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What Are the Different Types of Expressive Writing?

Dee Jones
Dee Jones

In expressive writing, a writer uses prose to reflect on an issue, emotion or experience. There are many types of expressive writing. In a journal, a writer can reflect on what’s currently going on in his life. Writing memoirs allows a writer reflect on past experiences and events, and perhaps see something that happened to him in the past from a different perspective. An opinion piece allows a writer to reflect on a specific subject, and explain and clarify his opinion regarding that subject.

Journaling is one of the most common and familiar types of expressive writing. A journaler will set aside time, perhaps at the end of the day, to write about what is going on in his life in her journal or diary. Writing in a journal or diary can have many benefits. The activity gives a journaler a place to work out her problems, allowing him to think things through on paper. Keeping a journal also gives the journaler a place to get out pent up emotions, and express feelings and opinions he might not feel comfortable talking about to other people. Professional and aspiring writers also find keeping a journal to be beneficial, since writing every day is one way to develop and sharpen basic writing skills.

Journaling is a popular form of expressive writing.
Journaling is a popular form of expressive writing.

Memoirs are similar to journals in that the writer uses prose to reflect on his personal feelings and experiences. Instead of being about the present, however, memoirs are about the past. In this type of expressive writing, the writer writes about past events and experiences. Many times, a writer will find that writing about past events, even things that happened years or decades ago, can help him to remember those events more clearly. Writing a memoir can also help a writer see events in a new way, and even resolve issues that resulted from those events.

Many magazines publish opinion pieces submitted by readers.
Many magazines publish opinion pieces submitted by readers.

Opinion pieces and think pieces make up another class of expressive writing. In an opinion piece, a writer takes a subject and tries to clearly express how he feels about that subject. This kind of expressive writing encourages a writer to think about things he never considered before, and might even help him to form a solid opinion on a subject. Students are often assigned to write think pieces in school, whether to help them improve writing skills, or as a way to help them learn about particular subject. Many newspapers and magazines publish opinion pieces sent in by readers.

Discussion Comments


For a time in my early twenties, I was kind of stuck in the past. It seemed that all my good friends had gotten married and left me alone, and I did a lot of expressive writing in my diary at that time.

After a couple of years, I got tired of living in the past, and I started writing only about the present. I found it refreshing to live in the moment.

When I look back on my memoirs of my early years, I see why I was so sad. I couldn't let go of the past. Once I started writing about current things going on in my life, I gained new vitality, and it is much more interesting to read back on these things than on my depressing situation.


@wavy58 – It is nice to look back on things you wrote years earlier. I write a lot of prose poetry, and sometimes, I am amazed at how well I expressed my feelings in days past.

I write from pain mostly, and this tends to be intense. When I read an old prose poem years later, it brings back the emotions I had at the time I wrote it, and I know that I did a good job because of this.

Great expressive writing should always make the reader feel something. That something might be strong disagreement with the subject, but it also could be total relation to what is being said. The most important thing is to capture the heart of the emotion with colorful, descriptive words.


I do keep a journal, but I don't write in it every day, or even every week. I only write in it when I have strong feelings or intense reflections on something that I want to remember.

Writing in this way helps me sort through troubled emotions. I have come to wonderful conclusions on more than one occasion that I would not have realized, had I not written about the issue.

I know there is always a chance that someone might stumble across and read my journal, so I don't write anything that I would be ashamed for anyone else to know. However, there are always ways of writing in code so that I can look back on it years later and know what I meant.


I remember doing some expressive writing in college. We had to first take a personality test. With a few multiple choice answers from us, this test was supposed to be able to categorize each of us into a certain personality group.

After hearing our results, we had to write a paper on how we felt about them. So, I expressed my disgust for this test. I disagreed strongly with whoever thought up the test that it could pigeonhole unique individuals.

Luckily, my professor said that my paper was just what he was looking for. He wanted us to express honesty, not what we thought would sound smart or what we assumed he wanted to hear.


@bagley79 - I can also see the connection between blogs and expressive writing. Some are definitely more interesting than others, but they are a way for people to express themselves.

I have a friend who is keeping a blog, complete with photos for each of her kids. This is similar to baby books or photo albums, and she keeps it up for each one of them.

For her this is the easiest way to create and keep this information. This will be a wonderful keepsake for her family. This gives her a wonderful outlet to express her thoughts and affections for each of her kids.


As a kid I think I got a diary every year for Christmas. These always came with a little lock and key so that snoopy brothers and sisters couldn't read them.

