Stoa Expository Essays

Tips on Writing an Expository Essay

The purpose of the expository essay is to explain a topic in a logical and straightforward manner. Without bells and whistles, expository essays present a fair and balanced analysis of a subject based on facts—with no references to the writer’s opinions or emotions.

A typical expository writing prompt will use the words “explain” or “define,” such as in, “Write an essay explaining how the computer has changed the lives of students.” Notice there is no instruction to form an opinion or argument on whether or not computers have changed students’ lives. The prompt asks the writer to “explain,” plain and simple. However, that doesn’t mean expository essay writing is easy.

The Five-Step Writing Process for Expository Essays
Expository writing is a life skill. More than any other type of writing, expository writing is a daily requirement of most careers. Understanding and following the proven steps of the writing process helps all writers, including students, master the expository essay.

Expository Essay Structure
Usually, the expository essay is composed of five paragraphs. The introductory paragraph contains the thesis or main idea. The next three paragraphs, or body of the essay, provide details in support of the thesis. The concluding paragraph restates the main idea and ties together the major points of essay.

Here are expository essay tips for each part of the essay structure and writing process:

1. Prewriting for the Expository Essay
In the prewriting phase of writing an expository essay, students should take time to brainstorm about the topic and main idea. Next, do research and take notes. Create an outline showing the information to be presented in each paragraph, organized in a logical sequence.

2. Drafting the Expository Essay
When creating the initial draft of an expository essay, consider the following suggestions:

  • The most important sentence in the introductory paragraph is the topic sentence, which states the thesis or main idea of the essay. The thesis should be clearly stated without giving an opinion or taking a position. A good thesis is well defined, with a manageable scope that can be adequately addressed within a five-paragraph essay.
  • Each of the three body paragraphs should cover a separate point that develops the essay’s thesis. The sentences of each paragraph should offer facts and examples in support of the paragraph’s topic.
  • The concluding paragraph should reinforce the thesis and the main supporting ideas. Do not introduce new material in the conclusion.
  • Since an expository essay discusses an event, situation, or the views of others, and not a personal experience, students should write in the third person (“he,” “she,” or “it”), and avoid “I” or “you” sentences.

3. Revising the Expository Essay
In the revision phase, students review, modify, and reorganize their work with the goal of making it the best it can be. Keep these considerations in mind:

  • Does the essay give an unbiased analysis that unfolds logically, using relevant facts and examples?
  • Has the information been clearly and effectively communicated to the reader?
  • Watch out for “paragraph sprawl,” which occurs when the writer loses focus and veers from the topic by introducing unnecessary details.
  • Is the sentence structure varied? Is the word choice precise?
  • Do the transitions between sentences and paragraphs help the reader’s understanding?
  • Does the concluding paragraph communicate the value and meaning of the thesis and key supporting ideas?

If the essay is still missing the mark, take another look at the topic sentence. A solid thesis statement leads to a solid essay. Once the thesis works, the rest of the essay falls into place more easily.

4. Editing the Expository Essay
Next, proofread and correct errors in grammar and mechanics, and edit to improve style and clarity. While an expository essay should be clear and concise, it can also be lively and engaging. Having a friend read the essay helps writers edit with a fresh perspective.

5. Publishing the Expository Essay
Sharing an expository essay with a teacher, parent, or other reader can be both exciting and intimidating. Remember, there isn’t a writer on earth who isn’t sensitive about his or her own work. The important thing is to learn from the experience and use the feedback to make the next essay better.

Essay Variations
Essay writing is a huge part of a education today. Most students must learn to write various kinds of essays during their academic careers, including different types of expository essay writing:

  • Definition essays explain the meaning of a word, term, or concept. The topic can be a concrete subject such as an animal or tree, or it can be an abstract term, such as freedom or love. This type of essay should discuss the word’s denotation (literal or dictionary definition), as well as its connotation or the associations that a word usually brings to mind.
  • Classification essays break down a broad subject or idea into categories and groups. The writer organizes the essay by starting with the most general category and then defines and gives examples of each specific classification.
  • Compare and contrast essays describe the similarities and differences between two or more people, places, or things. Comparison tells how things are alike and contrast shows how they are different.
  • Cause and effect essays explain how things affect each other and depend on each other. The writer identifies a clear relationship between two subjects, focusing on why things happen (causes) and/or what happens as a result (effects).
  • “How to” essays, sometimes called process essays, explain a procedure, step-by-step process, or how to do something with the goal of instructing the reader.

