How to Use All 4 Writing Styles to Create an Exciting Nonfiction Book

by Bennett R. Coles

In the world of book writing, there are four well-defined writing styles:


In simple terms, this style is used to inform and educate the reader (without expressing your opinion).


This style is used to paint a picture in the reader’s mind.


This style is used to bring the reader along your character’s emotional journey.


This style is used to convince the reader to side with you and your beliefs.

Most book genres tend to rely on one or two styles. For example, fiction books tend to focus on the descriptive and narrative styles. Poetry and travel books tend to be written in the descriptive style. Political books or books centered on activism use primarily the persuasive style, and cookbooks, textbooks and research or scientific journals use the expository style.

But there’s one genre which is perfectly suited to take advantage of all four styles concurrently: nonfiction written by business people, professionals or consultants in order to solve a deep-seated problem with their audience.

By taking advantage of all four styles, you’ll be able to craft a book that hits all the major chords with your readers:

  • You’ll be able to use the expository style to convey well-researched findings to back up your solution in a way that establishes you as an expert in their eyes.
  • You’ll be able to use the descriptive style to paint vivid pictures in your audience’s mind of someone like them before and after they apply your solution.
  • You’ll be able to use the narrative style to take your audience through an emotional journey from problem to solution as lived by the characters in your case studies.
  • You’ll be able to use the persuasive style to convince your audience why your solution will be different than any other than they might have tried in the past.

Problem-solving nonfiction is ideally suited for the use of all four writing styles like no other genre is.

What Are the Four Types of Writing Styles?

Before we get into the details on how to apply each style to your book, let me introduce their unique characteristics.

Expository Writing style

The expository writing style is used to build your credibility as an expert. You’ll achieve this goal by presenting facts, statistics and other data required to back up your solution (it’s also important for this style that you quote your sources).

Also very important in this style is the use of diagrams, charts and other illustrations to provide different views of your data to enhance your presentation.

What Is the Main Goal of This Style?

To educate your audience about the background information required to support your unique solution.

What Are Some of Its Techniques?

  • Use of facts
  • Data
  • Evidence
  • Research
  • Quotes
  • Charts
  • Tables
  • Illustrations

What is it Not Used For?

The expository writing style is not used to express your opinion or to influence your reader. Try to stay away from “loaded words” that carry a high emotional charge, since they’ll create a conflict with the factual nature of the style.

What Are Some Common Applications?

How-to books, textbooks, instruction manuals, cookbooks, business articles, professional and scientific journals and books about hobbies and interests.

Descriptive Writing style

As the old adage says, a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is where the descriptive writing style comes in handy. One of the best devices to engage your reader’s senses is to paint a clear picture of how your solution will work in their lives.

Descriptive writing is not only used to engage your audience’s five senses but also their feelings. Your goal is to engage your reader so closely that they feel they’re actually “there.” This is a powerful literary device used to great effect in the fiction genre and you’ll be borrowing from it for your nonfiction book.

What Is the Main Goal of This Style?

To engage your reader’s imagination so they can feel as if they’re experiencing the events in your book themselves.

What Are Some of Its Techniques?

  • Metaphors
  • Similes
  • Adjectives used to descriptively enhance nouns
  • Adverbs used to descriptively enhance verbs
  • Focusing on small details
  • Using the 5 senses

What is it Not Used For?

This style is not used to narrate. In other words, the descriptive style is never used to tell a story or to give insights into the thoughts or the emotional state of characters in your book.

What Are Some Common Applications?

Novels, poetry, journal writing, travel books and music lyrics.

Narrative Writing style

Narrative writing can be used very effectively in problem-solving nonfiction through the power of story telling. Nonfiction books without any story telling are not as engaging as they could be.

Use stories to create an emotional connection with your readers by making them become invested in characters that they can relate to – characters that also “feel their pain.” They could be about yourself, past clients, or fictional characters that combine the experiences of multiple clients.

What Is the Main Goal of This Style?

To offer readers insights into the thoughts and feelings of characters going through a similar emotional journey than they’re going through themselves.

What Are Some of Its Techniques?

  • Address the 5 W’s (what, when, where, how and why)
  • Describe a sequence of events leading to a climax
  • Include a description of the characters, settings, dialogue, conflict and resolution

What is it Not Used For?

Narrative writing is not used to introduce facts and figures and it’s not used to influence or persuade your audience.

What Are Some Common Applications?

Novels, poetry, short stories, screenplays and movie scripts.

Persuasive Writing style

The persuasive writing style can be used to great effect in problem-solving nonfiction books. Your goal is not just to communicate and teach new skills, but also to persuade your reader to take action and implement your solution in their lives.

You want to persuade readers by appealing to them on an emotional level and using your connection and your credibility as an expert to convince them to side with you. The aim of persuasive writing is to align your reader’s goals with your own.

What Is the Main Goal of This Style?

To influence, to persuade, to convince.

What Are Some of Its Techniques?

  • Emotive words
  • Inclusive language
  • Exaggeration
  • Rhetorical questions
  • Metaphors and similes
  • Sarcasm (used tactfully)
  • Repetition
  • Logical arguments

What is it Not Used For?

