Expository essays are essays that cover or expose a topic that you’ve selected, in a straightforward away. The purpose is to provide information about the topic, rather than influence what the reader thinks. In an expository essay, you want to explain your topic in a logical, direct manner. Expository essays are informative and should not include your opinion about a subject.
The entire purpose of an expository essay is to inform the reader about your selected topic, in a completely non-biased manner. Every student in a school with common core standards will need to know how to complete this type of essay. Take a look at an expository essay outline to help you get started, or consider using a writing tool that can guide you through the creation of a high quality essay.
Before you start working on filling in your template, some research is essential. An expository essay requires evidence to prove the point you are trying to make. It's not enough to simply state what you think without evidence. Imagine a scientist is reading your paper. What information would they want to verify? Make sure you have sources for everything that needs it.
Above all, these sources or evidence should be reputable. You can’t quote a Wikipedia article and expect that to be good enough. Likewise, a personal blog is not a good place to select your facts from. If you aren’t sure if your source is reputable, ask yourself what credentials they have. A government, educational, or similar source will likely be acceptable. Likewise, scientific publications are good places to start.
Choose an Essay Topic
Your topic may be assigned, but if you have a chance to select your own, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, look for a topic that interests you. It’s not necessary to know all about the topic, but if you are curious or interested in it, you’ll find it far easier to write.
Second, your topic should be fairly narrow. Big topics are better suited to books than an essay. If you have a large topic, consider the various ways you can narrow it down to make it fit into an expository essay. Once you have the topic in mind, you’re ready to start planning out your essay.
Structuring Your Essay
Whether you are writing for middle school, high school or college the correct expository essay format is important. Ideally, you want an essay that is easy to read and presents the information in a clear manner. That’s why there are specific methods of writing an expository essay.
Most expository essays are just five paragraphs long, with one paragraph each for the intro and conclusion. That leaves you with three paragraphs for the body of the essay. If you have more information, you can add more body paragraphs, but these will always be sandwiched between the introduction and conclusion. Keep in mind that while it's possible to write a longer essay, it's easiest to stick to the basics unless you have other instructions from your professor.
It’s also important to start out with an expository essay outline.An outline gives your writing project structure and keeps it focused. If you’re trying to write a high quality paper, clear, defined paragraphs that cover each section of information should be included. Writing up an outline ahead of time is a good way to ensure you write a great essay that stays on topic.
If you find yourself struggling to create an outline, you may want to start with a template. Working with a template can help you structure your essay and will allow you to create a top quality paper to turn in. Templates give you a prompt for each section, to get you thinking about what you need to cover.
Start at the Beginning
Your expository essay should start out with an introduction that uses a hook to grab the reader's attention. An interesting fact or an issue that needs a solution can be a useful way to begin. From there, introduce your main idea and provide some context. Without context, the reader is left wondering why they need to know what you have to say.
The introduction of the essay presents the topic and lets your reader know exactly what to expect from the essay. Cover the basic points that you’ll be discussing or talk about how you will answer a specific question. This section lets the reader know if they want to keep reading or not.
Next up is the thesis statement or the core of the entire essay. Remember that the thesis should not include any bias. Your opinion should not be referenced in the thesis, or anywhere else in the essay. This is what the entire essay will be based around, so give your thesis sentence some serious thought.
Flesh Out the Body of the Essay
Each of the three paragraphs in the middle of your essay will need to have its own topic sentence that supports the primary topic. These sentences should relate directly to your thesis sentence, so if you aren't sure what to write, keep this in mind. It's essential that you stay on topic and that everything throughout the essay relate back to that singular thesis statement.
After every topic sentence, fill out the paragraphs by providing more information to support the starting statement. This may include any evidence in the form of quotes, anecdotes, personal experience, etc. The best evidence will come from highly respected sources that people will believe.
Once you've stated your reasons for the thesis, don't forget to explain why the evidence is particularly important and why you chose it for inclusion. Analyze the evidence for the reader to ensure they come to the correct conclusion and understand why you found it essential to support the thesis.
