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How to Write an Expository Essay

July 03, 2018 Types of essays
How to Write an Expository Essay

Have you heard of a popular tool in the world of cinema called ‘exposition’? It is a technique that filmmakers often use to fill in the audience on key plot points of the movie. When looking at the expository essay definition, similar rules apply.

An expository essay is one of those essays that you find at the end of an exam or a semester. Professors love assigning it as it’s a perfect way to test a student’s knowledge. Knowing how to write an expository essay is a valuable skill, and you’ll write lots of them in college. It’s easy, but if you need some essay writing help - you can always rely on our service.

Without further ado, let’s define expository essay and learn how to write a good one.


Table Of Contents

What Is An Expository Essay?

The term ‘expository’ comes from the word ‘exposition.’ Exposition is ‘a type of writing meant to explain, inform, or describe.’ An expository essay is a structured academic paper investigating an idea. It consists of looking at evidence, expanding on an idea, and presenting the concept in simple language.

An expository essay usually builds on the simple 5-paragraph-essay structure. An attention-grabbing intro with a thesis, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Body paragraphs must have supporting evidence for every argument. As mentioned before, it is a standard genre used in exams and in-class writing. Students often write such essays fast with little to no preparation.



5 Main Types of Expository Writing

There are 5 main types of expository essays:

  • Descriptive Essay: This is an essay in which the writer is asked to describe something. This could be a person, place, experience, situation, etc. Descriptive Essays are unique in the sense that you have a lot of freedom when it comes to the content. You should present something exciting or beautiful, all the while keeping the reader interested.

  • Process Essay: The classic “How To” assignment. The purpose of this essay is to teach the reader about learning a process: How to build a car, how to edit a paper or even how to flirt with a girl!

  • Comparison Essay: Simple sounding enough, a comparison essay makes you critically analyze any two subjects, finding and explaining their similarities and/or differences.

  • Cause and Effect Essay: The “Knee-Jerk” reaction assignment. Cause and effect essays are concerned with why and or how things happen and what happens as a result.

  • Problem / Solution Essay: The universal standard prompt assignment. In this situation, we have a problem and are looking for solutions. The essay is broken down into a brief intro to the problem and filled with content about the solutions.

Why do we write expository essays?

Okay so we’ve learned what they are - let's figure out why we write them. What is the purpose of an expository essay?

Well apart from their lingering presence on every college exam ever, expository essays can serve as an introduction to expository writing. Being one of the four widely used rhetorical modes, expository writing branches out into many disciplines.

  • Journalism. Almost every news article fits into the ‘explain, inform, or describe’ definition. News is all about expository writing.
  • Business. Press releases, reports, and business letters are all exposition.
  • Sientific / Academic Writing. Some embodiments of the exposition essay in academia are: Cause and effect essays, definition and classification essays, compare and contrast essays, scientific journals, and term papers.

Look into an encyclopedia or at the text on the back of a juice bottle. ‘How-To’ manuals are exposition too...

In fact, this entire article is expository writing! Our purpose is to ‘explain, inform or describe’ the concept of an expository essay!

Okay, you probably get it by now. Expository writing is everywhere. Let’s take a look at some popular topics and finally learn how to write an expository essay!

Finding Expository Essay Topics

When looking for expository essay ideas, find something relatable that you could explain. It could be anything from daily rituals, ‘how to play an instrument’ guides, to proposals of colonizing Mars.

Finding good expository essay topics isn’t all too hard. Usually, the instructor assigns them. If not, prepare to do some brainstorming. Keep your expository essay prompts handy when searching for topics and inspiration.

Topics and Ideas

At this point, you should have a good idea of what you’re looking for. If not, we’ve compiled some good expository essay topics to narrow down your search. Feel free to make them your own!

  • Describe the history of your hometown.
  • Explain what happens to a criminal caught breaking a specific law.
  • What is it like living in poverty?
  • What is the primary cause of obesity?
  • Explain the importance of the outcomes of the ‘War of the Currents.’
  • Explain how wifi works.
  • Explain how gravity works.
  • Describe the causes of depression in the United States.
  • Describe a phobia.
  • How do movies get made?
  • How do memories work?
  • Describe an imaginary smartphone application that could help save the environment.
  • Explain why pop culture is so popular.
  • Give the reader historical background on a specific profession.
  • Trace the history of significant architectural developments up to a certain point.

