An expository essay is probably the most common type of academic assignment after argumentative essays that students have to deal with. The purpose of an expository essay is not to persuade the reader to share a certain point of view, but rather to explore and explain an idea. In other words, you do not prove your point on a contentious topic, but analyze the subject matter and set forth an argument based on this analysis. With this kind of writing being as common as it is, learning how to write high-quality essays of this type is essential for your long-term academic success – and this is exactly what we are going to help you with in this article.
The Main Features of Expository Essays
Expository essays are usually relatively short pieces of writing that are intended as a way to test your understanding of the subject and your ability to analyze and explain it. They are often used as a part of a test or an exam, which means that you sometimes have to write them on the spot, without preparation. Therefore, they do not necessarily require preliminary research, as you have to write them only with the knowledge you have at the moment, without a possibility to gather new information.
An essay may not be directly referred to as an expository one, but there are certain telltale signs that should make it fairly obvious. The words “explain” or “explore” usually mean that you should provide an explanation or an exploration of the subject matter – not necessarily offer an original argument. You may also be asked to define the meaning of a term – although it sounds even more straightforward, it does not mean that you simply have to copy the dictionary definition. Instead, you are supposed to explore different ideas and viewpoints on the concept in question.
One of the main characteristics of an expository essay and its main difference from an argumentative essay is its objectivity. You do not prove your point – you explore the subject matter, view it from different sides, and provide an impartial analysis. That is why you are usually advised against using first-person pronouns and talking about personal preferences and experiences altogether.
General Tips for Writing an Expository Essay
- Use unambiguous and clear language. As the main purpose of an expository essay it to explain things to the reader, you should make sure to avoid vague wording. An explanation is not worth much if it can easily be misunderstood;
- Use evidential support. Often you will not have an opportunity to gather facts and data beforehand, so every bit of factual knowledge on the subject is worth even more than usual. Make sure you remember everything you know about the topic of the essay and use every scrap of information to your benefit;
- Look for ways to be creative. While an expository essay does not seem like the right type of writing assignment to be creative, you nevertheless should look for ways to express yourself rather than simply stick to the formula. An unusual analogy, a contrast with another matter, even a personal experience, when rightly used, can help you improve your expository essay;
- Stick to the facts. That said, avoid expressing opinions that are unbacked by solid evidence. It is usually a bit of good advice for academic writing, but doubly so for expository essays.
Structure of an Expository Essay
The structure of this essay type is similar to most other academic assignments, albeit with some nuances.
You start with a “hook” – the first sentence that aims to attract the reader’s attention and encourage him/her to read further. After that, you provide some background for your exposition. Ask yourself what the reader needs to know to make sense of your following argumentation, and introduce this information here. You finish the introduction with a thesis statement – the main idea of your essay boiled down to a single sentence.
You follow up with body paragraphs. Make sure you introduce only one idea per paragraph and thoroughly explore it within its confines. Introduce your points in a certain order: you may either start with the strongest argument and support it with weaker ones or build up to the strongest one – it is your call.
Finally, sum up your exposition in the conclusion. Do not present any new information at this point – now you should concentrate on supporting and reinforcing the points you have made so far.
As you can see, with proper structure and ordered approach there is nothing particularly difficult about writing an expository essay. Simply follow these steps, and you will have no problems with this sort of work.