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What is Expository Writing? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition
  • 1:17 Examples
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Sedillo

Andrew Sedillo has taught Language Arts, Social Studies, and Technology at a middle school level. He currently holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Education, Master's of Arts Educational Learning Technology, and a Graduate certificate in Online Teaching and Learning.

This lesson will assist you in identifying and understanding the major components of expository writing. Learn more about expository writing and see some common examples. Then, test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition of Expository Writing

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.

Examples of Expository Writing

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.

Next, process writing is often used in instruction manuals and other technical writing pieces. A process essay should be well-structured, so that someone reading it can follow sequential directions. An example of such a piece of writing would be practically any instruction manual you might happen to have, from how to operate your toaster oven to how to change a tire on a bicycle. Software manuals are full of this type of writing. Many examples of process writing have step-by-step instructions, such as 'Step 1: Put collar on dog. Step 2: Attach leash to collar. Step 3: Open door and step outside with dog.'

Now let's take a look at comparison essays, which show how two or more things are similar or different. For example, an article about football positions might say: 'Wide receivers and tight ends are almost the same thing on the football field. They are both positions on offense that are designed to score points. What makes these positions different, however, is the formation in which they line up on the football field. In addition to formation differences, the tight end is used more for blocking than a wide receiver.'

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