Each of these body paragraphs should transition into the next to create flow. Do this through the use of sentences that create continuity. Creating a paper that is easily readable, rather than disjointed and piecemeal is important for success. Go back over it afterwards to ensure that each paragraph flows smoothly into the next.
Wrap It All Up in the Conclusion
The final paragraph should restate the thesis sentence and summarize the points made throughout the essay. Be careful not to add any new information, as this is only for reviewing what has already been said throughout the body of the essay.
Ideally, the conclusion will give the reader something to keep them thinking about the essay topic. What have they learned in the essay? Recap this, as well as adding the thesis statement. This will get them thinking, which is exactly the point of writing the essay.
The final step in writing your essay isn’t writing at all. Go back over everything and make sure it is worded correctly and for maximum impact. You should also look for any mistakes that need to be corrected. It can be helpful to have someone not associated with the project to read over it. Fresh eyes can often pick up far more than your own.
Once you've revised and edited the essay to ensure it is free from errors in both spelling and grammar, it's time to share your masterpiece with the world.
*Pop: to suddenly break open or come away from something often with a short, loud noise (Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary).
Option 1: Write expository essay in gunpowder. Light. Run.
Option 2: Use ink to string together words in a way that makes your reader say, “Whoa.”
I recommend the second option for various reasons, not the least of which is that I kind of like having ten fingers. I know what you are thinking: “Gunpowder go boom. Boom is fun.” Well, turn off Spike TV for a second, put on some pants, and give me a chance to show you a better way to write an expository essay.
Understanding the Basics of an Expository Essay
An expository essay involves coming up with an idea that you believe in, doing some investigation on said idea, taking a stance, and then formulating these thoughts into a clear and concise essay that, usually, argues your idea.
I know what you are thinking. Sounds a heck of a lot like an argumentative essay. True, they are similar. The difference lies in the preparation and depth of research.
Argumentative essays are often assigned as capstone projects. There is a reason many programs give you a semester to finish one.
On the other hand, expository essays are often presented on tests or in-class writing assignments. This means that the “research” step is sometimes done in your own head.
While expository essays will have some of the same structural qualities of an argumentative essay, they tend to take on a more personal tone. But, don’t mistake “personal tone” for “opinion.” Expository essays must inform based on logic.
The expository essay is one of the most traditional essay forms. If you are a student at any level, these bad boys are unavoidable. You will have to write one, or many. And, the most traditional way to write this most traditional essay is the 5 paragraph essay (cue lightning and thunder sounds).
Don’t worry. You’re going to have ample opportunity to put your own creative touches on your expository essay, but first you have to understand the basics. Read on for how to write an expository essay.
How to Write an Expository Essay that Pops — in the Wrong Way
I know you’re excited about poppin’ that essay like it’s hot, but there are certain aspects of an expository essay that are untouchable. If your essay lacks one of the following, your teacher might pop it straight into the trash.
A supportable topic: When choosing a topic, make sure you can argue it or take a stance in some way. Many times, the expository essay you write will be based on an essay prompt that is provided to you.
Choose an answer that can be expounded. If you can’t come up with at least 3 strong pieces of evidence in support of your answer, you better keep brainstorming.
Reliable sources: If you are working on an expository essay assignment that allows you to do some research, use reliable sources.
It sounds self-explanatory, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve edited papers for Kibin that contained “research” from Wikipedia. If you are using Wikipedia as your source of information, you may be led to believe Gary Oldman is a giraffe or that Tim Howard is the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
That kind of information is going to make your paper pop for the wrong reasons. Unless you are writing an expository essay about Wikipedia being an unreliable source, keep its information out of your paper.
An appropriate method of development: It is important to choose the best method for organizing your essay before you tackle the outline.
Methods include compare and contrast, definition, description, and many more. Think about which method will allow you to formulate your ideas in the most convincing and informative way.
For example, perhaps the prompt asks, “What is the best online editing service?” You could use “compare and contrast,” but there are tons of redundant companies out there that would waste too much of your and the readers’ time. Instead, you could use the “exemplification” model to give a few examples why Kibin is obviously the coolest kid at school.”
