Types of Writing

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Types of Writing (overview handout)

Sub-pages:   Home Up Paragraphs Sample Essays Reviews Research Papers Advice for test essays Writing TEM-4 Notes Writing TEM-4 Essays TEM4-teacher advice

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Types of Writing
©2006 Michael Krigline, M.A.

 

While Chinese English teachers often stress the use of colorful adjectives and complicated sentences, most American writing aims to be clear and simple. This handout presents an overview of the structure of several major types of American English writing that might be useful to students for whom English is a foreign language. (Each is explained in more detail in my advanced writing textbook: Successful Writing for the Real World.)

1. General academic paragraph

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Topic Sentence

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Body (with 2-3 supporting sentences)

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Summary/Conclusion (the final sentence of a paragraph should emphasize the thought or some important consequence of the topic sentence)

(Click here for "tips" on writing a better topic sentence, title or conclusion.)

 

2. Product description (may introduce a product, service, web site, place, etc.; the following is a paragraph outline, but a “product description” can be more than one paragraph)

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Hook (a sentence designed to get reader’s attention)

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Support

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“The Sale” (end by restating the product’s name and main benefits; invite the reader to “buy”)

(Click here to see sample product descriptions for websites.)

 

3. Academic essay (each paragraph has two to five sentences; notice that these paragraphs do NOT have a conclusion as in a general academic paragraph—the final paragraph is the conclusion!)

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Introduction (2-3 sentences introducing the subject and giving a preview/outline of the essay)

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Topic sentence + support

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Topic sentence + support    (plus additional support paragraphs as needed)

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Conclusion (restate your subject and summarize the support; sometimes this paragraph is incorporated with the final support paragraph)

(Click here for material I gave my writing students in 2005 regarding their TEM-4 practice essays and practice notes; click here for materials related to writing research papers. Click here to see sample essays.)

 

4. Review (designed to inform readers about a concert, movie, restaurant, music CD, etc., and usually includes the reviewer’s opinion and/or recommendation to the reader)

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Summary paragraph presenting what was reviewed (where, when, how much…) with overall impression conveyed explicitly or implicitly (if the review is long, you may provide an outline)

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Supporting paragraph(s), each with a topic sentence and support

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Conclusion either summarizing why the reviewer thinks the venue was good, bad, or in between, or seeking to “sell” the venue. Conclusions often include a recommendation for readers.

(Click here to see sample reviews; Click here to see the format and an example of a one-paragraph review; look at the bottom of the "medical presentation" page)

 

5. News article (You should seek to be objective in presenting information or the news. Put the most important information first and then organize other things with decreasing importance. The editor may simply cut off whatever does not fit the space he/she has for your article, so there is no conclusion! Each paragraph is short—normally ONE to THREE short sentences. News articles are usually written with simple vocabulary, aimed at informing everyone with a middle school education or higher.)

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Headline, giving the topic and enough details to attract interested readers (sometimes followed by a subtitle)

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Introductory paragraph of one to three sentences, presenting the most important information and introducing main sub-points that will be developed later

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One or two short paragraphs containing the most important details or support points

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Short paragraph with brief support or details

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Short  paragraph with brief support or details (with additional paragraphs as needed)

Note: These support paragraphs may not have a formal “topic sentence,” but each paragraph contains a single clear idea, and the paragraph-to-paragraph progression must be logical.

(continued)

 

6. News editorial (presenting an opinion related to the news)

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Introduction or hook

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presents the subject but may not present the conclusion (This is different from an academic essay because editorials don’t have a thesis.)

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designed to interest the reader and present the subject which will be discussed

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the intro/topic is often presented in a balanced way so that readers with a different opinion will not automatically skip over your editorial

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Supporting paragraph(s)

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each has a central theme, supported by clauses or additional sentences; sometimes this theme is presented in a topic sentence, though sometimes the topic sentence is rather broad, implied, or comes at the end to present a conclusion to the point being argued

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depending on how much space you have, your editorial should consider both sides of an argument or address “the other side’s” major objections before reaching a conclusion

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Conclusion

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presents your position as supported by the preceding material, and/or

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seeks to convince the reader of your position

Note: It is often best to save your best sentence for last, with your conclusion as the last thing the reader reads.

 

7. Journalistic feature (the news from a human interest perspective; relates to how we should feel about or be involved in what is happening)

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Headline, giving the topic and enough details to attract interested readers (sometimes followed by a subtitle)

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Introduction or hook: presents the subject in an interesting way to attract readers (sub-points are not necessarily introduced, but the feature’s focus should be clear)

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Body contains several supporting points
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Some points need multiple paragraphs

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Comments from authorities and participants are often given

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Support is developed like a fireworks show or series of pearls: different human interest aspects or comments build up to a conclusion and keep readers interested

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Conclusion may be stated directly or may be implicit (such as by closing with a “support point” that restates or makes your main point)

 

8. Business communication

          There are several forms of business communication, including memos, reports, proposals, and letters that answer inquiries/make requests/present opportunities. Although their formats may differ slightly, most American business communication is designed to be short and to the point, so there is not much space devoted to pleasantries. Facts and figures (or other important information) should be clearly presented (sometimes in the form of a chart or bulleted statements instead of complete sentences). Busy people do not want to have to sift through several paragraphs, trying to read between the lines to find the information they need. Conclude by stating the next action your reader should take (or which you plan to take), such as place an order for your product, send over a salesperson, or send a shipment/call your office before a specific date.  

Note to teachers: I have used this list in the past to help students understand various writing formats. Now, each of these has been developed into separate lessons for my advanced English writing textbook: Successful Writing for the Real World.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Because of large class sizes, I often limit student essays to 150 words. Professional literature also stresses the importance of getting students to revise their work, so I require students to ask a partner to comment on their rough draft before submitting it to me, and I also require revisions. However, students who do exceptionally well on “first drafts” are allowed to “write about anything they wish” at revision time, without fear of losing points for experimentation.

 

This resource was created for our students under my understanding of "fair use" for educational resources.  

© 2008 Michael Krigline, all rights reserved. As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print/copy it for personal or classroom use.

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