Modes of Writing

Knowing how to write a good essay  is very important especially for students at the High school level or entering college.  Understanding the difference between an essay  that  persuades and one that compares and contrasts things is vital for students. Even writing an entrance letter to a college requires knowledge of writing skills. Here is a review of the various types of essays students will need to know. Visit Writing Strategies for general guidelines in teaching writing.

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Tools for Writing

Brainstorming Techniques

Before writing about a specific topic, students  need to get ideas about the topic.  Brainstorming can be used as a pre-writing activity, to help students think of ideas for topics.  Before they begin, place students in groups and give them a handout with the following information as a guide:

When you brainstorm, you try to get as many ideas about a specific subject as you can. This will help you to get started more quickly with your writing and it will save you time much later.Two popular methods  of brainstorming are  Listing and Graphic organizers.

I.  Listing

1. Write down the topic at the top of your paper.

2. Make a list of all the words and phrases that come into your head about the topic.

Don’t stop to think whether they are right or wrong or grammatically correct. Remember that you can always change the unwanted information later.

Example of the Listing technique :


Directions: Place students in a group and have then do the following.

1. With your group make a list of objects considered lucky or unlucky.

number 13

rabbit foot


walking under a ladder

a broken mirror

lucky numbers 7

2.  Rewrite your list, putting the same ideas together. Cross out ideas that are the same or that do not fit.

Lucky Numbers:     

2, 7

Unlucky Numbers:

13, 3

Lucky objects:

rabbit’s foot

a cross/medal

3. From this list,  students  could write a draft about lucky and unlucky numbers or lucky and unlucky objects.

II. Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are great for stimulating ideas and for classifying information. There are many types of graphic organizers, each is designed to help organize different information for a particular topic. Here  is of the more popular ones, the Spider Map, (example by Write Design)


1. Write your topic in the center of your paper and circle it.

2. Draw lines from the topic to words associated with the topic

For additional Graphic Organizers: Wikipedia.

Modes Of Writing

The Essay Format

Essay Outline

The Essay has three parts

1. The introduction

2. The Body

3. The Conclusion

The introduction of an essay has two parts:

1. General statements

2.  Thesis statement

General Statements

 General statements give the reader background information about the topic of the essay.  These statements should get the reader interested in the topic of the essay. The first two or three sentences of an introduction should make general statements about the topic and they should lead up to the thesis statement. The number of general statements you will actually use in an introduction depends on how long your essay will be. Usually, you should have at least two or three general statements in an introduction.

Thesis Statement

The thesis statement states the main topic of the essay, and sets forth what will be said in the body paragraphs. The thesis statement is often the last sentence in the introduction. Sometimes it is followed by sentences describing the organization of the rest of the essay.

The Body

Supporting sentences develop the thesis statement. They give the reader more facts about the main topic, including examples. It also provides reasons the reader should believe the claims the writer is making in the thesis statement. All supporting paragraphs  must be related to the thesis statement.

The Conclusion

The last paragraph of the essay is the summary paragraph. It restates the thesis and supporting ideas in the body of the essay.  The concluding paragraph is the last chance the writer has to convince the reader of the validity of the information presented.

The concluding paragraph should include:

a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language

a summary of the main points from the body of the essay.

a final statement that signals that the discussion has come to an end.

Essay Outline Example

 I. Introduction

General Statements:________________________________________

Thesis Statement:___________________________________________


 II. Body

A. Topic Sentence:____________________________________________




B. Topic Sentence:___________________________________________




III. Conclusion

Concluding statements______________________________________


Description  Essay

Terms for the Description Essay 

To describe something – a person, a place, or an object – is to capture it in words so that others can imagine it or see it in the mind’s eye.

For descriptions such as describing a person’s character, or physical features, you should use well-chosen adjectives.

Some expressions used in the physical description of people

Height:                          Body Size: Coloring:

Tall/short/medium              fat/skinny/slender             Eyes/hair/skin

 General description of facial features

Large or small:  nose, eyes, mouth, ears, hands, feet

General Appearance of a person

Pretty, handsome, ugly, ordinary

Some expressions concerning personality

generous kind

humorous honest

productive unpleasant

stubborn charismatic

Some expressions used to describe positions and locations

next to, near on top, beneath

close, far toward, away

up, down, between left, right, center

above, below front, back, middle


Directions: Choose one of the following topics, and write a Description  essay.

Many people have best friends. Those friends who help us when times are bad, and who share happiness with us when times are good. Write an essay in which you describe your best friend.

Narrative Essay

To narrate is to tell a story that explains what happened, when it happened, and who was involved. A narrative puts events in time and tells us what happened according to a natural time sequence.

For example, in a letter you might narrate the story of your departure for a trip.  A news article might narrate the story of how a child was rescued from a burning building.

Narratives should avoid digressions, which distract the reader from the writer’s intended topic of the story.

 Time Order Words and Expressions for Narratives

first, second, eventually while

then later after a while

next meanwhile upon

finally during when

afterward now soon


Directions: Write a narrative about an experience you’ve had that was funny, sad or  that turned out to be a learning experience for you.