 

Time4Writing Teaches Expository Essay Writing
Time4Writing essay writing courses offer a highly effective way to learn how to write the types of essays required for school, standardized tests, and college applications. A unique online writing program for elementary, middle school, and high school students, Time4Writing breaks down the writing process into manageable chunks, easily digested by young writers. Students steadily build writing skills and confidence, guided by one-on-one instruction with a dedicated, certified teacher. Our middle school Welcome to the Essay and Advanced Essay courses teach students the fundamentals of writing essays, including the expository essay. The high school Exciting Essay Writing course focuses in depth on the essay writing process with preparation for college as the goal. The courses also cover how to interpret essay writing prompts in testing situations. Read what parents are saying about their children’s writing progress in Time4Writing courses.


Information about Expository Writing

 

What is Expository Writing?

What are some Expository Organizational Patterns?

Why Teach Exposition?

 

What is Expository Writing?

Exposition is a type of oral or written discourse that is used to explain, describe, give information or inform. The creator of an expository text can not assume that the reader or listener has prior knowledge or prior understanding of the topic that is being discussed. One important point to keep in mind for the author is to try to use words that clearly show what they are talking about rather then blatantly telling the reader what is being discussed. Since clarity requires strong organization, one of the most important mechanisms that can be used to improve our skills in exposition is to provide directions to improve the organization of the text.

 

What are some Expository Organizational Patterns

In order to give you more information about oral and written exposition we have provided you with eight different examples of expository organizational patterns. You will find that most of these organizational patterns are very familiar to you. You may have never really considered them to be "kind" of organizational patterns. As you read through the different types of organizational patterns that are presented below, try to figure out how many of these organizational patterns do you already find yourself writing or speaking on a daily basis?

Circumlocution

Depicts a pattern in which the speaker discusses a topic, then diverts to discuss a related but different topic.

Narrative Interspersion

A pattern or a sub-pattern imbedded in other patterns in which the speaker or writer intersperses a narrative within the expository text for specific purposes, including to clarify, or elaborate on a point or to link the subject matter to a personal experience.

Recursion

When the speaker discusses a topic, then restates it using different words or symbolism. It is used to drive home a point and to give special emphasis to the text.

(Ball, 1991, "Organizational Patterns in the Oral and Written Language of African American Adolescents", adapted from dissertation submitted to Stanford University.)

 

Description

The author describes a topic by listing characteristics, features, and examples

 

for example, char- acteristics are

Sequence

The author lists items or events in numerical or chronological order.

first, second, third; next; then; finally

Comparison

The author explains how two or more things are alike and/or how they are different.

different; in contrast; alike; same as; on the other hand

Cause and Effect

The author lists one or more causes and the resulting effect or effects.

reasons why; if...then; as a result; therefore; because

Problem and Solution

The author states a problem and lists one or more solutions for the problem. A variation of this pattern is the question- and-answer format in which the author poses a question and then answers it.

problem is; dilemma is; puzzle is solved; question... answer

(permissions pending, Tompkins)

 

 

 

Why teach exposition?

Let's think about the type of writing that most of us encounter in our daily lives. When you pick up and read a non-fiction book, magazines, or newspaper article the author uses expository writing to inform you, the reader, about the topic. At school, students are required to submit school exams and research papers as a means for their teachers to grade their progress. Finally, at work, people are required to produce business reports and memorandums to inform their superiors and co-workers about the occurrences that take place at other levels of the company. In addition, oral exposition is primarily observed in oral academic presentations, business talks, and speeches that are delivered to a group of people. As each of these different cases illustrate, expository writing and speech surround us in our everyday lives. The primary intent of the Expository Writing Program contained at this web site will be to help move students closer to mastering the hows, whens, and wheres to select different oral and written expository styles for a variety of real world contexts.

 

Students will greatly benefit from understanding the varying types of oral and writing styles they can use for academic and workplace activities. The following information discusses the different types of writing that can be used and provides you with examples of some expository writing prompts that you may expect to encounter.

 

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