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Author: Martina Shabram

Given a paragraph or its purpose, identify the mode in which it is written.

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Hello, students. My name is Dr. Martina Shabram, and I will be your instructor for today's lesson. I'm genuinely excited to teach you these concepts, so let's started.

Today, we're going to spend some time thinking about the different modes of writing. We'll discuss the four main modes-- narration, description, informative, and argumentative-- and then we'll practice identifying those modes in a piece of writing. So let's going.

What is a mode? Well it's a way of describing the different approaches to writing which have different purposes. As I said, there are four main modes in writing-- narration, description, informative, and argumentative. Each has its own particular purpose and its own particular features. Narration is writing that is driven by a story, so it tells what has happened, such as a story that's fictional or one that's true. This might be a chance to reflect upon an event, which is when a writer is relating what the writer gets out of an experience, or just maybe a way to tell an entertaining story about something funny that happened.

So when would you use this mode? Well, you will definitely use narration when you tell the story of a recent vacation. But you might also use it academically or professionally. Say you're writing a paper for a political science class and want to imagine how a potential policy change might influence the country. Well, then you might use narration. Description provides details concerning a specific person, place, or thing, so it's used to add in details and really draw a clear and vivid picture. For that reason, you'll likely use the descriptive mode while telling a story in the narrative mode.

How else might you use the descriptive mode? Well, in a business setting, say you want to pitch a new product. Well, you'll want to clearly describe its features and its use, so you'll be using the descriptive.

The informative mode is writing designed to inform, describe, or explain, so this is similar in some ways to narration and description and may use those modes. But it's also specifically intended to inform, which is when you're giving the reader facts without offering an opinion about them. So this should be used with as little bias as possible. Your feelings about the facts can't change whether or not they're true.

So say you're writing a history paper. You'll need to use the informative mode to inform your readers about past events, and you can't just pick and choose which elements of the truth you'll include. Thus, you'll want to be informative mode.

Finally, the argumentative mode takes a clear position on a debatable question and backs up claims with evidence and reasoning. This is where we present a thesis statement, or a clearly-stated main point, which takes a side on a debate and presents supporting evidence, logical arguments, and reasoning to back up that position. Obviously, you'll use this mode if you're assigned an opinion or argumentative paper. But you probably already use this mode all the time. Any time you try to, say, convince your friends to go out for Chinese food instead of burgers-- well, you're in the argumentative mode.

So you have a lot of choice when you're writing about how you put together your ideas. But you should also have a purpose for each text, and that purpose will guide which mode you choose. The purpose of a text is its intended goal or value. So your job as a writer is to always assess, what is the goal of this piece of writing? Do I need my readers to come out of it believing my side of an argument, or simply to understand the events that took place?

So in order to better select the appropriate mode when we're writing, let's practice identifying those modes. As we look at these examples, think about what the purpose of each seems to be by examining both the content and the tone, which is the writer's attitude toward the subject as conveyed through a piece of writing.

Here is a short piece of writing. Feel free to pause if you need a few more minutes to read through. In order to assess whether or not this is in the narrative mode, let's ask ourselves-- does this tell a story, and is there a logical sequence of events? If we can answer yes, then this is a narrative.

So what do you think? We've got a chronological series of events, which is the usual order that events are presented in, so this is a narrative. Now, do you think this is meant to reflect or entertain? Well, let's look for whether this seems to offer the author's opinion on what the moral or lesson of these events are. Do we see that? Yeah. So this isn't just meant as a funny story.

Here is another short piece of writing. Again, pause if that's what's best for your reading pace. To see if this is descriptive, we need to ask, does it provide vivid details about something in particular? If so, well, then we've got description. So what do you think? We see sensory details, which are some of the main features of a descriptive paragraph, right here and here and here. So yeah, this is in the descriptive mode.

All right. Here's another piece of writing. In order to determine whether or not this is informative, we need to ask, does this offer information without appearing to be biased? If so, then it's informative. If we see clear bias, we might be looking at argumentation. So note that we see data presented here, here, and here, but we don't see the author offering a personal opinion on what this means. So yeah, this is in the informative mode.

OK. One last piece. To figure out if this is argumentative, let's ask, does it show a debatable issue and take a side? If so, then it's definitely argumentative. Remember that when a text shows its bias, its author's personal opinion, it's likely making an argument, whereas if it's neutral, then it's just informative. This is because the whole purpose of the argument is to convince readers of a particular perspective, so it can't remain impartial.

Now, do we see that happening here? Oh yeah. See how the author moves from the facts presented in our last paragraph into a much more opinionated presentation of that data? We can clearly see that this author loves baseball, and the author focuses more on personal opinions that on facts. So this is definitely an argument.

Now, here is one more piece of writing. Read it and ask yourself-- what mode do you think it's in? Feel free to pause so that you can carefully look for tone, purpose, and authorial intent. Go ahead and press play when you're ready.

So what's your verdict? All of these sentences are designed to serve this final argument-- that everyone should have the chance to go to college. That is just one possible opinion on an issue about which many people debate. So the purpose of the text is argument. So this is overall in the argumentative mode.

What did we learn today? This lesson took us through the four modes of writing-- narration, description, informative, and argumentative-- and discussed how each helps serve a particular purpose that the author needs to assess. We explored some writing to see what each mode looks like in practice, and then we broke down a sample paragraph to identify what modes it uses and what its overall purpose is.

Well, students, I hope you have as much fun as I did. Thank you.

Terms to Know
Argumentative Mode

Writing that takes a clear position on a debatable question, and backs up claims with evidence and reasoning.

Descriptive Mode

Writing that provides details concerning a specific person, place, or thing.

Informative Mode

Writing designed to inform, describe, or explain.


Giving the reader the facts without offering an opinion about them.

Narrative Mode

Writing that is driven by a story.


The intended goal or value of a text.


Relating what the writer "gets out of" an experience.


A writer's attitude toward the subject, as conveyed through a piece of writing.