Comparison And Contrast  Essay

To contrast two people, two places, or two things is to examine the ways in  which they are different.  To compare them is to examine the ways in which they are similar.

For instance, you might compare the food which is eaten in the United States to the types of food eaten in your own country.  You may also wish to contrast the different types of food.

The two things that you compare and contrast must be of the same general class. You could not compare a type of food served in America to the type of clothing worn in another country, but you could compare two different dresses designed by two different designers, one from the United States, and the other from France.

When you compare and contrast two things, the points you use for support must be used for both things. For example, if you write about the manner of cooking, and the spices that are used in American dishes,  you must also discuss the manners of cooking, and the spices used in your country.

Writers will very often use the mode of compare and contrast in their writing. They may compare two characters in a novel to show the similarities between the two,  and then contrast the same two characters to present the differences between them.

Comparison and contrast, then, helps the reader understand one person, place,  thing, or idea in terms of another.

In order to write a good comparison and contrast essay, it is important to use the correct words and phrases which show the reader that this is what you are doing.

Comparison Transition Words and Phrases

Sentence Connectors:  similarly, likewise, also, too

Clause Connectors:  as, just as, and

Others:   like + noun,  similar to (+ noun),   just like (+ noun)

Contrast Transition Words and Phrases

Sentence Connectors:    however,  nevertheless, in contrast, on the other hand,

Clause Connectors:    although, even though, while, whereas

Others:    but, yet, despite (+ noun), in spite of (+ noun)


Directions:  Choose one of the following questions and write a compare and contrast essay. Be sure to include at least 2 or 3 general statements and your thesis statement in your introduction.

  1. Write an essay in which you compare the culture of the United States to the culture of your country. You may wish to consider  the similarities and  differences in such things as language, food, and music. If you wish, you may also compare other aspects of the cultures.
  2. Write an essay in which you compare some aspects of one area of your country to those of another area of your country. For example, you may wish to compare the food, clothing or climate of the northern part of your country  to the food, clothing, or climate to the southern part of your country. You may choose any aspect of these areas to write about.

 Argument or Persuasion Essay

When you write an argument or persuasion essay, you present reasons to support your ideas for or against something. When writing your essay, you may use description, comparison and contrast, or cause and effect to develop your points.

Begin by finding relevant reasons to support your argument. Then develop your reasons into paragraphs using relevant facts, examples, and opinions. You may use the following transitions to begin your body paragraphs:


The first reason…

The second reason…

In addition…

Know which points of your argument are facts and which are opinions.

 When listing the points to support your argument, some may be facts and some may be opinions. Facts are statements that are known to be true. Opinions are personal beliefs that may or may not be true. You may use both facts and opinions in an argument essay.


Fact: In 1985, Americans owned 137,300,000 passenger vehicles.

Opinion: Computers are taking jobs away from people.

Practice Exercise

Directions: Which of the following statements are facts and which are opinions? Write F for fact and O for opinion.

__1. A study at a U. S. zoo found most visitors spend less than three minutes looking at each exhibit and some as little as eight seconds.

__2. Zoo life is easier than life in the wild.

__3. Success stories of zoo-bred animals include the Arabian horse, the Round Island, boa, and the Hawaiian pink pigeon.

__4. Zoos give pleasure to people.

__5. A lot has been learned by studying animals in captivity.

Answers: Facts: 1, 3, 5.   Opinions: 2, 4.

Supporting information should be relevant to your argument.

It is important that the statements in support of your argument be relevant or directly connected to the argument.


Directions: Choose one of the following topics, and write an argument essay.

  1. It has been argued that when people adopt a child of a different race, the child  will grow up with a conflict of identity. Construct an argument for or against adoption across racial lines.
  2.  It has been argued that since so many Spanish speaking people live in the                                             United States, all public signs (especially road signs) and government    documents should be in both English and Spanish. Present an argument for or against this issue.

Cause and Effect Essay

A cause and effect essay is one that looks at a situation (effect) and examines the reasons (causes) for it. Usually there is more than one reason for a situation. It is important to look at all the reasons. When there are many reasons, there is usually one that is most important.

When you write about the causes of an effect, remember the following.

1. Look at all the possible causes

2. Give examples of the causes

3. State your most important cause last. This will make your essay more interesting.

Cause and Effect Structure  Terms

Cause Structure Words                              Effect Structure Words

The first reason…                                       The first effect…

The next cause…                                         As a result…

Because…                                                    Consequently…

Note: The cause structure words signal a reason for something.


Many North American Indian people are worried because children are no longer learning the languages of their grandparents.

The effect structure words signal the result.


Consequently, many of the Indian languages are disappearing.

Using therefore and consequently

Therefore and consequently are sentence connectors. They connect two clauses when the second clause is the result of the first clause.

Consequently and therefore have the same meaning as so.


English is the most universal language. (statement)

It is the language most used for science and medicine. (result) 

English is the most universal language {consequently / therefore } it is the language most used for science and medicine.

