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writing skills

Different Essay Formats

Choosing the Right Essay Format

Sometimes, the most difficult part of compiling a quality essay for any course or class is determining what kind will best suit your purposes.  Will a narrative essay work best or maybe the process essay is going to be the right choice?  What’s the difference?  Relax – there are ways of discerning the right essay format for your project.  Ask yourself a few questions based on the topic and what your instructor has requested:

  • Does it need to be written in first person or from a third person point of view?
    If so, a narrative or personal essay will likely be your two best choices.  A narrative essay allows creativity and gives the writer a bit of freedom in terms of personal reflection.  The personal essay allows the writer to compose from a first person stance.  Sentences that begin “I” or “We” are acceptable as first person perspectives, while “he” “she” or “they” is considered proper from a third person point of view.
  • What’s the subject?
    English, literature or history essays do well within the personal or narrative essay formats.  A persuasive essay, which attempts to convince the reader to a certain point of view, are great in debate classes while quantitative essays are more analytical and better suited for math courses, engineering courses or other similar parameters.
  • What are the other guidelines you’ve been instructed to incorporate?
    First person, second person or third person can make a difference in your decision, as well as whether you’re writing a fictional or nonfiction story in chronological order.  If so, a process essay is a good choice.  It allows the writer to explain sequences of events, sometimes based on an outline that must be included.

Finally, if you’re unsure, ask your instructor for guidance.  It’s important to understand the guidelines and parameters from which you’re to work from.  It’s always better to be sure you understand than have to go back and correct a project that you were never clear on.  Don’t forget to check your word count, whether sources or citations (sometimes called “cites”) are required and if an outline and/or abstract is required.

Having all the relevant information is your first step in deciding the best essay type for your particular project.  It doesn’t have to be a frustrating chore and if you approach it with definitive steps to take, it can easily be broken down into manageable sections.

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