A Guide to Expository Writing

Expository writing is used to express factual info. It is the language of understanding the world.  Expository writing is everywhere, not just in school settings, as it’s present anytime there’s info to be expressed. It can take the form of an academic essay or a report for a business.

Defining an Expository Essay

An expository essay has three fundamental parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Each is key to writing a clear article or effective argument.

The introduction: The initial paragraph is where you will create the foundation for your essay and give the reader a summary of your thesis. Use your first sentence to grab the reader’s attention, and then follow up with several sentences that give your reader context for the info you’re about to cover.

The body: Include three to five paragraphs in the body of your expository essay. The body can be longer, depending on your topic. Each paragraph starts with a topic sentence where you make your case or state your goal. Each topic sentence supports your thesis statement. Each paragraph involves several sentences that expand on the info and support the topic sentence. Lastly, the final sentence of a paragraph provides a transition to the next paragraph in the essay.

The conclusion: The last section of your expository essay gives the reader a clear concise summary of your thesis. The intent is to propose further action, offer a solution, or pose new questions to explore, not just summarizing the essay.

Forms  of Expository Writing

Expository writing is one of the four traditional modes of discourse. It might involve parts of narration, description, and argumentation. Unlike creative or persuasive writing, expository writing’s main purpose is to deliver info about an issue or idea using facts.

Exposition may take one of several forms:

  • Descriptive/definition: Topics are defined by characteristics, traits, and examples. An encyclopedia entry is a type of descriptive essay.
  • Process/sequential: This essay lists and discusses the steps needed to complete a task. A recipe at the end of an story in a food magazine is one example.
  • Comparative/contrast: This type of exposition is used to illustrate how two or more subjects are the same and different. An article that discusses the difference between owning and renting a home and the pros and cons of each is an example.
  • Cause/effect: This type of essay illustrates how one thing leads to a result. An example is a personal blog writing about a workout plan and recording the results over time.
  • Problem/solution: This kind of an essay presents a problem and possible solutions.
  • Classification: A classification essay breaks down a wide-ranging topic into categories.

Best Practices  for Expository Writing

As you write, think about some of these tips for creating an effective expository essay:

Begin where you know the information best. You don’t have to write your intro first. Then start putting in your info according to each paragraph’s topic.

Clear and concise. Readers have a short attention span. Make your case in language that the reader can comprehend.

Just the facts. While an exposition can be persuasive, it should not be based on opinion only. Build your case with authoritative sources that can be verified.

Watch your voice and tone. How you address the reader is contingent on the type of essay you’re penning. An essay penned in the first person is fine for a travel essay but is not proper if you’re a business reporter discussing a patent lawsuit. Take a few minutes to consider your audience before you start writing.

Tips for Planning an Expository Essay

  1. Brainstorm your topic: Write concepts on a  piece of paper. Connect them, or just make lists. Just jot down concepts, and the wheels in your head should  begin to turn. When you’ve got a great concept, then repeat the brainstorming exercise with concept ideas that you want to pursue on that topic and info you can put in. From this list, you’ll start to see the beginnings of a great essay.
  2. Write your thesis: When your concepts and ideas start to crystallize into a sentence that  summarizes the topic you’re writing about, you can write your thesis sentence. Jot down in one sentence the main idea that you’ll tackle.
  3. Check your thesis: Is it clear? For this kind of essay, you will stay with the facts and evidence.  You don’t want your thesis to be too narrow or wide-ranging to be covered in your essay. If it’s not a manageable concept, refine it. Don’t be discouraged if you have to revise it if your research finds that your first idea was off-base. It’s all a part of the process of focusing on the content.
  4. Outline your essay: Making a quick outline can save you time by organizing your areas of interest and narrowing them down a bit. When you view your topics in an organized list, you might discard off-topic ideas before you research them or during research.
  5. Conduct Research: Now you need data and sources to support your thesis statement. Look for sources written by experts and thought leaders. Potential sources involve statistics,  charts, and graphs.
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