An essay is a short piece of writing, generally focusing on a particular subject matter. There are a number of different essay formats that are used by writers depending on the subject matter or the purpose of the essay. Common essay formats include argumentative/persuasive, compare and contrast, and descriptive, as well as narrative, and cause-and-effect essays.
An argumentative, or persuasive essay, is an essay that is intended to convince the reader to adopt the point of view of the writer. Of all the essay formats, the argumentative essay is one of the most often used in higher education or professional settings. A persuasive essay begins by explaining the issue to be discussed and then makes a number of points in favor of the writer's point of view on the issue. A persuasive essay will also address the opposing viewpoint and include an argument that will dismiss the opposing view point as a rule.
Another of the popular essay formats is the compare and contrast format. In this essay, the writer chooses two or more items within a category and explains each one to the reader, often including the pros and cons of each. For example, a compare and contrast essay on computers might explain the different features and capabilities of a laptop computer and a desktop computer. The writer is not trying to influence the reader, but rather attempting to educate the reader regarding the subject matter.
A descriptive essay, as the name implies, provides the reader with a description of the subject matter of the essay. This essay format focuses on one topic. The object is to provide both objective and factual information for the reader.
A narrative essay, on the other hand, is personal and subjective. A narrative essay is a way for the writer to tell a story from his or her own perspective. It is written in the first person.
The last of the common essay formats is the cause-and-effect essay. The cause-and-effect essay format is formal in nature and tone, and should include only facts and objective information. It generally begins with an outcome, or effect, and continues to explain to the reader the cause of the outcome. For example, an essay might assert that lengthy incarceration reduces recidivism rates. The reduction in recidivism rates is the outcome and the essay would then explain why lengthy incarceration produces, or causes, that outcome.