Like this was really going to stop any of them?! For the first few weeks of the year I would faithfully write, Dear Diary.... After a few weeks this became less frequent.

Honestly, I never really wrote down what I was truly thinking and feeling because I didn't want someone else to read it.

I know it might sound crazy, but I still feel that way. Any time I think about keeping some kind of journal, I never go ahead with it because I don't think I would get any good out of it.

I remember my Grandma keeping a daily diary and she would always record the weather and any significant events of the day.

There were many times she would go back through those diaries to find a specific date something happened.

Today I think those are called blogs.


@golf07 - You perfectly describe me when you talk about people who dreaded any kind of expressive writing program.

I find it much easier and faster to just way what I am thinking. Keeping a journal always seemed like a waste of time to me.

In one writing class in college, part of our credit involved keeping a journal. We were given so many class minutes every day to write in them and keep them up to date.

This was a long few minutes for me. I could never think of anything new or different to write down. My journal was very short and pretty much consisted of random, boring facts instead of thoughts and feelings.

I really wanted to write how frustrated I was about being made to sit and write, but didn't think that would help my grade much.


Writing is something that has always come easy for me. Many of my classmates dreaded taking classes like creative writing, but I always looked forward to them.

I know I am really in the minority, when I say that I didn't mind taking essay exams. I found this an easy way to share the information I had learned in the class.

I think this is because being able to express my thoughts and feelings in writing is much easier than actually speaking them.

Keeping a journal and expressing myself through writing has been habit I have had for many years.

Any time I am faced with a difficult decision, part of the process always involves writing down my thoughts and feelings about the pros and cons.


@hamje32 - I liked persuasive essay writing when I was in college. I don’t know if it’s because I am so opinionated or what, but it always felt like it was a real challenge to marshal facts to prove a certain point of view. I found it fun.

I realize that to other students it was boring. But the skills you learn in essay writing can help you in other endeavors in my opinion, like writing a cover letter for a job application or even a complaint letter about a product or service you were not satisfied with.


@allenJo - Sorry, if there’s pain, I don’t go there. I avoid diaries like the plague. I prefer informative writing like opinion pieces.

Growing up I wanted to be a newspaper columnist. I would read the columns of humorists like Art Buchwald and Russell Baker, and of course I watched all of Andy Rooney’s opinion pieces on “60 Minutes.”

To me, it seemed like the perfect art form for writing. It was succinct, humorous and easy to digest. Of course now we’re in the Internet age. Columns have given way to blogging, so that’s what I do mostly.

I realize I am in competition with a bazillion other bloggers out there, but at least I have a forum, whoever wishes to come and listen in.


@MrMoody - I think you point out why memoirs are so difficult to write. While they may remain as one of the best examples of expressive writing, they are hard to write with any degree of objectivity and sometimes bring pack painful memories we don’t want to relive again.

I took up journaling years ago and then stopped. Years later I look back at some of those diaries and I am embarrassed at what I read. I am most shocked at the things that I really thought were all that important in my younger years and how my values have changed.

Still, I think diaries can serve a therapeutic purpose, in helping you to lay some past issues to rest.


Not everyone pursues creative writing as an endeavor, but there is one genre that crosses our minds as we grow older – it’s the memoir, or personal biography.

I had a friend who was very talented as a writer but had a troubled childhood, especially in his relationship with his father. He decided to write his memoir. However, he would always start it and never finish it.

The memories of the past troubled him that much. The unfinished manuscript sat in his desk for years, until one day he picked it up again and decided to finish it.

To make the process easier, he chose to write with a pseudonym and wrote in the third person. It was more a reflective essay, nonfiction prose using some of the devices of fiction. By using this technique he was able to stand aside and view it more objectively.

Within months he was finished and self published the book. I read the whole thing in a week; it was truly engrossing.

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    • Journaling is a popular form of expressive writing.
      By: PicciaNeri
      Journaling is a popular form of expressive writing.
    • Many magazines publish opinion pieces submitted by readers.
      By: Elenathewise
      Many magazines publish opinion pieces submitted by readers.
    • Expressive writing is a very personal form of communication.
      By: Grafvision
      Expressive writing is a very personal form of communication.
    • Writing a memoir can help a writer see events in a new way.
      By: bramgino
      Writing a memoir can help a writer see events in a new way.
    • Opinion pieces make up a class of expressive writing in which a writer expresses how he or she feels about a given subject.
      By: aboikis
      Opinion pieces make up a class of expressive writing in which a writer expresses how he or she feels about a given subject.