How to Write an Expository Essay
by Chris Angelopoulos
The expository essay is really a larger category of essays that seek the journalistic goal of illuminating the truth about some matter. Such an objective requires research, focus, a clear thesis, and often an analysis of the evidence. In order to write a compelling expository essay, it is important to understand the particular method being used to convey the message, define and stick to a focused idea, choose the right language to captivate the intended audience, and structure the content in a clear, easy-to-read way.
Understand the Purpose
What is the subject being examined? What are the relationships between ideas? What will the completed essay show readers? These are some of the questions to ask along the path to understand what style of expository essay to use. Comparative and descriptive essays are usually considered a subset of the expository essay and fit under the wider umbrella of the definition listed above. Comparative essays seek to compare two entities or ideas, and descriptive essays paint a vivid picture of a particular scene or experience. For more information on these essay types, please refer to the other articles in this series.
Ideation, the process of coming up with ideas, is a critical part of writing essays. Brainstorming techniques can help spur the mind to think creatively and generate a range of ideas from which an ideal topic should arise. One of the easiest ways to start brainstorming is to use tools that allow ideas to quickly flow from the brain to the page, and to be arranged as an organized, coherent map of the subject matter. The humble sticky note is one such tool. Speare offers a way to add ideas via voice or key any time inspiration strikes. The Speare workspace also encourages experimentation and creativity by making it easy to categorize and move ideas quickly and without consequence.
Craft a Focus
The inherent structure of an essay demands focus. The best way to do this is to carefully create a thesis, the central idea that ties all parts of the essay together, and to use it as a guide for each section while building a cohesive whole. For expository essays, the thesis statement is not the stated opinion of the persuasive essay, but instead represents an assertion of reality that can be derived from experience or sober analysis. It is about identifying the story and delivering the news.
Write for Understanding
The essay is a focused delivery vehicle for ideas, but it is critical to know what defines a pertinent idea for a particular group of readers. Each audience has a different base of experience to draw on and so requires a unique approach to reach effectively. An expository essay covering a historical event, for example, may require extensive background information in order to be meaningful to a younger audience.
Structure is an important part of essay writing, and the expository essay is no exception. It is helpful to have some kind of introduction. Starting strong captures readers’ attention right away and encourages them to stay engaged to the end. After or as part of the attention getting hook, some introduction may be needed. The thesis statement rounds out the opening section and sets the tone for the rest of the essay. The following paragraphs should be the pillars that support the thesis statement, and the summary will follow last to wrap things up and reiterate the important ideas.
Speaking of summaries, it’s time to bring this article to a close. Writing an expository essay may seem like a daunting task at first, but like most complex activities it can be simplified by breaking it down into its component parts. Know the purpose, start with great ideas, focus on the main subject, and understand the audience. It can help follow a structure that may seem restrictive at first, but actually can free up mental resources by taking some of the uncertainty out of putting together the end result. Oh, and one more thing. Endeavor to pick an enjoyable subject that will be interesting to write about. It might just make all the difference.