Literary Forms

What are they?

Writing can come in many different forms. These forms are the core structural component, framing the length and style of writing.

Within basic forms, there exist sub-forms.

Forms play an important role in what readers read, as individuals have preferences and certain forms receive greater market space.


Novel Relatively long fictional prose presented as a book.
 Novella A shorter form of the novel.
 Serialised novella A novella published in parts, usually in a magazine.
 Short story Fictional prose of a shorter length, able to be read in one sitting.
 Penny dreadful Serial magazines specialising in lurid horror, sold for a penny in the 1830s.


Article An informing piece that appears within a newspaper or magazine.
 Feature An in-depth article that is a main piece in a newspaper or magazine.
 Editorial An article written by the editor giving a newspaper’s opinion on an issue.
 Magazine A periodical publication with a central theme, containing various articles.
  Autobiography An account of one’s own life.
 Biography An account of somebody else’s life.
Speech An oral address given publicly to an audience.
 Report An organised document analysing a specific point, made to inform others.
 Essay A piece in which an author lays out an argument on a particular subject.
 Treatise An in-depth essay on the political or religious principles of a subject.
 Pamphlet An unbound information booklet often cover given free and en masse.
 Review An evaluation of another’s work, service, or art.


Poem A work using imagery, rhythm and the art of language to evoke meaning, rather than full sentences and paragraphs.
 Ode A poem praising a person, object or event which was traditionally performed with music.
 Ballad A lyrical verse set to music, traditionally for dances. Contemporary meaning is a slow powerful love song.
Limerick A five-line poem, using AABBA rhyming structure, which is usually humorous and rude.
 Sonnet Traditionally an Italian poem with ‘preposition’ and ‘resolution’ verses, it is now a 14-line love poem using ABABCDCDEFEFGG rhymes.
 Haiku A short three-lined Japanese poem, using a 5-7-5 syllable structure, generally using imagery to evoke philosophical thought.


Play A spoken word drama designed to be performed publicly, incorporating acting rather than reading.
 Script The written form of a play, including dialogue and stage directions, used for rehearsal.
 Sketch A very short single scene piece of writing used to show a character or setting rather than a plot, and now often used for humour and acted.
Treatment A rough prose version of a story concept that will later be turned into a play or film script.