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Introductions To Expository Essays Characteristics

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:

  • Anecdotes
  • Comparisons
  • Quotations
  • Statistics
  • Descriptive details
  • Definitions
  • 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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You’re not only going to encounter expository essays during your studies, this kind of writing is also used by many specialists in their everyday routine when they have to explain something or give written instructions. Use the following tips to learn more about explanatory essays and improve your writing skills.

  • Present the facts only.
  • You shouldn’t present your personal opinion on the topic. Expository writing narrows down your task to picking up appropriate information and facts that support the thesis statement. This type of writing requires detailed explanations or descriptions from you. Imagine that your readers know nothing about the subject matter, so you have to write everything in detail, even things which seem evident to you.

  • Keep focused.
  • The most important feature of an effective expository essay is staying focused on the topic without wandering from the subject. You should also avoid wordy explanations and irrelevant extra information that won’t lead to a better understanding of the topic. To avoid verbosity choose a narrow topic that will let you concentrate on presenting a few key ideas.

  • Compare and contrast.
  • One of the methods for expository writing is the discussion of similarities and differences between two people, objects, or places. You don’t need to list all the similarities and divergent features, choose the most important ones that distinguish a particular person or thing.

  • Determine the causes and effects.
  • Explaining how things influence each other is another strategy. You can start by introducing a certain fact and then list and analyze the causes that led to that state of things.

  • Describe the process.
  • Another type of writing, the so-called process essay, provides detailed guidelines on how to do something. Before you start to write, you should gather all the necessary information because you need to be an expert in that topic to instruct your readers appropriately.

  • Give a definition.
  • One more strategy is explaining the meaning of a particular word or term. You may choose any object for your close examination, either a living thing (a flower or animal) or an abstract notion (friendship or love).

  • Find a solution.
  • You can state a problem in the introduction and then come up with its possible solutions in the body paragraphs. You may also pose a question and then provide detailed answers to it.

  • Stick to the five-paragraph structure.
  • You should use the standard structure: the introduction containing the thesis statement, three body paragraphs explaining the thesis, and the conclusion restating the main idea.