ISLPR Language Services Blog
Types of Writing Tasks
NB. Any language task can usually be carried out in a variety of different ways. What matters is that its format or presentation is logical, clear and readily understood by the reader. Nevertheless, there are often traditionally expected features of some types of writing. Please note: this is not an exhaustive list.
Article: A paper or statement similar to the sorts of articles that appear in newspapers, journals or magazines.
Case: A piece of writing that argues in favour of a particular idea or point of view, e.g. a case for a pay rise for teachers.
Essay: The Macquarie Dictionary definition is “a short literary composition on a particular subject”. It is usually a carefully reasoned piece of writing on a particular topic. It is often loosely used by many teachers to refer to any writing or assignment set for a student.
Handout: A piece of writing generally given to a class, conference delegates or some other audience to help the listeners follow the presenter’s arguments or to remember the main ideas later. Like most other writing forms, it can take many different formats ranging from dotpoints to more discursive writing.
Letter: Something written to be sent to someone else. It usually starts with “Dear …” and ends with a formula such as ‘Yours sincerely’, ‘Best wishes’ or something similar. There are traditional expectations of a letter in terms of format and the minimum essential information to be provided. See the ebook on the ISLPR webpage for more details or our blog post on letters.
Memo: Writing in a simpler format than a letter and typically used for internal correspondence in an organisation. See the ebook on the ISLPR webpage for more details.
Note: An informal piece of writing similar to a letter but without most of the traditional format requirements of a letter, e.g. it might start with something like “Tom,“ (or whatever the recipient’s name is) and end with the writer’s name.
Outline: An informal summary of an argument, an event or a proposal. The term ‘outline’ is especially used where a full case for some topic or idea would be much longer than the typical writing task in a test. It covers the main ideas but might omit some or even most details.
Paper: A piece of more formal writing presenting the writer’s ideas, research or arguments on a particular topic. The Macquarie Dictionary’s definition of ‘paper’ used in this sense is “an essay, article or dissertation on a particular topic”. It is typically used to refer to a written or oral presentation by a speaker at a conference.
Policy (paper): A plan supported by logical arguments and evidence. The Macquarie Dictionary defines it as “a course or line of action adopted and pursued by a government, ruler, political party or the like” or, we could add, by a school, the Principal or the School Council, e.g. the school’s policy on students’ wearing hats in the playground or the school’s policy on having mobile phones in class, or a government’s policy on early childhood education.
Proposal: An article or paper written in support of a request or a suggestion by the writer, generally made to colleagues or to a superior leading to a change of policy, e.g. a proposal to the Principal of the school to increase the number of Mathematics lessons for a class or a proposal to the Head of Department to prepare a new programme.
Submission: A piece of writing similar to a ‘case’ or ‘proposal’, presenting ideas in support of some position, topic or argument. It would usually aim to convince the reader of the appropriateness of a request of some sort.
Summary: A brief piece of writing that includes reference to only the most important or key ideas that are elaborated elsewhere at much greater length. Compare ‘outline’ above but a ‘summary’ is more formal and reads like a short form of another longer document.