Modes of Writing Although entire essays can be dedicated to one mode, different modes of writing are used to generate ideas and determine your focus for an essay. They also clarify your purpose by developing a point that might be unclear. These modes are often used in combination and are not superior to each other. What matters is that you choose a development strategy—or a combination of strategies—that fits your purpose and your audience.
Narration: Narration tells either a story or a part of a story and describes what happens in a series of events. Narrations commonly follow chronological order; however, they may start in the middle of a sequence and use flashbacks to take the story back to an earlier time. Narration uses time markers like then, later, or after that. Your main idea and the narrative must be closely related, and the narrative should fully develop the main idea.
Description: A description creates a picture of a person, place, thing, or sensation by appealing to one or more of the senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. As with all modes, the description should suit the purpose and audience of the paper.
Process: The process mode tells readers, usually in chronological order, how to do something by describing a process. Description and narration often are used in the process mode to show readers how something happens.
Cause and Effect: This mode either explores why something happens (cause) or what something results in (effect). The structure can move from cause to effect or from effect to cause. Do not assume that because one event precedes another it necessarily causes it.
Classification and Division: Classification groups items into a categories (classes) according to some consistent principle. It is a method of explaining something by establishing how it fits into a group or category. However, division breaks objects and ideas into smaller parts according to some consistent principle.
Example: Examples are just selected instances and not a complete catalog; however, the example provides enough information to develop a point. Examples are used when the reader asks, "For example?" or “Such as?”
Definition: Definition takes a word, a concept, or an object within a class and then distinguishes it from other members of that class. Examples, details, and/or synonyms often clarify definitions further.
Comparison and Contrast: When you compare two objects, you point out their similarities. When you contrast two objects, you point out their differences. Comparison and contrast essays can follow one of two organizational patterns: either each subject is fully presented one at a time, or the subjects can be examined together and explain one point at a time.
Source: Hodges, John C., et al. Hodges’ Harbrace Handbook. 14th ed. Boston: Heinle, 2001.