A clear outline: Before you jump into writing your essay, create an outline so you can stay on track during the writing process.
This writing skeleton allows you to see your topic and method of development on paper, so you don’t get lost during the writing process. It can include your thesis, topic sentences, and evidence. It may end up being quite similar to that of an argumentative essay outline.
An introduction, body, and conclusion: No matter how you decide to structure your paper, you’re going to need these three in there somewhere.
Your introduction should, you guessed it, introduce the topic. First, provide some background information. Tell the reader why this topic is important. Grab their attention.
Then, to avoid creating one of the unfocused papers that land on many teachers’ desks, end your introduction with a thesis statement. This will clearly set forth the topic you will be describing, arguing for or against, etc. The thesis statement is the star around which your entire essay orbits.
The body paragraphs contain the meat and potatoes, and by meat and potatoes I mean the nuts and bolts, and by nuts and bolts I mean the evidence and information. Each section of the body should contain one piece of your evidence or info. This allows your writing to stay focused, and it allows your reader to easily transition from one point to the next.
Your conclusion should restate the importance of your topic. You can quickly review the information and evidence you have already presented, but do not add any new information at this point.
Final Touches: Once you finish writing, it is important to go back and double check your work.
- You want to make sure that your topic is clearly presented or argued in your thesis statement.
- You want to make sure that each piece of evidence in the body of your essay strengthens the idea of your thesis in some way.
- You want to look for any holes that can be punched in your information or argument.
- And, of course, remove any mistakes that could distract the reader from your awesome ideas. A great way to do this is to have someone else look at your work, like the highly skilled editors at Kibin.
Tips for Turning that Dud of an Essay into a Roman Candle
Now that you understand all of the essential aspects of how to write an expository essay, let’s look at ways to spice it up a bit.
Focus your topic: So, you want to write your paper on the Beat Generation? That’s great! But, you do realize that the Beat Generation was AN ENTIRE FREAKIN’ GENERATION, RIGHT!?! We’re talking about dozens of writers over a decade that inspired obscenity trials in the 50s, new movements in the 60s, and meh movies in the 2000s. That’s a lot to tackle and, frankly, it’s too much for an expository essay.
Instead, focus on something that interests you within the Beat Generation, like the qualities of Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s On the Road.
The interest part is important, because if you are bored with the topic, you’re words aren’t going to pop off the page (more on that later).
By narrowing your focus, you give yourself more wiggle room for creativity, because the amount of information you need to cover is less overwhelming.
Break the rules: One of my favorite things to do when writing is to break the rules.
Call me a rebel, but just the fact that we call them “grammar rules” makes me want to scream, “Anarchy!” and then proceed to write my entire paper as one run-on sentence.
Some of my favorite writers (Cormac McCarthy, Jack Kerouac, Hubert Selby Jr.) said to H-E-double hockey sticks with all that jazz and did what they wanted.
The beat writers, like Kerouac, loved to laugh in the face of literary conformity (I mean, c’mon, dingledodies?). They could get away with it because they knew the rules they were breaking, and then they did it because they believed it made their writing pop like those roman candles.
So, now that you know how to write an expository essay in the standard, proper, correct way, get creative with it. Take some chances. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new structures and methods of developing your essay.
Someone has to be the first, right?
Have a little fun: If you are having fun writing an essay, the odds are that the reader is going to enjoy reading it.
On the other hand, if you think essays about lowering the legal drinking age have been written about 72,589 times too many, and yet you choose this topic for your essay, chances are you will be bored while you are writing it.
Can you guess what emotion your reader is most likely to feel?
Instead, write about something that is unique and interesting to you. Perhaps you believe Coca Cola is the black liquid of Yankee imperialism. Or, maybe you believe you can write a one paragraph essay arguing that five paragraph essays are fascist.
The expository essay allows you to explore your ideas, as long as you can produce them in a logical way. So, do it. You might just make it pop and keep all of your digits.
For some creative writing prompts, check out this author’s list.
For some examples of expository essays, check out the example expository essays over at Kibin.com.
Finally check out this post for more information on the dos and don’ts of expository writing.
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