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Essay vs. Composition: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 12, 2023
An essay is a short piece of writing on a particular subject, while a composition is a broader term referring to any written piece, including essays, poems, and more.

Key Differences

An essay and composition, while often used interchangeably, have nuanced differences in their definitions and usage. An essay typically refers to a brief, non-fiction piece of writing that explores a specific topic or argument. It often presents an individual's perspective, research findings, or arguments about a particular subject. Essays can be formal, offering deep insights and evidence-based arguments, or informal, expressing personal reflections and observations.
Composition, on the other hand, is a more general term that encompasses a range of written works. It refers to the act of creating written content, regardless of its form. Composition could be a story, poem, essay, or any written piece. Thus, an essay is a subset of compositions. In educational settings, students are often assigned "compositions" to assess their writing skills, and these assignments could take the form of essays, stories, or other written forms.
Another distinction lies in the structure and intent. Essays often follow a structured approach, starting with an introduction, followed by the body, and ending with a conclusion. They aim to persuade, inform, or entertain. Compositions, meanwhile, might not adhere to such a stringent structure, especially when referring to poems or stories.
In essence, while all essays are compositions, not all compositions are essays. An essay is more specific in its content and intent, focusing on presenting a cohesive argument or perspective, while composition is a broader term encompassing various forms of written expression.

Comparison Chart


A short piece of writing on a specific topic.
Any written piece, including essays, poems, and stories.


Typically structured (introduction, body, conclusion).
Varies depending on the type of writing.


To inform, persuade, or entertain.
To express thoughts, ideas, or creativity.


Non-fiction (mostly).
Can be both fiction and non-fiction.


Specific form of composition.
General term for any written work.

Essay and Composition Definitions


An attempt or effort.
He made an essay at solving the complex equation.


A written work, especially in literature or music.
Mozart's compositions are world-renowned.


A literary piece offering an author's perspective.
His essay on climate change was compelling.


The act of putting things together.
The composition of this team is well-balanced.


A short written work discussing a topic.
She submitted her essay on ancient civilizations.


A school assignment involving writing.
He spent the evening working on his English composition.


A brief written exposition of a subject.
The teacher assigned an essay on Shakespeare's plays.


The way in which something is constituted.
The chemical composition of water is H2O.


A written piece arguing a point.
Her persuasive essay was about the importance of recycling.


The arrangement of elements in a piece of art.
The composition of the painting is truly captivating.


A short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author.


The combining of distinct parts or elements to form a whole.


Something resembling such a composition
A photojournalistic essay.


The manner in which such parts are combined or related.


What's the main goal of an essay?

To inform, persuade, or entertain the reader.

Are all essays compositions?

Yes, all essays are compositions, but not all compositions are essays.

Can "composition" refer to the makeup of something?

Yes, "composition" can refer to how something is made up or constituted.

Is an essay always non-fiction?

Typically, essays are non-fiction, but they can occasionally venture into creative non-fiction.

Can a poem be considered an essay?

No, a poem is not an essay, but both are forms of composition.

Is a short story an essay?

No, a short story is fiction, while essays are typically non-fiction.

Can a song be a composition?

Yes, a song is a type of musical composition.

Can the word "essay" mean an attempt?

Yes, "essay" can also mean an effort or attempt at something.

Are essays subjective or objective?

Essays can be both, depending on the intent of the author.

Which term is broader, essay or composition?

Composition is broader, encompassing various forms of written works.

Is a novel a composition?

Yes, a novel is a type of composition, specifically a long-form narrative.

Which one is more formal, an essay or composition?

An essay tends to be more formal, while a composition's formality can vary.

Do essays always present facts?

Not always; essays can also present opinions, reflections, and arguments.

Does composition always refer to writing?

No, composition can also refer to the makeup of something or the arrangement in art.

What's the primary difference between an essay and an article?

An essay presents a personal perspective, while an article tends to be more factual and objective.

Are essays always short?

Not necessarily. While essays are often shorter than books, they can vary in length.

What's a pictorial composition?

It refers to the arrangement of visual elements in a painting or photograph.

Do all essays need a thesis statement?

While not mandatory, many formal essays include a thesis to present the main argument.

What's the primary structure of an essay?

Introduction, body, and conclusion.

Can a composition be a musical piece?

Yes, a composition can be a written or musical creation.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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