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Intermediate Reading Course. Section 1: The Basics

Recognizing Modes of Writing when Reading

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Modes of Writing

Some ways of writing are more effective than others depending on the topic, the audience, and purpose for writing. These are called rhetorical modes of writing. (Rhetoric refers to the use of language effectively to reflect on ideas or to inform or educate, persuade, or entertain the audience.)

For example, if your purpose is to give instructions on how to build something, telling a story may not be as effective as simply listing the needed steps. The main modes of writing are listed below.

Narrative Mode of Writing (Storytelling)

Writers use the narrative mode to tell stories by presenting a sequence of events. Typically, narrative writing is subjective and explores human emotions and other themes through storytelling.

Common Narrative Texts

You will find narrative writing in texts such as fiction work (e.g., novels, short stories, poems, plays), news and magazine articles, tales and fables, and so on.

Reading Narrative Texts

When reading narrative texts, focus on the elements of the story such as the characters and what they represent, the plot, the setting where the events occur, the dialog, and so on.

Find themes in the story and the message the writer wants to communicate through them. Common themes exploring the human condition include, for example, love, hatred, betrayal, forgiveness, family conflict, coming of age issues, and so on.

See a sample narrative text 

Descriptive Mode of Writing

In the descriptive mode of writing, writers describe people, places, things, situations, emotions, phenomena, and so on. Descriptive texts may include both factual and subjective information; the main goal is to create a picture in the reader’s mind about whatever is described.

Common Descriptive Texts

You will find descriptive writing in texts such as articles, product brochures, travel and nature blogs, news and magazine articles, and so on.

Reading Descriptive Texts

Descriptions are meant to help you understand the content better than you would in other modes of writing, so focus on visualizing what the writer is describing. As the reader, you should extract as much meaning from the descriptions as possible.

See a sample descriptive text 

Expository (or Informative) Mode of Writing

Writers use the expository or informative mode of writing to inform or educate readers. They present facts, explain processes or how something works, compare and contrast things, explain causes and effects, explain problems and propose solutions, and so on.

Typically, expository texts are straightforward (rather than emotional) and rely on facts and reliable sources of verifiable information.

Common Expository Texts

Expository or informative writing is common in textbooks, manuals, journal articles (scientific texts), recipes, how-to articles, and so on.

Reading Expository Texts

Focus on learning the content the writer is trying to teach you: concepts, definitions, how the facts presented are put together to create a new understanding of the topic, and so on.

Even though the writer may present information as facts, you should still analyze them to make sure that they are accurate, verifiable, and coming from reputable sources.

See a sample expository text 

Persuasive (or Argumentative) Mode of Writing

When writers attempt to persuade their readers to change their opinions or viewpoint, to change their behavior, or to take some type of action, they use the persuasive (or argumentative) mode of writing.

In persuasive writing, the writer typically presents evidence and walks the reader through a logical argument to lead the reader to a particular conclusion. Some persuasive writing can also appeal to the reader’s emotions, sense of ethics, and morality.

Common Persuasive Texts

Persuasive writing are common in persuasive essays, ads (or commercials), political speeches, editorials, opinion pieces (op eds), and so on.

Reading Persuasive Texts

Focus on understanding and analyzing the argument presented, making sure the writer presents a sound, logical argument.

An argument often “sounds” logical, but it may have issues. This requires you to analyze the argument to make sure the writer is not leaving out important information or leading you to an conclusion while dismissing other possible conclusions.

See a sample persuasive text 

Reflective Mode of Writing (Insights)

Writers use the reflective writing mode to share thoughts, experiences, and insights on a topic. Reflective writing is personal and often includes a critical analysis of an experience, reflections on its impact, and what can be learned from it.

Common Reflective Texts

You will find reflective writing in journals, critical reviews, personal or learning diaries, reports, self-assessment tasks, and so on.

Reading Reflective Texts

Focus on understanding experiences, insights, and implications that the writer presents. What insights can you yourself gain from the writer’s experience?

See a sample reflective text 

Practice Activity

Practice 1. Identify the writing mode used in several excerpts.

Up Next: Recognizing Modes of Organization when Reading

Go to the next lesson to learn about patterns of organization in paragraphs.