How to Compare Expository vs. Persuasive Writing

To compare identical Ford and Toyota pickups, you must first establish a set of criteria to measure them both against, such as price, gas mileage, safety, comfort, maintenance cost and resale value. To compare expository writing with persuasive writing, you must also establish criteria to see how they differ in introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs and supporting details, among others. Expository writing aims to inform or explain while persuasive writing aims to persuade and convince others. (See Reference 1).

How the Two Differ in Introduction

The overall thrust of the introduction in expository writing is to inform and explain whereas the introduction of persuasive writing aims to convince and persuade the reader. The openings of both expository and persuasive writings are similar: you describe the background information as to why this given topic is important to you or why you have chosen this particular topic over others. You then identify the target audience—people who will benefit most by reading your writing. For example, in a descriptive essay, one example of expository writing, you can explain or inform why you have decided to write about the grandeur and beauty of the Grand Canyon. In a persuasive writing, you can explain why the legalization of marijuana is important to you; say, you are suffering from terminal cancer and you need marijuana to alleviate your pain. In the expository essay about the Grand Canyon, your audience will be those people who want to visit the national park, based on your factual information, whereas in the persuasive essay your audience could be your state legislators or those who oppose the legalization.

Thesis Statements in Both

The thesis in an expository essay is more fact-based as it aims to inform or explain something to the reader whereas the thesis in a persuasive writing aims to convince and persuade the reader with an argument, based on personal opinion. (See Reference 1). In the above descriptive essay on the Grand Canyon, your thesis may read like this: “My favorite park is the Grand Canyon for the following reasons: the majestic beauty, the Colorado River, and horseback riding through the gorges,” for example. Here the thesis aims to inform the readers with facts rather than persuade them with an agenda. In the persuasive writing about the legalization of marijuana, your thesis may read like this: “I believe we should legalize marijuana for the following reasons: to reduce the prison population, increase state tax revenue, and supplement medicinal usage.” Here the thesis aims not to merely inform the readers but argue and convince them.

Differences in Body Paragraphs

Both rhetorical modes require well-defined topic sentences in the body paragraphs as they must support the overall thesis of the paper. In the expository writing, your supporting details will be based on your personal experience, observation and facts. For example, in the expository writing, your first topic sentence may read, “I love the Grand Canyon for its majestic beauty.” You then need to describe the majestic beauty of the Grand Canyon, using sensory images and details: smell, sight, sound, touch and feel. In the persuasive writing, your topic sentence may read, “The first reason we need to legalize marijuana is to reduce the prison population,” for example. To support this topic sentence, you will be supporting how the prison population will be reduced by legalizing marijuana, a fact-based argument relying on research and statistics. Persuasive writing demands supporting facts and figures—outside sources—which need to be documented according to the specific guideline in the assignment..


Persuasive writing can be classified as part of expository writing since argumentative writing is part of expository writing. Expository writing aims to describe, inform, clarify, analyze, instruct, explain or describe its subject matter based on personal subjective experience and observations. The tone of expository writing is formal, wanting to remain factual, whereas the tone of persuasive writing is informal and personal, wanting to appeal to both emotion and reason. (See Reference 1). Persuasive writing aims to influence views or change behaviors of others, pro or con, usually according to its claim, the thesis; as a result, persuasive writing invariably includes prejudgment and the bias of the writer. (See Reference 3).

About the Author

Dr. Yoon Kim earned a Ph. D. in English from Oklahoma State University. His editing experience includes Ph.D. dissertations (English), and senior professor’s research articles (Psychology and Education) that are published in peer-reviewed professional journals.

Photo Credits
  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images