Doing anything that takes your reader out of the plane of reality – such as by going into a detailed description of places, circumstances or events or into a deep narrative.

What Are Some Common Applications?

Academic papers, opinion pieces, newspaper editorials and books by political figures.

How Do I Apply the 4 Writing Styles to Enhance My Nonfiction Book

Now that we’ve covered all four styles let me show you an example of each so you can get an idea of practical applications.

Example of the Expository Writing Style

“The fundamental question of work and leisure raised by Weiss is particularly relevant as a generation called Millennials moves firmly into the workforce. I know many Millennials and in general they’re hard-working, passionate young men and women who are eager to work, but they want to enjoy and draw meaning from their jobs.

Most are sensible enough to have a day-job to pay the bills, but many have a “side hustle” – a hobby or a business idea into which they pour their passion and hope to one day monetize.

Weiss recognizes this trend in workers, but an interesting disconnect between Weiss’ article and today is the discussion of self-employment. Weiss notes that self-employed workers are generally most satisfied even if they earn less, but also makes the observation that self-employment has significantly declined.

In this example the author is using expository writing to present and analyze research findings by a recognized expert in the field.

Example of the Descriptive Writing Style

“Coming down to Bridge Park had been a good idea, he decided. Leaving the crowded mass of the city behind he’d ridden the train south, through the razed land and out onto the delta.

Rice paddies stretched to every horizon, blurring the line between land, river and sea. And then, in the shadow of the ruined supports of the bridge, the park rose like a garden oasis above the lowlands.

He obviously wasn’t the only person with the same idea today, and the park was lifted by the shrieks of children playing on the bridge replica fun zone behind him.”

In the above passage, the author is using descriptive writing to paint a picture in the mind of the reader by using specific adjectives and adverbs that appeal to the reader’s senses.

Example of the Narrative Writing Style

Christopher Reeve was one courageous person who fully accepted an unexpected change in direction in his life. The icon of superhuman strength in the 80’s, he was the quintessential Superman. An actor of great appeal and talent, he represented the ideal combination of manliness, strength, seeker of justice, and savior of humankind.

In May 1995, he was riding his horse and had a serious fall. The accident damaged his spinal cord such that he was left a quadriplegic and had to use a machine to help him breathe. The accident sent shockwaves around the world. How could Superman be rendered a quadriplegic? It was unfathomable.

After many months of grueling physical therapy, he learned how to function in this new altered state. The emotional toll was great as he and his family struggled with the changes this accident brought into their lives.

Within a year, however, he had founded a charitable organization called the Christopher Reeve Foundation in order to raise money for research on spinal cord injuries and made it his mission to find a way for all victims of these devastating injuries to walk again.”

Here the author is using narrative writing to portray the dramatic fall in the fortunes of a celebrity after a traumatic life event, and how he resolved the conflict in his life to become a real-life superhero in the eyes of his followers.

Example of the Persuasive Writing Style

“‘I’m too old’ or ‘It’s too late to change’ are nothing but limiting beliefs. Like any other beliefs, they’re fully under your control and are totally replaceable. In the end, you’re the one who truly runs the show, as much as you’re taught to believe the opposite. When it comes to making changes in your life, you have the ultimate say. If you end up doing what others think you should, it’s only because on some level you’ve made the decision to believe that their ideas are more worthy than your own.

If you want to change, you have to start believing in what you want to do, no matter what other people’s ‘opinions’ are. And you have to believe that the changes you want to make are worth it, regardless of your age or your circumstances.

Life consists of a collection of ‘moments.’ This very moment and every moment after it are what your life is made of. If you live your life worrying about the future, regretting the past or even living how others tell you to live, then you aren’t living ‘your’ moments.

All it really takes to become in charge of your own life is to simply decide to do so. Your process of reinvention is 100% yours. Don’t be afraid to use it fully to our advantage. Don’t be afraid to think big thoughts. Remember, you can make a difference: you are the difference!”

In this example, the author is using persuasive writing to influence readers to take action by changing their belief system through replacing limiting beliefs with empowering ones.

Next Steps

Now you know what the four key styles used in writing are and how to apply them to your nonfiction book for maximum effect. But here’s a word of caution: if you lean on one style much more than the others, you risk being pigeonholed into a genre that doesn’t serve your message.

For example, too much narrative style will make your book feel more like a novel or creative nonfiction, and your persuasive message will be diluted.

Too much persuasive style will make your book feel dogmatic or proselytizing, and will break the connection of trust with your readers.

Too much descriptive style and your book will be too detached from reality, which will impact the expository techniques that are required to back up your findings with facts and data.

Too much expository style and your book will be too dry and mechanical, making you lose the connection with your readers.

Make sure that you create a good balance of expository, descriptive, narrative and persuasive writing skills in your manuscript and you’ll have an exciting nonfiction book in your hands.

If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.


Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to generate additional leads for their businesses.

Here are some related articles I highly recommend:

The 10 Must-Have Writing Skills for Nonfiction Authors

How to Write a Compelling Book in 12 Steps: A Must-Read Guide for Nonfiction Authors

Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.

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    Spencer Ehler

    Hey, this is a great article! Very informative and helpful, thank you.

    1. Avatar
      Bennett R. Coles

      Glad I was able to help!

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