Essay and article writing

Essay and article writing: what are the differences

Oct 23, 2012
Essays and articles are two very popular and useful forms of writing present in most literary mediums. Whether online, in the classroom or in a coffee shop, if you're reading something it's probably either an essay or an article. People often construct both forms of writing without paying attention to the key distinguishing factors of each. Being able to 'change hat' so to speak and know when to write an article and when to write an essay and the requirements of both is a helpful and advantageous skill to possess in the business and academic world.

Essay writing defined

Essays are common forms of writing found in many places. Popular personal essays in the media for example, allow the writer to explore and reflect on their personal experiences while engaging an audience and proving a particular point or claim.
In general, an essay is a brief, concise form of nonfiction that is comprised of an introduction, support paragraphs and a conclusion. It may inform the reader on subject matter, argue a claim, entertain an audience, analyze an issue, or elaborate on a concept or term (for example, definition essays).
Writing in this form means several things depending on your purpose or objective. If writing an argumentative, critical, or persuasive essay for college you'll likely be very concerned about strong support details to prove your point and having a clear decisive thesis statement. When writing personal or descriptive essays for example, with no deadline or grade to receive, you may be less concerned with form and support details and more about sustaining your audience with enticing, engaging sentences as well as insightful and useful content.

Common types of essays

Article writing defined

With the prevalence of the internet in today's society the major mode of online communication, reading and writing, has greatly impacted the world of writing and the definition of articles in general. The term article has several meanings. As it relates to writing the word article refers to a written composition that is usually non-fiction and prose. Though as we see the evolution of the term article, to the more specific internet article (this phrase will be discussed later) which is very popular today, the meaning and expectations of article writing tends to change. But interestingly the structure has stayed much the same in that many internet articles are non-fiction and written in prose as are their non-internet counterparts.

Internet articles vs print articles

Outside of the context of websites, generally when speaking of articles a person is usually referring to the types of prose compositions found in a magazines, journals or newspapers. Many of the same principles of structure and format found in print venues are also applied to the construction of online articles. Some slight differences include (a) internet articles are usually broken up into small 'chunks' to make it easy for the reader to read online (b)internet articles are usually informative and have information-giving titles *for example Online title: "Saving money on transportation" as compared to Print title: "The constrained hand" (c) lastly, they often contain keywords to improve searchability.

Common types of internet articles

  • How-to articles
  • Review articles
  • Blog/Personal experience articles

Common types of print articles

  • Scholarly research articles
  • Feature newspaper articles
  • Editorial or commentary articles
  • Book review articles
  • Discussion articles

Internet Article Marketing

An important and noteworthy type of article writing is internet article marketing. This marketing tool involves creating useful articles that provide information while also promoting a writer's business, product or service. This technique increases the amount visitors or 'traffic' a website can generate by sharing the article with many other sites known as article directories. *Though some sites have now placed restrictions on 'duplicate' content and require that each article be unique and one of kind.

Key differences

On the surface both forms of writing look pretty similar and slight differences may not seem worth mentioning. But actually when we seek out different forms of reading material, whether it be a magazine, encyclopedia, website, newspaper or cookbook we know what type of writing we are expecting to encounter from each of those mediums-even if not consciously expressed. Therefore there are important differences to each form writing.
The first difference we can look to is the overall formatting and structure of each item. For example, many articles are written to be straight to the point and may not offer a fully developed or charming introduction and conclusion.
For example, an article about how to make biscuits, may offer "Biscuits are great for breakfast on-the-go and can be made quickly and easily with following recipe" as an introduction whereas an essay that compares making biscuits to making bread will most likely offer a more entertaining and engaging introduction about biscuits and possibly baking in general.

Entertainment vs Information

A good way to think about an article is with the term information. This will most definitely come up when searching online for valuable information on a subject matter. When you want an informational article you want clear, helpful, and useful information on a particular topic. Though the wording should still be tasteful and creative, you may not be exactly looking for the writer to support claims or provide evidential support. Essays in turn may also be informational but are often crafted in such a way that the reader is also entertained and or intrigued by the material. *Perhaps the essay opened up their minds to new ways of looking or thinking about an issue or provoked thoughtful questions for exploration.

Main Idea vs Main Objective

Another significant difference is that essays are thesis oriented forms of writing, meaning that they are seeking to prove a point or support a claim. Essays may be described as having a main objective because they have clear goal that they must reach by the end of the composition. Additionally, articles also have a goal in mind and it may be informative or expressive as well but does not necessarily offer the same type of evidential support found in most essays.
The differences and similarities between articles and essays are somewhat relative and subjective. Some of the key characteristics of article writing such as being informative and brief may also be applied to essay writing and vice versa.
But its safe to say that when you think of the internet you think of articles-and when we think of academia we think of essays. Why is that? One possible answer is that one of the primary functions of the internet is provide users with knowledge and information - we go to it for soccer scores, definitions, math problems, dinner ideas and so much more. So in a sense, articles are what make up the internet.
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