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Types of Informative Writing

Types of Informative Writing

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson details the main types of informative writing.

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Welcome to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today? Today we'll be learning about the many types of informative writing, from process writing to analysis, analytical writing and classification, to definition writing, as well as cause and effect. We'll talk briefly about each and see an example or two.

The first type of informative writing we'll look at is process writing. This type is used to detail the steps in a process. If, for example, a student was assigned an essay about conducting research, chances are the essay produced would detail the steps involved in it-- going to the library or searching online, finding sources, and creating a list of citations, et cetera.

Or, for a non-academic example, here's an excerpt from a piece about a different kind of process. It's obviously incomplete, but you get the idea. There are many uses for this kind of writing.

The next kind of informative writing we'll look at is analytical writing, a big part of academic essays, especially in the composition and literature fields. This is writing that analyzes a text, image, or a set of data. If that same student was later assigned an essay on Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, looking, let's say, at portrayals of masculinity and femininity, or perhaps class, the student would be expected to perform an analysis of the text.

Of course, as we know, the term text can be applied to all kinds of things. Take this for example, a portion of a review of the 2012 remake of the 1990s sci-fi movie Total Recall. Notice how it's not just about the surface details of the movie. It's diving into not only what the movie is, but considering its context and its history, while still aiming to inform readers about the movie itself. It's not a critique exactly. That's more of a judgment being made, more of an argument, than this.

The next type of informative writing we'll look at is classification writing, which is writing that divides or organizes things into categories. If a teacher of a music history class asked his or her students to write about the divisions of instruments, as in woodwinds, brass, et cetera, that would be an example of classification in action. Or look at this, my bad imitation of an article about freshwater kayaks. As you can see, it's more than just a list of things that fall into a category. It's doing, or perhaps trying to do, the work of filtering and interpreting the data, as well as taking into account its intended reader's familiarity with the subject.

And now let's look at definition writing. This is writing that defines something, obviously. But it generally does so in a new or thoughtful way. If, for example, a student in a composition class began to write an essay about homosexual marriage, but ended up spending his or her time trying to redefine marriage as more of a legal civil union and not necessarily a religious one, that would be an example of definition writing. So would this, a fragment of a piece about a breed of horse you might find in a magazine or website devoted to ranching or rodeos, where this breed, the quarter horse, is most commonly found.

The last type of informative writing we'll look at today is cause and effect writing. This is writing that details how a cause had or will have a specific effect. A graduate student in a political science program writing a dissertation about how raising the federal minimum wage affects small communities would be an example of this kind of writing.

And another far less academic example of cause and effect writing is this, a selection from a made-up letter to the editor about how the city graffiti covering painters are less than effective. Notice how here, while the text isn't quite advocating a problem and solution, it comes close. Often, simply stating the cause and the effect amounts to an argument about what should be done, if, in this case, just an implied argument.

What did we learn today? We learned about the five types of informative writing-- process, analytical, classification, definition, and cause and effect writing. And while this is by no means all the types of informative writing in or out of an academic context, these amount to the bulk of it. So now we're all better suited to read and to write informative or expository writing. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.