There are many steps that go into writing an essay, and the first step is to ask yourself why you're writing this piece in the first place. Every essay must, therefore, have a purpose, and the purpose of your essay is determined by your goal as a writer, as well as your subject matter. There are many types of essays a person can write, but in general, there must be a purpose to the essay: to inform, to persuade, to explain or to entertain.
Writing to Inform
When you write to inform, your goal is to introduce the audience to a topic they may not be familiar with, yet they may already have some background information about. In this case, your job is to report facts, not provide your thoughts on the subject. An example of an informative essay might be one that focuses on three types of dog breeds. If you are asked to include research in your informative essay, choose reputable resources that provide facts, not opinions.
Writing to Persuade
When you write to persuade, your goal is for your audience to take action — or at least, to want to take action — based on what you’ve written. An example of a persuasive essay might be one in which you persuade your audience to vote for your chosen presidential candidate. If you are asked to include research in your persuasive essay, your thesis statement should let the audience know what action you expect of them, and the research you provide in your essay should explain why that action is important.
Writing to Explain
When you write to explain, your goal is to help your audience understand a process or situation. An example of writing to explain might be an essay in which you explain to your audience how to bake a birthday cake, how to download software on your computer or how to register as a voter. If you’ve been asked to write for the purpose of explaining, it's always a good idea to choose to explain something that you're already familiar with.
Writing to Entertain
When you write to entertain, your goal is to provide an emotional experience for your audience. An example of writing to entertain might be an essay in which you tell about your most embarrassing moment, recount your most memorable vacation or talk about a hardship that you've faced in your life. You should try to think of it from the reader's point of view and find ways to be creative with your writing so you can evoke the senses. The object is to try to make the reader feel something, whether it be to laugh, to cry or to simply make him or her think.
- Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images