Writing an Expository Essay: Tips for Students

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The Expository Essay

Answering an essay question on a history test, comparing and contrasting two literary movements, and defining a concept are all examples of expository essays. Expository essay writing provides facts, considers ideas, describes processes or events, or analyzes themes, arguments, or other works that can be interpreted. The writer of an expository essay must clearly present an argument and support it with evidence to allow the reader to completely understand an issue.

The Thesis Statement

An expository essay should begin with a strong introductory paragraph that contains a thesis statement. The thesis statement should be clear, concise, and well-defined. Remember, the thesis statement is the writer’s main point, argument, or central idea and should be carefully narrowed to explain where the essay is headed. A weak thesis statement will make composing an effective or argumentative essay difficult.

The Body of the Essay

The body paragraphs in an expository essay should contain evidence or support to explain the thesis or explore its complexities. This evidence or support should always connect to the thesis statement and should be explained with facts, statistics, logic, or anecdotes. Strong evidence or support is precise and allows the writer to convey something that matters to the thesis. Weaker evidence or support, however, is often general and fails to convey what the writer thinks about the topic. Each body paragraph should only include one piece of evidence or supporting idea to give the reader clarity and direction throughout the essay.

The Conclusion

One of the most important tips on expository essay writing is to concentrate on the conclusion. The concluding paragraph is your final opportunity to leave a lasting impression on your reader, but many students experience difficulty creating that impression.

Two things you should avoid in writing your conclusion are simply restating the thesis and presenting new information in it. Instead, you should consider the implications of what you have discussed in the body of the essay. Presenting a brief summary of your main points is fine, but then you should think about answering the question, “so what?” You can answer this question by providing an explanation of the importance of the topic, or asking some questions that arise from it but which you have not addressed. The latter approach will keep your reader thinking about what you presented.

Additional Tips:

  • Develop an argument clearly and logically. Your reader should not have to guess what you are trying to communicate.
  • Avoid the use of personal pronouns. Remember, support your thesis with facts, not your opinions.
  • Be sure to develop your points sequentially. That is, think about the order of your points and make sure they make sense. Does the order provide the most impact? Readers remember best what is said last.
  • Use transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion. These transitions should be clear, logical, and help guide the reader through the essay’s argument and structure.
  • Proofread for spelling, grammatical, and typographical errors.