How to Write an Expository Essay

If you have been asked to write an expository essay and are unsure what this entails, read on to find out essential expository essay writing advice, guidance, and top tips! 

What Is an Expository Essay?

Expository essays relate to a given topic or subject, a process, or a collection of ideas and aim to give a clear, focused, and balanced description or explanation of it. Expository essays are normally quite short essays of only around 500 to 800 words. 

What Is the Purpose of Expository Writing?

The purpose of expository essays is to test student’s understanding and composition skills. Expository essay writing enlightens, instructs, explains or analyzes information. Whenever you are writing to describe or explain, you are using expository writing skills. 

When are Expository Essays expected? 

Expository essays are often requested as part of examinations, coursework or class work during school or university. You may not be directly told to write an expository essay but if the instructions contain the words ‘define’ or ‘explain’, an expository essay is probably required. 

How to Write an Expository Essay

The basic essay structure of five paragraphs is required for expository essays. 

Introduction:

The introduction should contain a ‘hook’ to engage the reader and is followed by a short introduction to the topic. A thesis statement that summarizes what you will say about the topic should end the introduction. Try to write your thesis statement in one sentence e.g., ‘Parents shape our lives and determine our future’. The introduction should be approximately 10% of the total word count. 

Main Body:

Begin by thinking about your main view on the topic and write a one sentence summary of your view. Next list 3-5 items you can discuss in support of your ideas. The 3-5 items will form each of the body paragraphs, and these will normally follow the structure of topic sentence, evidence (cited), explanation, and concluding sentence. There are usually 3-5 points/arguments made in the average essay (each in a new paragraph). 

Note: A minimum of three different sources of evidence are normally expected. Evidence can consist of quotes, facts and statistical information, but remember that evidence needs to be accurately cited (according to your institution’s required citation style). Well cited evidence will aid the credibility of your writing and help you to avoid unwanted accusations of plagiarism. The main body should be around 75-80% of your overall word count. 

Conclusion:

An essay conclusion should answer or paraphrase the thesis, summarize the main points or arguments that were made in the essay, and end with a broad/wide statement about the topic in general or propose the next steps. Do not present any new information or evidence in a conclusion. This section should account for 10-15% of the total word count. 

Read also: How to write a narrative essay

Types of Expository Essays

There are five main types of papers in expository essay writing:

  1. A descriptive essay which will involve describing a person, a place, an experience, an event, or a situation. For example, ‘Describe an experience that changed your view on life’ or ‘What would your ultimate holiday involve?’. 
  2. A process essay will answer a question about how to do something e.g., ‘How to Succeed at High School’ or ‘Response Process in IT Support’. 
  3. A comparison essay will involve writing about different topics and comparing them through explanation of their similarities and differences. For instance, ‘Compare and contrast different communication methods’ or ‘Employment V University: Pros and cons.’ 
  4. A cause and effect essay will relate to how an issue occurs and what results from the issue. An example of this may be ‘What Causes Bullying and What are its Effects’ or ‘Global Warming and its Environmental Impact’.  
  5. A problem or solution essay will explain a problem and analyze potential solutions to the problem e.g., ‘How can Businesses keep up with Rapid Technological Advancements?’ or ‘Reducing Depression and Anxiety Disorders in Children’. 

Pro Tips

  1. The goal is to give the reader an informative and balanced explanation in your expository essay writing so, avoid the use of the first person (‘I’) unless the instructions request your personal opinions or experiences e.g., descriptive essays (‘Describe a time when you…’). 
  2. Contractions (can’t, let’s, ‘it’s), figurative language (e.g., similes, hyperboles, metaphors), informal language and slang (kids, hang out, guy, awesome) are not normally acceptable in expository essays (excluding quotes and dialogue). 
  3. Try writing the main body of your essay before the introduction or conclusion. It is often easier! 
  4. How to write an expository paragraph with a smooth transition to the next one? Use appropriate transition words and phrases to help the essay ‘flow’. Examples include, additionally, firstly, secondly, however, similarly, whereas, hence, conversely, finally. 
  5. Proofread, proofread, proofread! As with any piece of writing, careful proofreading can allow you to spot and correct many spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors as well as help you make better word choices, and ensure everything makes complete sense. 

To summarize, expository essays can often seem more complex than they are. Pay attention to the essay title or instructions, think clear, focused, and balanced in your description or explanation, include a minimum of 5 paragraphs (with cited supporting evidence) and you may do much better than you think! And if you ever face any problems with it, just hire expository essay writers to help you out.

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