While there are many different types of essays, an expository essay is perhaps one of the most systematic. These essays require students to explore an idea, evaluate the evidence, elaborate on the main idea, and state their argument on the idea in a coherent manner. In short, the main focus is to explain the facts.
Having a game plan and arriving armed for battle is the best way to sit down and write a winning essay. These tips below will set you up for clarity, concision, and a winning argument.
The wording must be clear and concise. It's difficult to make a strong case when you've confused the reader. If your topic is complex and needs to be defined before you can dive into intricate detail, be sure to do that. Keep clarity at the forefront of your mind, because if you've lost people even before you dive into your stats and facts, it's a lost cause. For more on this, check out these 10 Tips for Writing Clear, Concise Sentences.
Stick to third-person pronouns. Typically, you want to write an expository essay in an objective, third-person perspective ("he," "she," or "it"). However, pay careful attention to the assignment. Sometimes, first-person ("I" or "me") or second-person ("you") perspective is acceptable, especially if the task is to describe a personal experience.
Have a strong thesis statement. A thesis statement is the core of any essay. It tells readers what the entire essay is about. In an expository essay, thesis statements are particularly valuable because you must state a claim and then argue why that claim is valid. It's not just a pleasant story as narrative essays can be sometimes. With your thesis statement in hand, you can go on to craft a topic sentence for each of your body paragraphs. It'll be important that all of those paragraphs signal back to whatever your thesis statement proclaimed.
Each body paragraph should cover only one topic and present one new idea. As you progress from your thesis statement into each paragraph's topic sentence, remember to keep the focus to no more than one main idea per paragraph.
Order your arguments accordingly. There's a bit of debate on this topic. Do you start with a bang and make your strongest point first? Or, do you build up to the strongest point? Again, opinions vary but many academics believe you should start with the strongest point. This will help to get the reader on your side for the rest of your essay.
Use transition words. As you connect all of your paragraphs together, use transition words and sentences to make your essay flow more smoothly. Connect sentences with words like "however," "for example," or "such as."
Check out How Do I Include Transition Words In My Essay?
Cite your sources. This is par for the course, as it's an absolute requirement when writing an essay. Be diligent in this area. A successful essay will be factual, not subjective, and contain verifiable information. Choose your sources carefully. Cite them and make it easy for the reader to see where you drew your facts. For more on this, check out these Examples of Works Cited Pages.
Have a killer conclusion. The conclusion should restate your argument, summarize your facts, or even propose the next steps for further research or discussion. It's your last chance to leave a lasting mark that will make your readers consider your point of view. Here's the nitty-gritty on How to Write a Conclusion.
For even more tricks from the trade, check out these general ideas on how to write an essay.
You'll most likely come across expository essays in the classroom. They're a great way to test critical thinking skills. Teachers may ask this of students after they've completed a novel or studied a new idea. It's a great way for students to express their opinions and for teachers to assess their writing skills.
The essays that you'll be required to write during your SATs are expository essays. The goal is to take an idea, reflect on your opinion on the matter, and deliver a clear and cohesive argument on the subject.
Some common topics for expository essays include personal experiences, literature, history, social issues, and science and technology. Each of these areas allow students to reflect on something they're already knowledgeable about and develop a coherent stance.
The best way to approach an expository essay for school is to take the five-paragraph approach. That works out to be somewhere between 500 and 800 words, which is typically - although not always - the length of an essay on a standardized test.
Here's what the five-paragraph approach should look like:
You might want to scribble down a brief outline before you begin writing. Consider your stance on the subject, craft a one-line summary of your stance, and list three items you can discuss in support of your ideas.
The introduction is where you'll place your thesis statement. Your thesis statement will summarize what your essay is about or the argument you're trying to make in one sentence. Be sure it adheres to the assignment guidelines.
As you enter into the body of your essay, keep your transitions in mind. Transitions are the thread that sews the entire essay together. They must be clear and express a logical unfolding of your main ideas. Above all else, the reader must be able to follow your train of thought. This is why an outline is the best place to begin any type of essay.
The body of your essay is where you'll find the most meat. Limit each paragraph to one general idea. Think of it like the arc of a story. You must rise to a climax and end with a resolution. Therefore, you want to select three strong ideas and use each one to build momentum to the final thought that's going to sway readers. Just remember that, no matter the idea, it must harken back to your thesis statement. Ask yourself, "Is this doing something to prove or support my thesis statement?"
Facts and statistics are also an important element to any essay. Use the "don't just take my word for it" approach and bolster your argument with facts, statistics, or quotations from relevant people. With expository essays, you're often asked to create them on the spot. That's why the SATs are basically expository essays. In this case, you wouldn't be tied to any outside research. Rather, you'll be tied to your ability to outlay a clear argument with whatever facts that spring to mind.
A conclusion shouldn't just regurgitate your thesis. Rather, it's meant to summarize your main arguments with concision and clarity. If all your main points harken back to your thesis, then there's no need to restate them anyway. Perhaps you'll dash a little bit of your personality into the conclusion and end with a rhetorical question or a call to action.
While the body of your essay provides all the meat, the introduction to your essay is the shining star. It's meant to lure people in and clearly state what's about to come.
Let's say you were asked to write an expository essay on a personal experience. Perhaps you were asked by your music teacher to reflect on music's influence in your life. First, you'd ask yourself if music has had any impact on your life. Then, you can jot down three ways in which it has. From there, you're ready to draft your thesis and introduction.
Note: In each of the samples below, the thesis is in bold and it always answers the question of the assignment.
Music has been a part of human history almost since its very inception. It started with crude instruments constructed in the wild and advanced to $50,000 grand pianos. Yet, the end result has always been the same. Music shapes our lives and influences our behavior. It carries us through the dark times by allowing us to understand we're not alone, and it sustains us through the happy times as we rejoice in an upbeat tempo.
Let's look at another example. Say you just wrapped up a new novel in your English literature class. Don't be surprised if your teacher starts to look for students' opinions on the work. He or she might ask students to outline the significance of the literary work for future generations. Perhaps you'll start with something like this:
Island of Glass by Nora Roberts illustrates the power of tenacity and the possibilities that unfold when we believe in ourselves. The protagonist is a world-renowned archeologist who always bets on herself. She's strong, willful, independent, and brave beyond measure. This novel will shape future generations because readers will remember Riley and choose to push through their own circumstances too. This essay will explore three examples of Riley's bravery and outline its benefit to future generations.
Finally, let's explore an essay surrounding social issues. Perhaps your sociology teacher will want you to flex your powers of deductive reasoning. Let's say you were asked to explain the social precursors to addiction. You might start with a thesis that looks something like this:
Many of the social precursors to drug addiction begin at home. This is not to say every addict had a terrible upbringing. Addiction sinks its teeth into stable and unstable homes alike. What begins as a crutch can turn into a life sentence, and nobody is immune. This paper will review three examples of addiction discussed in last week's lesson.
You can see how the introduction sets up everything that's about to come. First, outline your stance on the subject. Then, tease the reader with what's to come. This will help you stay on track for the remainder of your essay and develop a strong stance on the subject at hand.
Expository essays are a gift. They allow learners to express their minds without the fear of being told they're wrong. Essentially, they're your opinion on the subject matter. The only way you might be "wrong" is if you don't support your claim with logic, reasoning, and facts.
Need any assistance as you begin your next expository essay? Leave a note in the comments below! And, if you ever step over in the realm of persuasive writing, here's everything you need to know on Persuasive Essay Writing Made Easy.