Essay formats
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No more confusion! A guide to popular essay formats

Ever felt overwhelmed by the different essay formats thrown your way in school? You’re not alone! Essays come in all shapes and sizes, each with a specific purpose and structure. But fear not, brave student! This guide will shed light on some of the most common essay formats, giving you the confidence to tackle any essay format example!

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The mighty three: Narrative, Expository, and Argumentative essays

These three formats are the foundation of most essay writing. Let’s break them down into different essay formats:

Narrative essay

This format tells a story! Think back to your favourite childhood memory or a recent adventure. A narrative essay uses vivid language and descriptive details to transport your reader into the experience. The focus is on the sequence of events, creating a clear beginning, middle, and end. Example prompt: Describe a time you overcame a challenge.

Expository essay

This format aims to explain something clearly and inform the reader. Imagine you’re teaching a friend about a historical event or a scientific concept. An expository essay uses facts, definitions, and examples to break down the topic in an easy-to-understand way. Example prompt: Explain the water cycle in simple terms.

Argumentative essay

Here’s where you get to convince your reader! An argumentative essay presents a clear opinion on a debatable issue. You need to back up your claim with strong evidence, such as research, statistics, and expert opinions. The goal is to persuade the reader to see your point of view. Example prompt: Should social media platforms be held responsible for cyberbullying?

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Beyond the basics: Exploring other formats

Once you’ve mastered the core essay formats, you might encounter some variations. Here are a few additional essay types to keep an eye out for:

Compare and contrast essay

This format analyses the similarities and differences between two subjects. Maybe you’re comparing the leadership styles of two historical figures or the themes in two novels. Example prompt: Compare and contrast the educational systems of the United States and Japan.

Cause and effect essay

This format explores the “why” and “how” of a situation. You might explain the causes of climate change or the effects of social media addiction. Example prompt: What are the long-term consequences of deforestation?

Descriptive essay

This format paints a picture with words! Imagine describing a breathtaking landscape or a unique cultural experience. Sensory details and vivid language are key. Example prompt: Describe your ideal vacation destination in detail.

Persuasive essay

Similar to an argumentative essay, this format aims to convince the reader. However, a persuasive essay often focusses on taking a specific action, like supporting a charity or encouraging a change in school policy. Example prompt: Write a persuasive essay urging your community to recycle more.

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Formatting fundamentals: Making your essay shine

Now that you know the different essay formats, let’s talk about some general formatting tips:


This is the standard for most academic essays, making it easier to read and grade.

Standard margins

One-inch margins on all sides create a clean and professional look.

Readable font

Stick to classic fonts like Times New Roman or Arial in a size between 11 and 12 points.

Clear heading

Include your name, course name, instructor’s name, and date at the top of the first page.

Page numbers

For longer essays, number each page consecutively in the upper right corner.



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Advanced essay techniques

As you develop your writing skills, you can explore some advanced techniques to elevate your essays in various essay formats:

Thesis statement

This is a one-sentence summary of your central argument or main point. A strong thesis statement helps guide your essay and tells the reader exactly what you’re trying to prove.

Example thesis statement: While social media platforms offer valuable connections, they also contribute to the rise of cyberbullying, highlighting the need for stricter regulations and user education.

Topic sentences

These sentences introduce each paragraph and explain how it supports your thesis. Every paragraph should have a clear topic sentence.

Example topic sentence: One major concern regarding social media is the anonymity it provides, making it easier for bullies to target others without fear of consequences.


These words and phrases help connect your ideas smoothly and create a logical flow throughout your essay. Common transitions include “however”, “moreover”, “in addition”, and “consequently”.

Evidence and support

Don’t just state your opinion! Back it up with credible evidence like research findings, statistics, expert quotes, or historical examples. The more evidence you provide, the more persuasive your essay will be.


Anticipate opposing viewpoints and address them briefly in your essay. This shows you’ve considered all sides of the issue and strengthens your overall argument.

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Conquering citations: MLA and APA styles

When you use sources in your essay, you need to give credit where credit is due! This is where citation styles come in, depending on the chosen essay format. Two of the most common styles are:

MLA (Modern Language Association)

This style is typically used for humanities subjects like literature and history. MLA citations appear in parentheses within the text, with a full list of references at the end.

APA (American Psychological Association)

This style is often used in social sciences like psychology and education. APA citations appear in parentheses within the text, including the author’s last name, year of publication, and sometimes page numbers. The reference list at the end follows a specific format.

Always check with your instructor for the preferred citation style! And remember ā€“ the best way to master essay writing is to practise!


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