Expository writing is a style of text that aims to make something clear, explaining and expounding upon a subject to give clarity and context. It has the same root as the word ‘expose.’

We’ve all read something at some point where we don’t follow what the author is trying to say. Maybe they’ve assumed a level of prior knowledge that we don’t have, or perhaps they’re not explaining enough. But, again, it is where expository writing is needed.

Expository writing, or exposition, is explaining information in a written form. It deals with facts rather than fiction and takes on a formal tone. It differs from a persuasive text that might instead spend time appealing to the reader’s emotions.

Where can I find expository writing?

Expository writing is everywhere! It’s commonly thought of as a purely literary form of writing. While academics often use it in their essays and journals to present new ideas and theories, this isn’t the only place it’s found.

You will read expository articles in newspapers and magazines that aim to deliver the latest news. Online blogs also often use expository writing to provide information about travel, fashion, books, or whatever the blog’s topic might be!

Another great example of expository writing is an instruction manual. A step-by-step guide like this might not look the same as the other examples, as it doesn’t take the form of continuous prose, but it nonetheless aims to explain something and get across information. It makes it expository writing. The same goes for recipes! A list of instructions to make some yummy cookies aims to explain how to make the biscuits, which is classed as expository writing.

What are the types of expository writing?

As we’ve seen, expository writing doesn’t always take the same form! Here are the main examples of exposition:

  • Descriptive or definition – this writing aims to convey information by being descriptive. It uses more sensory and descriptive language than other types of expository writing. Elements of descriptive expository writing are often integrated into their different forms.
  • ‘How to – this writing details a process to explain how to achieve a result. It is instructional in tone, like a recipe.
  • Comparison – this type of writing compares and contrasts two things to explain them better.
  • Cause and effect – this type of writing also looks at the relationship between two different things but instead focuses on how one leads to another. It is sometimes used in analyses of current affairs or historical events.
  • Problem and solution – this type of writing presents a problem and explains a potential solution or solution.

What’s the difference between expository writing and persuasive writing?

Expository writing is often talked about in conjunction with persuasive writing. Unfortunately, this makes many people assume they are the same but very different!

Persuasive writing is centered around an argument and aims to get the reader to agree with a particular viewpoint. It differs from the expository essay, which does not argue, and aims to impart information and elucidate the reader on a topic.

Because of this, expository writing is often seen as the more trusted form of text. It provides the reader with all the information they need to decide about a topic without pushing them towards a particular standpoint.

In academia and other essay formats, persuasive and expository pieces follow a similar layout. They both open with a strong thesis statement backed up throughout the body of the text and firmly reiterated in the conclusion. Of course, the thesis statement of persuasive essays is always an opinion, but the thesis statement of expository essays is a fact.

How can I write my exposition?

Think carefully about what kind of expository writing best suits your cause. For example, if you’re trying to explain how to fix a change a tire, then you’ll probably need to follow the ‘how to style. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t integrate elements of other styles! For example, you could use a descriptive style to describe how a tire should look when it’s correctly fitted or a comparative style to explain the right way to change it by contrasting this against the wrong way.

In expository writing, you’ll often need to use evidence to help strengthen your explanation. It is where your initial research will be really useful! Your evidence might be factual or statistical, but often it is simply logical. Use reason to support your explanation, maybe even integrating real-world examples or short anecdotes.

Can fiction contain exposition?

The simple answer is yes! So far, we’ve looked at very straightforward, pure expository writing, but fictional texts can also contain elements of exposition. Exposition in fiction is where background information that the reader needs to understand the current situation is given. It often includes information about events that occurred before the book was set.

Integrating exposition into fiction cannot be easy without removing the reader from the imaginary world. In addition, it can sometimes seem unnatural for characters to start talking in detail about events in the past suddenly! It is called an exposition dump and is looked down upon as bad storytelling practice.

Instead, authors often try to subtly slip in the information that the reader needs, for example, if an event recalls earlier events.

What’s the point of learning about exposition?

Children learn about exposition for several reasons. First, understanding this type of writing can help them identify it in the real world, which can be very useful. Expository writing is often more trustworthy than other writing sources, such as persuasive texts, which might contain a heavy bias or inaccurate information.

Studying exposition can also help them create their explanation texts! It is useful for several reasons. First, it can help them in the future, when their jobs may well involve sending explanatory or instructional pieces to others. It might be in the form of an email – but it’s still exposition!

It also helps them learn how to communicate information better. For example, studying how to explain things in a written manner allows them to understand all the traditional grammatical elements of exposition that might get dropped in verbal communication. In addition, it will enable them to communicate in formal situations, such as job interviews, where they must expound upon their experience and suitability for the role.

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