Writing discursive compositions (Secondary Level) (Part 6): Writing styles of discursive essays

By Patrick Tay

(To read part 5, please visit HERE.)

One final 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.

With that, let us now move on to the discourse of writing styles employed in discursive essays.

Having successfully sustained the interest of readers, we – as writers – would want to give them the whole deal – as in delivering the actual goods, ie generating and providing insights/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 appetizers to tease our readers’ palate – before serving the delectable main dishes (read: body text) for their actual consumption. We will discuss more on penning conclusions in my future post.

Much as introductions are useful as teasers, they cannot sustain the readers’ interest for long if substance does not match 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). :)

Apart from delving into the structural analysis of a body text, one cannot deny that interesting and alluring writing styles when done right can be very effective, so we shall explore some of them 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 both elements are present, the combination is omnipotent. While the breadth of the writings (assuming scope of coverage is sufficiently large) broadens the vision and horizons of the readers, the depth of the writings (assuming writings are thoroughly specific and well analyzed) ensures that readers gain much insights from within the context and domain of discussion.

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

Just observe how online news are written, and compare the format of writing to its counterpart in print. The differences are apparent. Online news often merely offer the gist of the subject matter. Print news tend to expand on the subject matter in greater depth.

However, 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 impactfully reasonating than it already is lies in the manner of providing perspectives. Readers of discursive essays want to discover the authors’ voice and not just some reiteration of stands made by other writers. And this voice should preferably shed new light and fresh angles on the issue under discussion. Readers typically yearn for a hero, one who possesses the courage to be an independent voice that cuts through the common and congested clutter of flawed logic and skewed rationality with both clarity and purpose.

Consider the perspectives of writing legends. 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 unique, uncompromising perspectives. They are the ones whom publishers adore – for they almost certainly deliver handsome financial returns for every title launched in print . A casual browse through shelves of various bestsellers in bookstores will seek to confirm this. Even without publishers backing them up, individuals of such caliber will cruise along fine just by maintaining online blogs which will inevitably attract high levels of readership.

3. Stylish and Metaphorical language: It is important to note that stylish and metaphorical do not mean flowery. While the latter usually focuses on the superficial and excessive (ie beautiful, descriptive language which injects life into novelizations, and which also 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 styles but still it can be acquired.

4. Organised and sound arguments: Readers may be initially drawn to your writings but they may not stay around for long if the arguments provided are flawed or disorganized. Discursive writers therefore have to be meticulous, since they do not simply write for leisure. They write to provide alternative perspectives on issues, shedding light on various perspectives in a just and dispassionate manner for their readers to make up their own minds on the issue(s) – but not to the point of persuading or convincing them to pursue a specific direction of thought (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 formulate their own judgements.

“In the 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 assume the role of both prosecutor and defense attorney, with their readers serving as members of the jury, deliberating over the final verdict.”

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

In my next post, we shall proceed to discuss and analyze the body texts of discursive essays.

To continue to part 7, visit HERE.

The above post was published with the permission of English writing specialist Mr Patrick Tay. This first appeared on his BLOG.