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Snap Language

Getting Smarter through Language

5 Rhetorical Modes of Writing
Narrative Mode

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Narrative writing is the storytelling mode of writing. You tell a story to present information to the readers as a sequence of events.

Narrative writing generally includes characters, a plot, setting, conflict and resolution, and it contains a message or “the moral of the story.”


Although you generally avoid using the first person point of view in formal writing (i.e., using first person pronouns such as I, we, me, us), using first person pronouns in narrative writing actually brings the writer closer to the story and the topic.

Narrative mode of writing

Impact on readers. Narrative writing helps readers create a mental picture or image of the topic.

The reader understands that the information is not necessarily objective as it is being communicated from the writer’s perspective or viewpoint. Nonetheless, the narrative mode of writing helps readers understand the writer’s point, especially when a compelling narrative draws the readers into the topic.

Tone. In storytelling, writers have a great deal of flexibility to the tone that is most appropriate to the message (e.g., serious, joyous, mournful, passionate, and so on).

Type of materials. Narrative writing is typically found in literary works such as novels, poems, anecdotes, and short stories though you can use it in any writing if it suits your needs.

Examples of narrative writing

Example 1

The story below uses the first person point of view (I, me, my).

When I started learning Dutch, I read a lot of short stories to practice. In one of the short stories I read, I came across some words that I didn’t understand, but I could often figure out their meaning because they were similar to English. One day, I went to a coffee shop to meet a couple of friends, but my friend came alone. I remembered the word “wife” from one of the stories. I thought it meant “wife,” so I asked my friend, “Waar is jouw wijf?” thinking I was asking where his wife was. My friend’s face turned red and he laughed nervously. He replied, “I think you mean to say ‘vrouw.” (That is the word for “wife.”) Confused, I asked him to explain, and he told me that “wijf” is a very offensive word for a woman with loose morals. I was mortified, but I never made that mistake again. Sometimes making mistakes, even embarrassing ones, is the best way to learn a language.

Example 2

In the passage below, editors tell the story of how the entrance to King Tut’s tomb was discovered. It uses the third person point of view.

British archaeologist Howard Carter and his workmen discover a step leading to the tomb of King Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt on November 4, 1922.

When Carter first arrived in Egypt in 1891, most of the ancient Egyptian tombs had been discovered, though the little-known King Tutankhamen, who had died when he was 18, was still unaccounted for. After World War I, Carter began an intensive search for “King Tut’s Tomb,” finally finding steps to the burial room hidden in the debris near the entrance of the nearby tomb of King Ramses VI in the Valley of the Kings. On November 26, 1922, Carter and fellow archaeologist Lord Carnarvon entered the interior chambers of the tomb, finding them miraculously intact.

Thus began a monumental excavation process in which Carter carefully explored the four-room tomb over several years, uncovering an incredible collection of several thousand objects. The most splendid architectural find was a stone sarcophagus containing three coffins nested within each other. Inside the final coffin, which was made out of solid gold, was the mummy of the boy-king Tutankhamen, preserved for more than 3,000 years. Most of these treasures are now housed in the Cairo Museum.

Source: "Entrance to King Tut’s tomb discovered.",,

Writing tip

When telling a story, be careful about using the right tone. For example, you may decide that your readers would connect with a sad story if you use an emotional tone. However, it can be a mistake if you go too far trying to appeal to your readers’ emotions.

Once your readers detect a dishonest use of tone, they are likely to lose respect for you so. Use the right tone so your readers can enjoy a well told story.

Related Lesson

Related lesson: Should you avoid using the first person in academic writing? Learn why and how to avoid the first person in academic writing. (Link opens in a new tab.)

Up Next: Descriptive Mode

Continue the course to learn about the descriptive mode of writing.