Does Expository Writing Have You Confused?
Maybe you find yourself on this page because your instructor asked you to write an expository essay, and you aren't exactly sure what's expected of you—if so, you've certainly found the right place. Expository writing, or exposition, is a type of discourse used to describe, explain, define, inform, or clarify. It literally means "to expose." Exposition can be found in writing or oral discourse, but for the sake of this article, we'll stick with expository writing.
You are likely familiar with expository writing already, even if the name sounds unfamiliar. Common examples include newspaper articles, how-to manuals, and assembly instructions. Expository writing is also the most frequent type of academic writing!
Present the facts, and only the facts
If you are asked to write an expository essay, then you are essentially being asked to present the facts; there is no place for bias or opinion in expository writing. In a way, this makes writing simple—it is a matter of gathering and presenting the facts about a certain topic.
Something important to keep in mind when writing exposition is that you should not assume your readers have any knowledge of the topic; don't gloss over basic or important details, even if you think they're common knowledge.
When writing expository essays, it is best to use third person narration, although second person is acceptable in some instances, such as for instructions—or articles on expository writing.
Characteristics of expository writing
There are a few characteristics of expository writing you should remember when crafting an expository essay. The first is to keep a tight focus on the main topic, avoiding lengthy tangents, wordiness, or unrelated asides that aren’t necessary for understanding your topic.
In the same vein, be sure to pick a topic that is narrow, but not so narrow that you have a hard time writing anything about it (for example, writing about ice cream would be too broad, but writing about ice cream sold at your local grocery store between 5:00 and 5:15 pm last Saturday would be too narrow).
You must also be sure to support your topic, providing plenty of facts, details, examples, and explanations, and you must do so in an organized and logical manner. Details that can support your expository writing include:
- Descriptive details
- Charts and graphs
Formatting an expository essay
The typical format for an expository essay in school is the traditional five-paragraph essay. This includes an introduction and a conclusion, with three paragraphs for the body of the paper. Most often, these three paragraphs are limited to one subtopic each.
This is the basic essay format, but expository writing does not need to be limited to five paragraphs. No matter how long your essay is, be sure your introduction includes your thesis statement and that the paper is based on facts rather than opinions. And, as with all good essay writing, make sure to connect your paragraphs with transitions.
Methods for writing an expository essay
There are a few different methods for writing an expository essay. These include:
- Compare and contrast
- Cause and effect
- Problem and solution
- Extended definition
Generally, you will want to pick one method for each piece of expository writing. However, you may find that you can combine a few methods. The important thing is to stay focused on your topic and stick to the facts.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of expository writing, you're ready to write your essay. One final tip: be sure to give yourself plenty of time for the writing process. After you've completed your first draft, let your paper sit for a few days—this lets you return to it with fresh eyes. If you'd like a second opinion, our essay editors are always available to help.
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Expository Essays: Explaining With Facts
An expository essay involves investigating an idea, evaluating evidence, expounding on the idea and developing an argument about the idea clearly and concisely. Exposition presents an idea with plenty of detail but without criticisms. Once you understand the assignment, you must decide upon an approach, and follow the expected format.
Approaches to expository essays
Expository essays can take several different approaches with the developmental pattern. Which you choose depends on your assignment instructions and your preferences. The following patterns may be used in this type of essay:
- Cause and effect—illustrate a relationship by describing the way one variable affects another and why
- Classification—categorize subjects by specific criteria into separate groups
- Compare and contrast—consider both the similarities and differences between two or more subjects
- Definition—thoroughly define the topic
- Example—provide an example of something and describe it in detail
Format of expository essays
The nature of the expository essay means it is often used on exams or for in-class writing assignments. Regardless of whether it is an in-class writing assignment or a take-home essay, an expository essay requires following a particular format.
Introduction of the expository essay
The introduction is the first piece of an expository essay that holds the written piece together. Your introduction should contain a strong, well-written thesis statement that is both clear and concise. The thesis statement must stay narrow enough in scope to meet the assignment guidelines. Without a thesis statement that is up to par, you are unlikely to write the assignment effectively.
Body paragraphs of the expository essay
The body paragraphs of the expository essay, regardless of how many of them there are, must include evidential support. This support can be anecdotal, factual, logical or statistical. Employ the use of smooth transitions between body paragraphs and between the body and the introduction and the conclusion.
In addition, each body paragraph must incorporate the following:
A distinct main topic to which all other sentences relate
Transitions that help your readers follow the logic of your presented information; without smooth transitions, your points can become lost in the shuffle.
Finally, each body paragraph of an exposition must focus solely on one main idea or point and establish a logical connection to the thesis statement in the introduction.
Conclusion of an expository essay
The conclusion of the expository essay restates the thesis statement as it relates to the evidential support that precedes the conclusion. Here is where you want to leave a lasting impression while also clearly wrapping up your essay. Finally, a conclusion for this essay type should never contain or introduce new information.
Example topics for an expository essay:
There is no shortage of potential topics for expository essays, but the list below gives you an idea on the types of things you might find yourself needing to explain in detail.
- Explain why some cities have teen curfews
- Explain why you like to work on a team
- Describe the consequences of excessive drug use
- Explain why laughing at embarrassing moments is good for the soul.
Whatever topic you select for an expository essay or approach you decide to take, creating an outline can help you keep your focus as you write. After completing the essay, always make sure to proofread and edit your work to ensure you receive a higher grade for the extra effort.