Writing Discursive compositions (Secondary level) (Part 6): Writing Styles of Discursive essays


This is my sixth post on discursive writing. For my first post, please click here.

On a last note on penning introductory paragraphs, it is very important that one exercises extreme care and treats introductory paragraphs as instrumental and essential to the full set of writings, using measured words and conjunctions to ensure a smooth flow of writing that will both interest and intrigue one’s readers to such an extent that they will want to read on – not to mention that extra care and emphasis have to be placed on conciseness and precision without being too curt or draggy.

After the discussion on penning introductory paragraphs for discursive essays, let us now take a look at the body text of the essays.

After having sustained the interest of the readers, we – as writers – would want to give our readers the full deal – as in delivering our goods:  generating and providing insights and ideas that readers are able to take away from and in some instances – advice that they can act upon.

In other words, introductions act as appetisers to satisfy our readers’ palate – before putting the delectable main dishes (read: body text) on the table for our readers’ consumption – preferably in a sumptuous way. We will discuss more on penning conclusions (read: desserts) in my future post.

Much as introductions are useful as teasers, they cannot sustain the readers’ interest for long if the substance does not match the style. This is akin to an action movie who sweeps their viewers off their feet with adrenaline-pumped action in the trailers but fails to deliver on all grounds in the actual movie screening. Such are often the laments of movie-goers in contemporary times (although independent and arthouse films often steer clear of receiving such flak on grounds of being experimental and avant garde). 🙂

Before we delve into the writing structure of body text, one cannot deny the effectiveness of interesting and alluring writing styles, some of which we will explore below:

1. Breadth and depth of analysis: When it comes to discursive writings, both our brains and eyes are often drawn to the breadth and depth of writing.

When the two elements are present, the combination is omnipotent. While the breadth of the writings (when the scope of coverage is large) broadens the vision and horizons of the readers, the depth of the writings (when writings are specific and well analysed) ensures that readers gain much from the insights within the context and domain of discussion.

“It is interesting to note that while the internet is known to provide great breadth of knowledge to readers, most web articles seriously lack in depth.”

Just observe how online news are written, and compare the format of writing to the same news on print. The differences are apparent. Online news often offer merely the gist of the subject matter. Print news on the same subject matter provide more depth.

And when it comes to discursive writings, we want both.

2. Perspectives: Having breadth and depth is all good, but what makes a piece of discursive writing even more potent and devastatingly impactful than it already is lies in the power of perspectives. Readers of discursive essays want the authors’ voice and not just some reiteration of some stands made by other authors. And this voice should preferably shed some new light and perspectives on the issue under discussion. Readers thirst for a hero, who possess the courage to shout out an independent voice that cuts through the common and congested clutter of flawed logic and skewed rationality – the voice cutting them down with its verbal clarity of insights.

Consider the legends of perspectives. Seth Godin (Marketing Guru). Timothy Ferriss (Freedom Enthusiast). Peter Drucker (Management Expert). Daniel H. Pink (Visionary Thinker). Malcolm Gladwell (Trend Spotter).They are what legends are made of: authentic individuals with a knack for delivering their unique perspectives. These are also the people whom publishers adore – for they boost book sales.  A casual perusal through book titles in any bookstores will only serve to confirm this. Even without their publishers, individuals of such caliber who maintain blogs are often online bestsellers based on blog readership. 

3. Stylish and Metaphorical language: It is important to note that stylish and metaphorical languages are not flowery language. While the latter usually focuses on the superficial and the excessive (which are beautiful, descriptive language that bring novels into life, and which often involves a certain degree of creative writing), the former uses visual imagery to enhance the imagination of the readers (which is crucial since discursive writings are usually abstract by nature – sometimes to the point of being extremely theoretical, and hence often a nightmarish reading experience for pragmatists). Not all writers are skilled with such writing style but it can be learnt.

 4. Organised and sound arguments: Readers may be drawn to your writings but they may not stay long if the arguments are flawed or disorganised. Discursive writers then have to be meticulous, as they do not write for leisure. They write to provide alternative perspectives on issues, shedding light on various perspectives in a just and judicious manner for their readers to make up their own mind on the issue(s) – but not to the point of persuading or convincing them (since this is the realm of the argumentative essays). This is the beauty of all discursive writings – to draw the reader in with the offering of a realm of possibilities,  and then leaving them to their own judgement.

“In metaphorical sense, one can say that argumentative writers serve more as judges and their readers merely the receiver of the verdict, while discursive writers often takes on the persona of both the persecutor and the defense attorney, with their readers serving as members of the jury, bracing themselves to come up with a verdict.”

There are many more writing styles, much of which have not been discussed here. Nevertheless, the four writing styles above should serve as the foundation for all aspiring and experienced discursive writers to focus and hone their skills on.

In my next post, we will proceed to discuss the body text of discursive essay.

Author’s background: Patrick Tay is an English Writing Specialist who lectures in various polytechnics in Singapore, and coaches students in English as a private tutor. His professional services can be found here



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