Expository writing is writing that seeks to explain, illuminate or ‘expose’ (which is where the word ‘expository’ comes from). This type of writing can include essays, newspaper and magazine articles, instruction manuals, textbooks, encyclopedia articles and other forms of writing, so long as they seek to explain. Expository writing differs from other forms of writing, such as fiction and poetry. In fact, this lesson itself is an example of expository writing.
The expository essay is a tool that is often used in the academic world. If you’ve attended school, it’s highly likely you’ve written one. Most expository essays have an introductory paragraph in which a thesis or objective is stated, several main body paragraphs that prove or explain what is in the introduction, and a concluding paragraph in which everything is summed up.
When writing an expository essay, it’s important to write with the assumption that your audience has little to no background knowledge about the main topic. Your duty as the writer is to provide the reader with as much information as you can. The reader should feel as if he or she has learned something after reading your essay.
There are different types of expository writing that are used for different purposes. Let’s take a look at some examples. First, a descriptive essay can be used when the writer wants to describe the characteristics or features of a person, place, thing, process, event, etc. Descriptive essays, more than other types of expository writing, seek to stimulate the reader’s senses.
For example, if you wanted to describe what chocolate chip cookies are like, you might write: ‘Chocolate chip cookies are one of the most popular desserts in the world. They can be either crispy or soft and have a sweet smell to them reminiscent of a bakery. They taste rich and melt in your mouth. When they bake, they ‘wrinkle’ up in the oven, and the combination of the nooks and crannies in the dough with the mouth-watering chocolate chips on top make them hard to resist.’ These several sentences have aptly described chocolate chip cookies using sight, smell, taste and touch. You could also describe a process, such as running a marathon, in which you told the reader about how much you sweated, how you lost your breath going up hills, how you couldn’t see three feet in front of you because of the fog, etc.