The various effects a writer may wish to have on his or her inform, to persuade, to in dif ferent kinds of prose. The most common is prose that informs, which, depending on what it is about, is called exposition, description, or narration.
Exposition explains. How things work—an internal combustion engine. Ideas—a theory of economics. Facts of everyday life—how many people get divorced. History—why Custer attacked at the Little Big Horn. Controversial issues laden with feelings—abortion, politics, religion. But whatever its subject, exposition reveals what a particular mind thinks or knows or believes. Exposition is constructed logically. It organizes around cause/effect, true/false, less/more, positive/ negative, general/particular, assertion/denial. Its movement is signaled by connectives like therefore, however, and so, besides, but, not only, more important, in fact, for example.
Description deals with commonly visual perceptions. Its central problem is to arrange what we see into a significant pattern. Unlike the logic of exposition, the pattern is spatial: above/below, before/behind, right/left, and so on.
The subject of narration is a series of related story. Its problem is twofold: to arrange the events in a sequence of time and to reveal their significance.
Persuasion seeks to alter how readers think or believe. It is usually about controversial topics and often appeals to reason in the form of argument, offering evidence or logical proof. Another form of persuasion is satire, which ridicules folly or evil, sometimes subtly, sometimes crudely and coarsely. Finally, persuasion may be in the form of eloquence, appealing to ideals and noble sentiments.
Writing that is primarily entertaining includes fiction, personal essays, sketches. Such prose will receive less attention here. It is certainly important, but it is more remote from everyday needs than exposition or persuasion.
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