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What is Expository Writing? - Definition & Examples

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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.

Expert Contributor
Sasha Blakeley

Sasha Blakeley has a Bachelor's in English Literature from McGill University and a TEFL certification. She has been teaching English in Canada and Taiwan for seven years.

In contrast to creative writing, expository writing is used to 'expose' or explain information in detail. Learn more about expository writing through its examples and by examining its different purposes. Updated: 10/20/2021

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.

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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 either be 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.'

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Additional Activities

Expository Writing: Your Turn

Now you know the basics of what expository writing is and how it's used. Take this opportunity to explore the following prompts and learn more.

Become The Teacher

This lesson gave you a lot of information on expository writing. One of the best ways to make sure that you understand what you've learned is to teach it to someone else. Imagine that you are teaching a class on expository writing. Find a friend, family member, classmate, or teacher and explain expository writing to them. Be prepared to answer any questions they might have and to give examples. Make sure to explain the information in your own words.

Categorizing

You now know several kinds of expository writing: you know it can be found in places like textbooks and recipes, and you know it can take forms like comparison essays and problem/solution essays. Find some examples of expository writing in your home or classroom. What kind of text is each one? What type of expository writing is it? Write a detailed list of your findings.

Write Your Own

Think about a topic that you would like to explain to other people. It could be a recipe, the plot of a movie, how to change a bike tire, or any number of other topics. Write an expository essay about the topic of your choice. Make sure to clearly state your thesis and decide in advance which of the major types of expository essays you're going to write: descriptive essays, process essays, comparison essays, cause/effect essays and problem/solution essays are all great places to start!

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