Essay Types

Performance Indicators:

P.S. ELA-6 Research- based Writing: Compose research- based writing to examine a topic through the selection, organization, analysis, and synthesis of relevant content.

A.  Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources
B.  Assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience
C.  Integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source

Nonfiction:  The Familiar Essay

 The discovery of the essay…

Sir Francis Bacon is generally credited with introducing and popularizing the essay in the English-speaking world. Influenced by the French essays of Michel de Montaigne, who first used the term “essais” (or “attempts”) to describe his prose reflections on commonplace topics and occurrences, Bacon published Essays, Religious Meditations, Places of Persuasion and Dissuasion in 1597.

Understanding the familiar essay…

A familiar essay can be easily described as a merging of the expository essay and the true narrative essay.  The familiar essay is written by the first person but does not tell a story based on plot like the true narrative.  The writer of the familiar essay has an interest, if not passion, in her subject.

“Probably not. In short, familiar essays are somewhere between the personal and the critical essay. According to Anne Fadiman, in an interview from All Things Considered, the familiar essay is “autobiographical, but also about the world”. She also says, in an interview on, that “one of its hallmarks of that it is about the author, so it is a subset of the personal essay, but it is also about a subject”.

In the nineteenth century, familiar essays were at their height of popularity as a culture of interested readers found the familiar essay entertaining and interesting.  With the advancement of society and the reliance on television and computer, the familiar essay has lost its status as a source of entertainment.

“However, it was in the 19th century – a period of material well-being in England, when there was a leisure class who enjoyed literature, when an education was received by many among the masses – that the familiar essay fully came into its own. The familiar essayist, as Sister Mary Eleanore wrote (1923), ‘is a veritable Jaques upon a mossy bank, who, while he watches the world go jostling its way down the river of life, extracts from its seemingly confused and meaningless tumbling bits of loving wisdom and quaint chuckles of fun . . .” He soothes the pains of the world’s tired travel, and does so through his ability to be whimsical, grave, melancholy, through his love of living and sense of humor over “those ridiculous and pathetic incongruities which are such a necessary part of life.’”

The familiar essay reached its zenith with Charles Lamb . Though living a melancholy and often tragic life, Lamb created in his essays a narrator “in love with this green earth,”
– Dan Roche

Anne Fadiman revives the Familiar Essay…

I’ll admit that initially, I was a bit thrown by the phrase “familiar essays” on the front of this book. I thought that maybe this was a collection of commonly told fables or something akin to that. I didn’t realize that the familiar essay is a type of essay. In my defense, they are not as common as they used to be. However, I would imagine that I have read some and didn’t even know it. Historically, these essays often had titles like “On Boating” or “On Politics Being a Masculine Arena.” They were meant to be informative, while at the same time highlighting pertinent personal experiences of the author.

Fadiman explains her devotion to the familiar form in the book’s lovely Preface: “Today’s readers encounter plenty of critical essays (more brain than heart) and plenty of personal – very personal – essays (more heart than brain), but not many familiar essays (equal measures of both).”

A typical Fadiman essay begins with an engaging personal anecdote before branching out into the history of the subject in question. As her extensive bibliography indicates, research aplenty goes into each piece. But it’s all so delightful, it’s like eating a meal that is both good for you and delicious.

How to write the familiar essay…I could just soon attempt to explain for you how to fly a kite, but begin with inspiration which serves as the wind of your discussion.

The Introduction:  There is not prescribed set form for the familiar essay, although to begin with an engaging personal anecdote, which serves to introduce the point of your discussion, is effective.  The writer will always benefit from providing an analogy or example to emphasize the opening anecdote.  Like the expository essay, the introduction should conclude with a unifying statement that reveals the thesis statement.  The language of the thesis does not have to be mechanical and straightforward, however, the declaring account should embrace the spirit of the discussion which follows in the body and conclusion.

The Body:  Each body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence, what follows is a combination of opinionated observations supported with facts, testimony or examples/analogies.  The transition statement is often used instead of the conclusive statement in an expository essay because the familiar essay is a blend of personality and formality.

The Conclusion:  Restate your thesis or the spirit of your thesis.  From here, you benefit by fulfilling the point of your discussion—another analogy or excerpt from your tale, that serves to culminate your discussion is appropriate.  Conclude with the lesson of life declaration of your essay.

