of an event. The essay should focus on what happened or how it happened, and what the result was. The essay is meant as a study between two or experiences or events. It can discuss both the causes and effects, or it can discuss one over the other. A “cause essay” is often only discussing the reasons why something took place, while an “effect essay” writers about what happened after en event.