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What is Expository Writing?

All types of writing have a main purpose, or an objective, to achieve. You know that the purpose of a fiction is to tell a story. Nonfiction tells about real people, events, and places. Expository text is one kind of nonfiction. The primary purpose of this written work is to explain or inform readers about a specific topic.

A vast amount of the writing you encounter everyday text books, magazines, news stories, instruction manuals, book reports, research papers—serves to inform you of something. This type of writing that explains how and why something is done is called expository writing. Essays of this type include topics like “An important scientific discovery,” “Why computer and video games are popular,” “How to download data from the Internet,” and “What to look for in a good book.”


Types of Expository Writing

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Expository writing can take a variety of forms. It may tell how to do or make something, instruct by giving information, report on an experience, clarify a process, define a concept, or explore an idea. Well-written expository essay has a clear, central presentation of ideas, definitions, or examples that enhance the focus developed through a carefully crafted reader’s understanding.
There are six types of expository writing. The kind of essay you write depends on your goal.

Process essay: Writers use process essays to explain the steps or stages in processes or procedures. A process essay is organized chronologically, that is in order of time. 

Comparison/Contrast essay: Writers use comparison/contrast essays when they want to either compare or contrast or to both compare and contrast two (or more) things. Writers can emphasize the similarities, the differences, or both the similarities and differences of the things they are comparing and contrasting. 

Cause/Effect essay: In cause/effect essays, writers focus on what causes something (why it happens) and what the effects are (the consequences or results). For example, you might write an essay about what causes unemployment and its consequences, or about the causes of hurricanes and their consequence.

Classification essay: Classification is common in professional and academic writing. Writers use classification essays to group items according to their similarities and differences. Classification involves more than just making a list of items.

Definition essay: In this type of essay, writers explain a commonly used term or concept that is not easy to define. It may be that the term is complicated (cancer, inflation, or democracy) or that it means different things to different people (love, courage, or fairness.

Problem/Solution essay: Writers provide readers with a detailed analysis of a subject-from a clear statement of the problem to a full discussion of possible solutions. It is important to examine your subject from a number of different angles before proposing any solutions.

Expository Writing Examples

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Writers of expository composition can be news writers, scientists, office workers, cooks, lawyers, teachers, and students. They share a common purpose: to inform or to explain. Expository writing is probably the most widely used of all writing modes.

In expository writing, the focus is on explaining. The writer often combines features of description and narration while explaining. To become a skilled and confident writer, you must gain a working knowledge of these steps: Prewriting, Drafting, Revising, and Proofreading. 


1. Tailor a topic:

First, find a topic that you want to know more about and that’s broad enough to interest your audience but limited enough so you can explain it and give many details.

2. Form a thesis statement:

After you have narrowed your topic, write down ideas that you may want to explore in your paper. Choose one of these for your generalization—the main idea, theme, or thesis of your essay. A thesis statement identifies the focus of your writing. It usually highlights a special condition or feature of the subject, expresses a specific feeling, or takes a stand.

3. Gather Details:

Collect your information from a variety of sources that contain important facts, relevant statistics, or interesting quotes on your topic.

  • Primary (firsthand) sources: Interviews and surveys, your own observations
  • Secondary (secondhand) sources: nonfiction books, reference books, magazines, newspapers, computer data, TV, and radio programs

4. Plan and Organize your essay:

Review your research, highlighting the facts and details that support your thesis. Then decide on the best way to organize the information. Here are some methods for organizing details in your essay.

  • Deductive method
  • Inductive method
  • Chronological order
  • Comparison and Contrast
  • Order of importance


Write as freely as you can, using your prewriting and planning as a general guide. Turn your ideas into sentences and paragraphs.

5. Draft your thesis statement and introduction:

Start with an anecdote, a quotation, an example-anything that might intrigue the reader. A thesis statement usually goes at the end of the introduction in a formal essay. An effective introduction

  • Grabs the reader’s attention
  • States the central idea and the thesis statement
  • Makes the audience feel that the topic is important

6. Draft your topic sentences and body paragraphs:

The body of your paper will contain carefully chosen and carefully arranged details. Each paragraph should develop a major point which may be stated in a topic sentence; but all the points should relate to the thesis made at the beginning of the essay. Also make sure the examples and details you are using to explain the topic are in correct sequence or order of importance. Incorporating transitional words and phrases within and in between the body paragraphs will help your reader follow the order of your ideas.

7. Draft your Conclusion:

Wind up and clinch your presentation by summarizing and emphasizing your main idea. Create the feeling that the essay has come to an end.


8. Evaluate your work:

Carefully review your draft for completeness, organization, and writing voice: Do you sound interested in and knowledgeable about your subject? Is the language clear? Are the ideas easy to follow? Be prepared to do some adding, cutting, and rearranging to make your essay say what you want it to say.

Editing and Proofreading:

9. Checking for Style and Accuracy:

Review your revised writing for style. Make sure that your sentences read smoothly and clearly, and that you have used the best words to express your ideas. Then check your writing for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence errors.
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