When you read a textbook, the news, magazine articles, or any other types of publications, you are reading expository writing. When you write answers for an essay test, you use the expository form.
In an expository paragraph, you give information. You explain a subject, give directions, or show how something happens. In expository writing, linking words like first, second, then, and finally are usually used to help readers follow the ideas.
This paragraph, like any other, organizes itself around three parts. A topic sentence allows the reader to understand what you are writing about. The middle part of the paragraph contains supporting sentences that follow one another in a logical sequence of steps. The concluding sentence closes your subject with an emphasis on the final product or process desired by the topic.
Remember that all paragraphs should contain a topic sentence. It may be even more important in the expository paragraph because this is where the main idea of the paragraph is expressed. This topic sentence lets the reader know what the rest of the paragraph will discuss.
Going to college can be expensive. First, college tuition and room and board can cost anywhere from $2,000 to more than $10,000 per semester. Other expenses make going to college even more expensive. For example, books typically cost between $100 and $500 each term.Second, materials are also very expensive. Paper, notebooks, writing utensils, and other supplies required often cost more at the college bookstore than at any local discount department store. For instance, a package of notepaper costing $2 at a discount store might cost $5 at a college bookstore.Finally, there are all kinds of special fees added onto the bill at registration time. A college student might have to pay a $50 insurance fee, a $20 activity fee, a $15 fee to the student government association and anywhere from $500 to $100 for parking. There is another fee if a student decides to add or drop classes after registration. The fees required to attend college never seem to end.
The topic sentence in the example lets the reader know that the paragraph will talk about the expenses of going to college. Immediately following the topic sentence is the first supporting sentence (underlined) and two detail/example sentences. Each support sentence and its two detail/example sentences are shown in different colors so you can see where one ends and the next begins. Finally, the closing sentence neatly ties back to the topic sentence by rephrasing it.
Notice the use of transitional words to help the reader follow the ideas. Also, notice the use of third person point of view in this paragraph. The third person point of view (he, she, one) is most commonly used for expository writing, technical writing, and any other sort of writing that has a business-minded or persuasive intention or purpose. For our purposes in this class, you will always use third person point of view when writing expository paragraphs, unless otherwise directed. This means there should be no “I” or “you” words anywhere in the paragraph.
Time4Writing provides practice in this area. Sign up for our High School Paragraph Writing course or browse other related courses to find a course that’s right for you.
After you have a topic idea, what's next? You have to develop information that you will put into your essay and decide on your audience and purpose. Then you will need to decide the point of view, tone, and style of writing you will use. Sound confusing? Don't worry. Just answer the following questions to get ready to write. You can open up a word processing program, copy these questions, and then answer them, or do it the old-fashioned way with paper and pen.
- Topic idea: ______________________________________________. (Write yours out.)
- What kind of expository essay is this? (How to? How does it work? Definition? Fact? Cause? History of?)
- List or cluster different aspects or parts of your topic.
- Circle the aspects which are most interesting to you. Cluster those.
- Do you have enough to say or too much? Do you need to narrow your topic or expand it?
- What sources can you use? Where can you find them?
- What are some things your audience would be familiar with which you can compare your topic with?
- What do they already know?
- What would they be interested in knowing?
- What kind of tone would be best for this audience? (informational, satiric, humorous, folksy, professional?)
- Considering your audience, which point of view would be the most effective one to write in? Would it be better to write in the first person ("I" or "we"), second person ("you"), or third person (impersonal)?
Write Your Thesis
- Your purpose (What do you want audience to think, do, or know after reading? This will be related to what your audience doesn't know.)
- Turn your topic into a question: ___________________________________________
- Answer that question: __________________________________________________
- Make a thesis statement: _______________________________________________
- Essay map—sentence(s) which list main sub-topics: ______________________________________________________________ (These can be headers for sections of the paper.)
- Which sort of organization would work best for you? Examples: chronological (in time), spatial (in space and time), process (step-by-step), topical (part-by-part), cause/effect, historical overview, comparison and contrast, or reverse expectations.
- Write a brief outline for how you will structure the body of the paper.
Intro and Conclusion
- Which of these introduction and conclusion ideas could you use? Reverse expectation, expectation fulfilled, scenario (imagined typical story, also called a case study), personal story, frame story, vivid description, conversation, definition, comparison and contrast, analogy, startling statistic or fact, quotation, story from book or movie.
- Choose the best one(s) for your essay and explain what you will do.
Tone, Voice, and Style
- Which person will you write in for your essay? (1st “I,” 2nd “you,” or 3rd “he, she, it.”) Why?
- What sort of tone will you have? Why? (Example: serious and informative, humorous, sarcastic, enthusiastic.)