Definition of Expository Writing
Expository writing is writing that aims to inform its readers. As we mentioned above, this includes all types of factual writing, such as textbooks, news, technical guides, and business writing. A lot of journalistic writing is expository writing, but not all advertorials, opinion writing, and a lot of political writing is not expository writing, as its main purpose is something else other than providing unbiased facts.
Expository writing definition, as the name implies, is writing that presents facts. In other words, expository writing is writing that explains and educates its readers, rather than entertaining or trying to persuade them. When you read a scientific article, textbook page, news report, or instructional guide, you are reading expository writing.
An easy way to understand expository writing is to compare and contrast it with other types of writing. Three other commonly recognized types of writing are descriptive, narrative, and persuasive. Each of these types of writing serves a specific purpose. Descriptive writing creates a sense of time, place, and experience in the reader’s mind. Narrative writing tells a story to the reader. Persuasive writing convinces the reader that a certain position is the correct one. Expository writing gives readers the facts they need about a particular topic to deepen their understanding of the topic.
Expository writing is:
- Usually presented in a linear format
- Always presented in a logical format
- Clear about its purpose
Expository writing is not:
- The author’s opinion
- Attempts to change the reader’s mind or shape their perspective
- Nonlinear or unconventional in how it presents content
Expository writing can still be fun and interesting
Although expository writing is fact-based, it need not be dry or boring. Skillful writing can present factual information in an engaging way that only enhances the reader’s understanding of the topic, often by borrowing techniques used in narrative and descriptive writing to make the facts more vivid and impactful. If you’ve ever watched the documentary Cosmos, you’ve seen compelling expository writing. In the 1980 and 2014 versions, the host captivated viewers by guiding them through the universe as we know it, our solar system, and how life on Earth evolved over thousands of years. Although Cosmos is a documentary, its narrative, which speaks directly to viewers and constantly positions them in the story of our universe, is a type of expository writing: screenwriting.
However, distinguishing the credibility of expository writing can sometimes be tricky. Remember one of the types of writing we mentioned above, the advertorial? An advertorial is an advertisement disguised as an editorial. In other words, it’s an article presented as fact or the author’s thoughts, but it’s a sponsored advertisement. Advertorials are not the only instance where you can find subjective opinions masquerading as objective facts. Many documentaries, journalistic works, books, and even scientific articles are written according to the author’s bias or to fit a particular agenda.
This is why it is so important to carefully check every source you use when you are working on an expository writing assignment. The unintentional use of biased sources in your academic writing can ruin your work by making it look like you didn’t research the topic carefully or pushed a certain agenda in your writing.
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Types of expository writing
There are many ways to present a topic in expository writing:
- Compare and contrast. In a compare-and-contrast essay, you present two or more subjects and write about their similarities and differences.
- Definition. This type of expository writing defines a subject. For example, you might write a piece that defines a historical figure by exploring their actions, motivations, and circumstances.
- Classification. In classification writing, you write about the characteristics of several subjects in one category. For example, you might write a blog post about types of expository writing. In the blog post, you explain each type of expository writing, including their differences and similarities.
- Problems and solutions. In problem and solution writing, you explain the problem at hand and then explore the most effective solution to that problem. This structure can also be found in persuasive writing, but when used in expository writing, it is generally used in problem-solving guides and to explain how a particular problem has been solved.
- Process. When you need to explain how a process works or the steps the reader needs to follow to assemble something or complete another task, you write the process step-by-step, providing as much explanation as necessary for each step.
Expository writing is logical and fact-based, but it doesn’t have to be boring. It shouldn’t be. But it’s not always easy to present facts and figures in an engaging style.
Just like other commonly known writing styles, you will find many examples of expository writing that differ drastically. Technical manuals and research papers are both types of expository writing. So are lab reports, investigative journalism pieces, expository essays, and explainer video scripts. Even recipes are expository writing, as are travel guides and biographies.