The goal of expository writing is to explain an idea and give your reader knowledge that they didn’t have before.
It is considered to be one of the most straight-forward styles of writing and is often used by professors for written exams. Unlike persuasive or argumentative essays, an expository essay only requires you to describe something instead of taking a position on its value or merit.
Clear, Concise, and Accessible
At its best, expository writing should be clear, concise, and accessible. Clarity means that your paper uses explicit and unambiguous language. You can explain your ideas thoroughly and without confusion.
A paper is clear if someone can pick up your paper and understand it, even if they don’t know the first thing about your topic. If your paper is clear, then being concise shouldn’t be a problem.
Use only the words you need and cut anything that doesn’t add to your paper’s topic. As Mark Twain says, “I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words, and brief sentences. That is the way to write English―it is the modern way and the best way.”
Clarity and concision are often found together.
Writing a paper that is accessible means that your paper does not require extensive knowledge of your topic to make sense. This is especially helpful in expository writing because its purpose is to make ideas understandable to your reader. However, the accessibility of your paper can vary depending on your paper’s audience.
You may write a very different paper for your professor and for the general public. But, it is often better to err on the side of being too accessible than to use language beyond the grasp of your reader.
Tip: Never hesitate to ask your professor who your paper’s intended audience is. Even the best paper can be derailed if it isn’t written for your intended reader.
A Strong Thesis
Every paper should have a strong thesis, but they are exceptionally important for expository essays. Just like the paper as a whole, your thesis should be concise and clear - stating exactly what it is you will describe in your paper.
For example, if you were asked to write an expository essay on the history of Bigfoot a strong thesis might look like this:
Although there is little evidence for the existence of Bigfoot, it has a history in the western mountains of North America dating to the 9th Century CE.
Tip: Make sure to look for biased language when editing your paper. Expository writing isn’t about your opinion or belief on your topic.