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How To Differentiate A Narrative And A Descriptive Essay: A Brief Overview


Students often tend to confuse narrative and descriptive essays, which may seem identical at the first glance. However, there are quite obvious differences that should be taken into consideration.

Descriptive Essay

Obviously, the key purpose of this kind of work is a description. It doesn’t matter what the author is describing - a person, a house by the lake or an important event – he or she always draws a vivid “picture” into the reader’s mind. Here are some specific features of descriptive stories:

  • There is always an object described: a person, a place, a feeling, a sound, etc.
  • The author uses all the five senses to create a realistic image: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste.
  • There are enough details, even the tiniest or seemingly insignificant ones, to make you visualize the object described.
  • The author uses figurative language: unpredictable metaphors, unusual allegories, and unconventional symbols.
  • The author’s ultimate goal is to arouse a reader’s emotions, making he or she dive into the perspective “drawn.”

Narrative Essay

A narrative text is basically a story an author tells based on his or her experience and an attitude towards it. There should be some idea or a purpose or even a lesson learned. Reading this type of text, you’ll always notice the following features:

  • There is always a plot, on which the story is based.
  • The author follows the time sequence, not confusing the reader with unnecessary incidents and occasions.
  • The author recreates every important fact and detail, in some way relevant to the story climax.
  • The author draws a conclusion: the story should have a key idea, which teaches you something or leaves some area for thinking.

Basic Differences

As you can see, narrative and descriptive texts are interrelated: an author may use specific elements of both kinds of story-telling. Meanwhile, there are a number of differences that really matter:

  1. A narrative story is a personal point of view, where the author can use “I” and “me”, while the author of a descriptive text may use no personal pronouns at all.
  2. A narrative text tells a story descriptive story describes a person or an object, making the reader visualize it.
  3. In a narrative text there are no long introduction. A lengthy description is a key feature of a descriptive text.
  4. Different styles are used: a narrative text features concrete words and phrases, while a descriptive one– abstract notions and concepts.
  5. Time and place matter only in narrative texts, while in descriptive ones details (color, taste, smell, image) matter most.
  6. There is action in a narration (typically in chronological order), while a description has no time references, only emotions and relevant metaphors.


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