Since written communication was created at least 6,000 years ago, writing has changed greatly from primitive pictographic word-pictures on clay and wood to the many types of writing now enjoyed. Writing comes in dozens of types and styles, depending the purpose of the writer. One way to examine writing is to divide writing into specific types or genres. There are five broad genres that most subcategories of writing can be placed into, although much writing can spill over into more than one.

Expository Writing

One of the most practical types of writing is writing to explain things. This explanatory form is commonly employed in school in the form of the standard five-paragraph essay, research papers and comparisons. Also in this category are biographies, "how-to" pieces and character sketches. The purpose of this genre is to explain and examine a person, place, thing or idea in a way that gives the reader a more thorough understanding of the topic.

Journals and Letter Writing

Writing to communicate is an early writing style that has undergone changes in the technological era. This sometimes less-formal method of writing includes letter writing, email, text messaging, personal and professional journals, blogging and business or personal written communication. This genre tends to focus on the individual personality and intent of the writer more than explaining something and is more personal than older forms. It is also more likely to be written in first person than other genres.

Narrative Writing

Another genre is the story. Since the days of primitive communication such as cave paintings and hieroglyphics, people have attempted to document what has happened in their lives. These stories may or may not be true, because they are told from the writer's prospective. Narrative, story-telling writing catalogs events for current and future readers to explain the events from a specific prospective. Examples of this genre are short stories and narrative works, as well as autobiographies and histories.

Persuasive Writing

Sometimes, writing has a more pointed purpose. Writing to persuade involves offering not only facts but also a slant that directs the reader to make a commitment or decision. While spanning many diverse sub-genres, this writing always attempts to lead the reader to do what the writer requests of him. Examples of this genre include promotional and political advertisements, merchandise or other reviews, propaganda, letters in the editorial section of a newspaper and fundraising letters.

Descriptive Writing

Sometimes, writing is performed simply to express emotion, display feelings or merely as a fun exercise. Writing as art encompasses many topics and may or may not have a deep meaning or purpose. The value, appreciation and translation of this work can vary greatly by who reads it. Poetry is the classic example of this genre, although fiction, nonsense writing and text-message emoticons can also fall into this category. This category can spill into the other genres but will typically look much different in the process.

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