Even if you’ve never officially heard of the term expository essay before, it’s pretty likely you’ve done plenty of expository writing in your lifetime without even knowing it. After all, expository writing is the most popular type of writing done in school.
What that means is that you should feel pretty confident going into an assignment where you’re being asked to write an expository essay—no matter what the topic is. And if you’re really lucky, your teacher will even let you choose your own topic, which makes it that much easier to complete.
Discovering how to write an expository essay is really a matter of learning what an expository essay is, the requirements for completing it, the structure it should take, and the steps you should use in order to complete it.
Understanding what an expository essay is can be a bit of a challenge because it’s really an umbrella term that includes a lot of different types of writing—all of which are based on providing facts to your reader. In essence, an expository essay is a formal piece of writing where you investigate a topic in detail and communicate information about that topic backed by the evidence you’ve collected.
Keep in mind, you may be asked to write a cause and effect essay, problem and solution essay, compare and contrast essay, definition essay, classification essay, or a process essay, and these are all considered to be expository essays.
As you can see, there’s no right or wrong way to write an expository essay.
So, as long as you pay close attention to which type of essay your teacher is expecting you to write, it will be easier to keep track of what requirements you have for that particular assignment and how to structure your essay in the best way possible.
For example, if your task is to write a cause-and-effect essay, it will look quite different from what you’d be expected to turn in if your assignment was to write a process essay or a problem-and-solution essay.
No matter which type of expository essay you plan to write, there are specific requirements that apply to all of them.
While it may feel like too much work up front, it’s always a good idea to review any requirements you’ve been given before you begin writing, while you’re in the middle of writing, and after your first draft has already been completed. That way, you can start out with some clear direction, remind yourself what requirements you’ve already met, and catch any requirements you’ve forgotten to include before completing your final draft.
To stay organized during the entire process, use the following checklist as you go:
To make sure that you’ve met all of your requirements, you can always have a friend double-check this list for you and do the same for them.
Because expository writing encompasses so many different types of essays, it only makes sense that there would also be tons of topics you can choose from. In some cases, your teacher might assign a specific piece of writing and an assigned topic, but it’s just as likely that you may be given some discretion over what you’ll be writing about.
If you fall into the second category, you may start to feel overwhelmed by how many topics for an expository essay are out there. Just try to remember that you don’t have to search for the perfect expository topic to write about. As long as you understand the topic and have some level of interest in it, you can write an effective essay that will earn you a good grade.
Here are some expository essay topics that are pretty common:
The most important part of being assigned or choosing an expository essay topic is making sure that you truly understand it before you begin the planning and writing process. So, read it several times and ask questions so that you don’t waste time or energy writing about something unrelated to the actual topic.
Even though there are technically six types of expository essays, they all follow the same basic essay structure. And you can tweak this structure as needed based on the requirements you’ve been given and the topic you’ve selected.
To begin, start with the five-paragraph essay structure and move on from there:
Remember, you can always add any number of body paragraphs you need to in order to investigate your topic thoroughly and provide factual evidence to support it. Also, keep in mind that your teacher is probably looking for a specific word count that you will need to aim for.
You’ve read a series of expository writing samples, chosen your topic, reviewed the requirements of your assignment, and studied the basic expository essay structure. So, now the time to start working on your paper is finally here.
The first step in learning how to write an expository essay is to plan it out well in advance. Not only do you want to create an outline, but you also want to gather relevant evidence and ask your teacher for clarification as needed along the way. The more time you put in during the planning process, the easier it will be to write. Don’t skimp on effort here.
Next, begin writing your first draft, following your outline exactly, and weaving the evidence you’ve collected into your body paragraphs where it makes the most sense.
Once your first draft is done, it’s time to have it reviewed multiple times—by yourself and at least one other person. Take the feedback you’ve been given seriously and make your writing even better as you work on your final draft.
Even if you think you’ve made all the updates you need, be sure to go through your checklist again, making sure that all of the requirements have been met, that your essay follows the basic expository essay structure and that your evidence adds to your claim instead of subtracting from it.
Now is also the time to fix any last-minute spelling or grammar mistakes you find. Doing so will help your essay look polished and complete.
Only after you’ve done all of those things is it time to turn it in.
The absolute best way to improve your own writing skills is to read a lot, especially anything that’s written really well. Doing so will help you start to recognize things that make writing good, like using descriptive vocabulary, building sentences that are clear and concise, offering up plenty of factual evidence, and fixing any grammar or spelling issues that may come up.
Likewise, by taking a look at poor examples of writing, you can strengthen your own abilities because it helps you recognize things that you would rather avoid such as using vocabulary that is overly simple, creating sentence fragments or run-on sentences, having a lack of hard evidence, and including noticeable grammar or spelling mistakes.
So, before you begin writing your own expository essay, it makes sense to look at a few expository essay examples first.
Now that you’re armed with so much helpful information, you’ll be able to write an expository essay like a champ. And in doing so, you’ll be able to communicate a lot of new information to your reader while backing it all up with facts that they can reference later on.
The art of expository writing is learning how to investigate a topic thoroughly and giving evidence to prove that what you’re saying is accurate. So, whether you’re writing a how-to type of essay, discussing the impact of social change, or evaluating how technological advancements have changed people’s lives throughout history, your job is to educate your reader in a clear, focused, and very direct way.
To accomplish this goal, simply use everything you’ve learned about expository writing in this article.