More Examples of Cause and Effect

1. CAUSE: Students do not do homework assignments.

EFFECTS: Reprimand by the instructor; Lower grades

2. CAUSE: Severe thunderstorms continue all day.

EFFECT: A class trip to the science museum is cancelled.

3. CAUSE: Cutting down trees in the major forests

EFFECTS: Environmental Pollution

4. CAUSE: Unemployment

EFFECTS: Increase in crime; Drug abuse; Homelessness


 Directions: Choose one of the questions and write a cause and effect essay.

  1. Discuss the causes for the popularity of fast food restaurants in this country.
  2. Discuss the effects of the computer on the quality of writing.
  3. What are the causes and effects of illiteracy?
  4. Is the media and a reflection of our culture or a cause for our problems?

 Additional Topics for Writing

 Racism and Ignorance By Carol Spindel

Link to Article 


Directions: The following questions are based  on the article Racism and Ignorance. Choose one question and  write an essay.

  1. In the United States American Indians continuously struggle for recognition and the rights afforded to non-Indians. For years, several well established universities have used the tribal names and symbols of Indians to represent the schools’ athletic teams and their mascots.  Recently several of these institutions have decided to change the names. However, many of the alumni of these schools have protested the name change.
  2. In your opinion, why would the alumni of a university protest the name change of  the school’s athletic team from an American Indian name to one more neutral?
  3. What rights are the aboriginal tribes of a country entitled to?
  4. In your opinion, should these institutions contribute to scholarship  funding for  American Indian schools as a way to compensate for the misuse of the tribal names?
  5. Do you think using the tribal names in a commercial way affects the people in the tribe?   If  so explain in what ways.

What Is Intelligence, Anyway?

By Isaac Asimov

“What is intelligence, anyway?

When I was in the army, I received the kind of aptitude test that all soldiers took and, against a normal of 100, scored 160. No one at the base had ever seen a figure like that, and for two hours they made a big fuss over me.

(It didn’t mean anything. The next day I was still a buck private with KP – kitchen police – as my highest duty.)

All my life I’ve been registering scores like that, so that I have the complacent feeling that I’m highly intelligent, and I expect other people to think so too.

Actually, though, don’t such scores simply mean that I am very good at answering the type of academic questions that are considered worthy of answers by people who make up the intelligence tests – people with intellectual bents similar to mine?

For instance, I had an auto-repair man once, who, on these intelligence tests, could not possibly have scored more than 80, by my estimate. I always took it for granted that I was far more intelligent than he was.

Yet, when anything went wrong with my car I hastened to him with it, watched him anxiously as he explored its vitals, and listened to his pronouncements as though they were divine oracles – and he always fixed my car.

Well, then, suppose my auto-repair man devised questions for an intelligence test.

Or suppose a carpenter did, or a farmer, or, indeed, almost anyone but an academician. By every one of those tests, I’d prove myself a moron, and I’d be a moron, too.

In a world where I could not use my academic training and my verbal talents but had to do something intricate or hard, working with my hands, I would do poorly.

My intelligence, then, is not absolute but is a function of the society I live in and of the fact that a small subsection of that society has managed to foist itself on the rest as an arbiter of such matters.

Consider my auto-repair man, again.

He had a habit of telling me jokes whenever he saw me.

One time he raised his head from under the automobile hood to say: “Doc, a deaf-and-mute guy went into a hardware store to ask for some nails. He put two fingers together on the counter and made hammering motions with the other hand.

“The clerk brought him a hammer. He shook his head and pointed to the two fingers he was hammering. The clerk brought him nails. He picked out the sizes he wanted, and left. Well, doc, the next guy who came in was a blind man. He wanted scissors. How do you suppose he asked for them?”

Indulgently, I lifted by right hand and made scissoring motions with my first two fingers.

Whereupon my auto-repair man laughed raucously and said, “Why, you dumb jerk, He used his voice and asked for them.”

Then he said smugly, “I’ve been trying that on all my customers today.” “Did you catch many?” I asked. “Quite a few,” he said, “but I knew for sure I’d catch you.”

“Why is that?” I asked. “Because you’re so goddamned educated, doc, I knew you couldn’t be very smart.”

And I have an uneasy feeling he had something there.”

From: Autobiography by Dr. Isaac Asimov (1920–1992):

It’s Been a Good Life


Directions: The following question is  based  on the article What Is Intelligence, Anyway?

1. In the article What Is Intelligence, Anyway?  Asimov states,“ My intelligence, then, is not absolute but is a function of the society I live in and of the fact that a small subsection of that society has managed to foist itself on the rest as an arbiter of such matters.” Write an essay  in  which you discuss the significance of this statement, and explain why you agree or disagree. Provide examples to support your answer.

Topic: Education

In an essay discuss the ways in which education could be used to diminish misunderstanding and conflict between countries. Provide examples to support your viewpoint.

Topic: Immigrants

Many immigrants come to the United States for various reasons. They must learn a new language, and new cultural values. Write an essay in which you discuss two values from your own culture, and two new values, which you have encountered in this country.