The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
Contributors: Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2013-07-30 01:39:00
What is a narrative essay?
When writing a narrative essay, one might think of it as telling a story. These essays are often anecdotal, experiential, and personal—allowing students to express themselves in a creative and, quite often, moving ways.
Here are some guidelines for writing a narrative essay.
- If written as a story, the essay should include all the parts of a story.
This means that you must include an introduction, plot, characters, setting, climax, and conclusion.
- When would a narrative essay not be written as a story?
A good example of this is when an instructor asks a student to write a book report. Obviously, this would not necessarily follow the pattern of a story and would focus on providing an informative narrative for the reader.
- The essay should have a purpose.
Make a point! Think of this as the thesis of your story. If there is no point to what you are narrating, why narrate it at all?
- The essay should be written from a clear point of view.
It is quite common for narrative essays to be written from the standpoint of the author; however, this is not the sole perspective to be considered. Creativity in narrative essays often times manifests itself in the form of authorial perspective.
- Use clear and concise language throughout the essay.
Much like the descriptive essay, narrative essays are effective when the language is carefully, particularly, and artfully chosen. Use specific language to evoke specific emotions and senses in the reader.
- The use of the first person pronoun ‘I’ is welcomed.
Do not abuse this guideline! Though it is welcomed it is not necessary—nor should it be overused for lack of clearer diction.
Have a clear introduction that sets the tone for the remainder of the essay. Do not leave the reader guessing about the purpose of your narrative. Remember, you are in control of the essay, so guide it where you desire (just make sure your audience can follow your lead).
In your online classes, you facilitator may ask you to write an essay in "APA narrative format." Here are a few tips:
Point of View
APA writing is from the first person perspective, such as “I researched…”, or the third person perspective, like “Survey results showed…” If you are trying to decide between first and third person, use whichever one helps you to communicate or whichever one your professor prefers.
Whether you use the first or third person perspective, the active voice is best. The active voice is simple and direct. A sentence in the active voice is “I researched information literacy.” This is the opposite of the passive voice which can sound wordy. An example of a passive voice sentence is “It is concluded that research has been performed.”
A Scholarly Tone of Voice
When you’re writing for school it’s important to use the appropriate tone of voice. Your tone of voice can be heard in the words that you choose. Carefully pick the words you use, just like how you would carefully choose what you wear to a formal event. A good example of a scholarly tone can be found in your textbook or journal articles. You will notice that it doesn’t sound like the way you talk with friends. For example, a scholarly tone doesn’t use contractions, such as “didn’t,” or slang, such as “her ideas were weird.”
A scholarly tone has clear sentences that explain your point. You can hear the tone of your writing by reading it out loud. After you read it, ask yourself: when my teacher reads my Complete assignment or paper will she know what I mean?
Clear and Concise
As you write and edit, work to create sentences that are clear and concise. Keep these tips in mind:
• Avoid saying too much in one sentence. You can shorten long sentences by deleting unnecessary words and repetitive phrases.
• Be specific instead of vague in your descriptions. For example, instead of writing “with reference to the fact” you could simply say “concerning.”
• Be sure to use accurate and balanced language when you consider a variety of perspectives. As you choose words be particularly aware of racial, ethnic, gender, or religious bias.
For more details on how to find and use information in your essays, visit this tutorial.