Remember to pick a topic that sparks your interest. Nobody likes a dull, uninspired essay. Make the piece sound enthusiastic and energetic.

How To Write An Expository Essay

Writing an expository essay shouldn’t be difficult at this point. As with any piece, the first thing to start with is an outline. Organize all your thoughts and information in the correct expository essay format. The format is like the classic 5-paragraph-essay (intro, three body paragraphs, conclusion). The outline is fundamental because you can always refer to it if you get lost in the writing process. Stick to your guns, and you will be fine!

Expository Essay Outline

We have created an outline for a sample topic. Use it as a handy reference point on how to create your outline.

Learn more about how to create an essay outline.

Intro - ‘Say What You’re Going To Say’

When searching for how to start an expository essay, you’ll find that most recommend starting with a hook. The expository essay introduction is just like any essay introduction. Its purpose is to capture the reader’s attention and give them an overview of the topic. In other words - say what you’re going to say. The thesis sentence usually goes at the end of the introduction.

expository essay outline introduction

Learn more about how to write an excellent introduction.

Body - ‘Say It’

The body paragraphs are where the writer unloads their information. Explain the topic or concept thoroughly. Make sure to use reliable references to solidify your point. Expository essays are often assigned in-class or on exams. Therefore, professors expect students to write fast and pick references from their head. If it’s a homework assignment, stick to traditional sources and the MLA format.

expository essay outline body

Study hard for exam questions! Professors will know if you’ve studied the source material or not. Having studied well, you should have no problem picking references. Simply go through the class material you’ve learned.

Conclusion - ‘Say What You Said’

Last but not least, your expository essay conclusion must hit all the main points and wrap everything up. Basically - say what you said. The conclusion is your last chance to make an impact on the reader. Leave them with a good impression of your work, and give them some thoughts to ponder upon.

expository essay conclusion

Now you know the expository essay structure. Learn it, use it, and make it yours.

Proofreading Your Work With an Expository Essay Rubric

Writing an expository essay is only the first step. Then you must proofread it to make sure you’ve nailed every point. Remember that professors deduce points for watery text and lack of transitions between paragraphs.

Proofread your essay carefully to see if you’ve ticked off all the points on this general rubric.

  • The Thesis Statement appears near the end of the introduction. It states the topic and the writer’s motives for writing this paper.
  • The writer Explains the Evidence clearly, showing how it supports the thesis. Every body paragraph features a topic sentence and evidence to support it.
  • All Evidence presented comes from a reliable source. All evidence is relevant to the conversation.
  • There are no Grammar, Punctuation or Spelling mistakes that distract the reader from the essay’s content.
  • Every part of the paper is appropriately formatted using the MLA Format.

Example of an Expository Essay

We’ve uploaded some expository essay examples to give you a better idea of the end result. Some of our top writers wrote these examples. Feel free to browse through them and get ideas.

Expository Essay Example

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

This article describes the writing process of an expository essay with a focus on some general types of expository essays. A point that I want to articulate is that each paragraph in your expository essay should have its idea. This would allow your essay to be clear and have minimal repetition. Each paragraph should also have a logical connection to the thesis and argument that you are making. A common mistake that newbie writers make is getting off track and adding information that doesn’t connect to the main point of your essay. You can avoid that easily by creating a well-structured outline and linking each of your paragraphs back to your thesis at the end of each paragraph. Another tip that I have for you is to try to be creative in your essay! Academic writing does not have to be boring. The truth is, you may not be writing a creative masterpiece, but you don’t have to be bone-dry with your writing. Leave a lasting impression on your reader!

Dr. Judy, from EssayPro

Do you have an Expository Essay prompt but have no idea where to start?

Then you might need EssayPro’s help! We are the best online essay writing service that delivers high-quality academic papers while hitting all the points you need for a successful piece and an excellent grade.

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