Nonfiction- Expository Essay


Expository Essay

      Expository essays require that the writer gives information, explain the topic or define something. To accomplish that, they are best developed by the use of facts and statistical information, cause and effect relationships, or examples.  Throughout America teachers instruct a five-paragraph model commonly called the funnel method; this model forms the basic structure of an expository essay.  Since they are factual, expository essays are written without emotion and usually written in the third person. That means that the use of the pronoun “I” is not usually found in the essay.  As developing writers you should refrain from drawing attention to yourself by using “I” narrative in an expository essay unless the situation absolutely requires you to in order to effectively address the reader’s insight.  Remember that the reader of an expository essay should be considered critical.  Drawing attention to your opinion leaves the critical reader doubting the validity of your expressed observation.

Expository essays also have a distinct format.

  • The thesis statement must be defined and narrow enough to be supported within the essay.
  • Each supporting paragraph must have a distinct controlling topic and all other sentences must accurately relate directly to it. The transition words or phrases are important as they help the reader follow along and reinforce the logic.
  • Finally, the conclusion paragraph should originally restate the thesis and the main supporting ideas. Finish with a statement that reinforces your position in a meaningful and memorable way.
  • Never introduce new material in the conclusion.

Expository essays represent the most commonly composed writing in high schools and colleges.  Expository essays include:  Compare/Contrast essay, descriptive essay, novel centered essay, persuasive essay


Writing the expository essay… The expository essay is structurally precise, although the initial statements in the introduction vary, the structure is similar throughout.


Introduction                                                         Body                                    Conclusion

A general directed statement                                    Topic sentence                Restate the thesis

Direct the attention to your expressed                    Opinion                            Provide final
specific purpose                                                                                                      example/analogy/

A clarifying example of your opening                     Support- fact, quote,
thoughts, or points                                                     example

Declarative statement (introduces your thesis)    Clarify

Thesis statement                                                        Conclusive Statement     Conclude with                                                                                                                                            your lesson of                                                                                                                                     life statement          

When organizing and composing an expository essay always bear in mind the purpose of your discussion and your audience’s attitude towards your subject

 Nonfiction- True Narrative Essay

A narrative is a story.  A true narrative essay is a true story, with the plot, action, suspense characters and setting which delivers a theme (a lesson observed).  The events in your essay represent the facts.

A true narrative is the most informal of the various types of essays, thus it does not follow a set format because you are telling a story according to your style and narrative voice (the art or process of telling a story or giving an account of something).  The diction (choice of words to fit your context) and your ability to construct the telling of the story in order to interest and provoke the reader are essential.  Metaphorical (all language that involves figures of speech or symbolism and does not literally represent real things) expression is one device in crafting the art of storytelling that appeals to your reader.

A true narrative essay vastly differs from an expository essay in terms of both purpose and structure.  Therefore a true narrative essay does not have a distinct design as long as the composer bares in mind about what course is best suited for the reader’s enlightenment.  Topic sentences and thesis placement for example are not emphasized.  The true narrative essay ,for instance, does not utilize a conclusive statement rather than a transition statement when concluding a paragraph and introducing a new paragraph.  

How to write a narrative essay…

Basic qualities of a narrative essay:

  • A narrative essay is a piece of writing that recreates an experience through time.
  • A narrative essay can be based on one of your own experiences, either past or present, or it can be based on the experiences of someone else.
  • In addition to telling a story, a narrative essay also communicates the main idea or a lesson learned.

First steps for writing a narrative essay:

  • Identify the experience that you want to write about.
  • Think about why the experience is significant.
  • Spend a good deal of time drafting your recollections about the details of the experience.
  • Create an outline of the basic parts of your narrative.
  • Using your outline, describe each part of your narrative.
  • Rather than telling your readers what happened, use vivid details and descriptions to actually recreate the experience for your readers.
  • Think like your readers. Try to remember that the information you present is the only information your readers have about the experiences.
  • Always keep in mind that all of the small and seemingly unimportant details known to you are not necessarily known to your readers.

Writing about the experience:

Communicating the significance of the experience:

  • It’s often effective to begin your narrative with a paragraph that introduces the experience and communicates the significance. This technique guarantees that your readers will understand the significance of the experience as they progress through the narrative.
  • Another effective technique is to begin the essay by jumping directly into the narrative and then ending the essay with a paragraph communicating the significance of the experience. This approach allows your readers to develop their own understanding of the experience through the body of the essay and then more deeply connect to your expression of the significance at the end.
  • You might also consider introducing the experience in the first paragraph but delaying your expression of the significance of the experience until the end of the essay. This approach heightens your readers’ sensitivity to the significance of the narrative.