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 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.
What are you doing surfing the net and reading blog posts, when you should be writing? Procrastinating again, huh?
Well that’s okay. I can’t blame you—writing an expository essay can be frustrating. It doesn’t have to be that difficult, though; all you need is a gentle push in the right direction. That’s what I’m here for—hold on while I put on my Kibin superhero cape.
This blog post contains a tutorial of how to write an expository essay outline. I’ve included some helpful imagery, advice, and a downloadable outline template for your convenience.
But Wait? What’s an Expository Essay?
That’s a great question. Sadly, the answer is probably a bit more vague than you want it to be. An expository essay is a catch-all category that describes any essay where you thoroughly expose the inner workings of a topic and teach the reader something new.
In fact, this blog post could be considered an informal expository essay.
Usually, your teacher will ask you to write an expository essay to prove that you have done your research on a subject. Your goal is to effectively explain what a reader needs to know about the topic and answer relevant and interesting questions.
For the purpose of this blog post, let’s say we are writing an expository essay on the evolution of Donald Trump’s hair (I grabbed this idea straight from Crystal’s blog post about expository writing – if you haven’t read it yet, you should hop over there now. I’ll wait).
My goal in this expository essay is to expose interesting information about the topic through the revelation of factual evidence.
To avoid the daunting stare of the blank page, and to make sure that your information is organized, always start with an outline.
Expository Essay Outline Structure
There is more than one way to pattern an expository essay, including sequential, spatial, topical, and many other patterns. Since we’re writing about the evolution of Donald Trump’s hair, we’ll use a chronological pattern that will expose how Trump’s hair has evolved over time.
Here’s how the general structure will look:
Let’s break this expository essay outline down into its parts.
Expository Essay Outline: Introductory Paragraph
1. Start with a hook sentence to get your readers’ attention. Remember, your hook should be both interesting and directly related to your topic.
My hook might be “Is billionaire Donald Trump’s spectacularly bad hair real or fake?” By posing such a salient question right off the bat, I am encouraging readers to continue reading.
Seriously, haven’t you always wondered?
2.Provide background and context for the topic.Don’t assume your readers know anything about Trump or his hair (as one of my English professors once taught me, to assume makes an ass out of u and me).
For example, “Donald Trump is an American real estate mogul and media personality. In 2012, he ran for President of the United States. Trump is currently worth 3.9 billion dollars, but aside from his business success, he is best known for his amazingly bad hair.”
3.Identify the question or thesis. Here’s where you get to the point of your essay.
My thesis might be, “This essay will reveal how Donald Trump’s hair has changed over the years, and it will answer whether his mop is the real deal or a weird wig.”
(If your expository essay takes an argumentative stance, you might want to check out these examples of argumentative thesis statements with a more serious tone.)
Expository Essay Outline: Body Paragraphs
Now that you’ve caught your readers’ attention, brought them up to speed on the basics, and laid out your thesis statement, your body paragraphs are set up to offer a deeper investigation into your topic.
The exact number of body paragraphs you incorporate will depend entirely on the parameters of your assignment and/or topic. My example includes four body paragraphs.
Each body paragraph should include the following elements:
- A topic sentence that gives the main idea for your paragraph.
- Factual evidence that answers your question or supports your thesis. In my example, I’ve incorporated two pieces of factual evidence for each topic, but your essay may use more or fewer.
- Your analysis of said evidence. This is where you dig in with your commentary on the importance of the evidence.
- A good transition sentence to weave your essay together. I’m not going to dig into transitions in this article, but you can read these posts on transition sentences and transition words.
Because we are dividing the text into a chronological pattern, each body paragraph in this expository essay outline will divide the evolution of Trump’s hair into a timeline, beginning with his youth and ending with his golden years.
It’s a hairvolution!
I. Topic 1: Trump’s Hair – childhood to 17
a. Fact 1 – Family photos show Trump as a fair-haired blonde boy with a side part
b. Fact 2 – As a child, Trump’s hair could be considered normal, even attractive. Trump’s mom, Elizabeth, said, “My Donny was such a cute kid with the prettiest head of hair I’ve ever seen.”
c. Analysis – Trump’s hair wasn’t always so weird; he started out as a normal child with a normal head of hair growing up in Queens, New York.
II. Topic 2: Trump’s Hair – young man, ages 18-30
a. Fact 1 – Military photos show that Trump’s hair was starting to exhibit some elaborate coiffing featuring a soft side sweep.
b. Fact 2 – Trump’s classmate, Fred Dunst, at the New York Military Academy said, “Trump always had the nicest, fullest head of hair. Why he started wearing it in that swoop will always be beyond me.”
c. Analysis – Trump’s hair was beginning its migration from normal to bizarre, but the transition wasn’t complete. Evidence shows that Trump has always had a penchant for outlandish dos.
III. Topic 3: Trump’s Hair – his prime, ages 31-59
a. Fact 1 – At the height of Trump’s career, his hair evolved into a poof formation beginning to resemble the hair we know today.
b. Fact 2 – Trump’s eyebrows had also begun to grow out of control–almost at the same rate as his growing assets.
c. Analysis – It’s certainly conceivable that Trump began to wear his signature hairstyle as a way to conceal the beginnings of male pattern baldness. His out-of-control eyebrows and coiffure indicate that his mind is more focused on business and less on his appearance.
IV. Topic 4: Trump’s Hair – his golden years, age 60+
a. Fact 1 – Trump’s signature side sweep has officially swept the nation. Bruce Handy for Vanity Fair writes that Trump’s hair is most likely the result of a rare and unsightly “double comb-over.”
b. Fact 2 – Trump denies allegations that his hair is a badly styled toupee in a Tweet.
c. Analysis –While many accuse Trump of fooling us all with a poorly styled wig, evidence points to the fact that his hair is the real deal. Trump recognizes that his hair is imperfect, but seems self-assured in his statement that’s it’s his–much like Trump Books, Trump Model Management, Trump Shuttle, Trump Ice, Trump Mortgage, Trump Vodka, and Trump Steaks are all his too.
Expository Essay Outline: Concluding Paragraph
Finally, it’s time to write your concluding paragraph. In this paragraph, you can do any of the following:
1. Summarize your question or thesis. “Trump’s hairvolution, much like the growth of his business empire, has been nothing short of extraordinary.”
2. Discuss the larger significance of the topic. For example, “Could bad hair be an indication of wealth? Maybe future research will compare the hair of billionaires, such as Liliane Bettencourt and Warren Buffet.”
3. Reveal unanswered questions. “While Trump’s hair definitely appears to be his own, there is still question about whether the strange, yellow color comes from a bottle. After all, shouldn’t the man be gray by now?”
Expository Essay Outline Download
If you’re in the position where you need to write an expository essay, but aren’t sure where to begin, feel free to get started with this expository essay outline template(Word .doc download).
If you need more help getting started, check out these example expository essays. Once you’ve shaped your outline into a full essay, get a Kibin editor to hunt down grammar and syntax errors before you turn it in.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.