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How Is Narrative Different From Expository Text?


The purpose of a narrative text, or a narrative essay, is to tell a story. It contains characters -- real or imaginary -- a plot, setting, conflict, climax, resolution and conclusion. A narrative text has a well-structured beginning, middle and end. Some narrative texts entertain readers, while others aim to inform readers, such as for college applications. Most narrative essays also include themes or messages to help readers understand the point of the story. An expository text includes factual information that's designed to educate readers, typically involving research, and has a more formal style.

Elements of a Narrative

A narrative text engages the reader in a storytelling format that carefully examines the major characters and provides a sequence of events or a structured plotline. The plot often follows a chronological sequence of events, but not always. Some narratives involve flashbacks or shifts between time periods. Narrative essays have a specific setting -- sometimes more than one setting -- and discuss important themes, such as friendship, equality, death, love or aging. There's always a conflict or an issue that must be addressed or resolved for the main character, or characters, to experience personal growth or change. For example, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Huck must address misguided societal expectations and establish his own views about prejudice, fairness and equality. Examples of narrative texts include novels, short stories and poems.

Expository Text Features

Expository texts strive to educate readers based on facts. Even though they might include real characters, such as those involved in a news story, the writer presents information in a way that informs readers, rather than telling a story. Expository texts often include lists -- sometimes enumerated with bullet points -- of comparisons and contrasts as well as causes and effects. They contain **a clearly defined thesis, evidential support, such as facts, statistics and anecdotes**, and transitions that clearly identify the major points, claims or arguments, according to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Writers depend on reliable sources, such as experts in the field, first-hand witnesses or academic materials, to support their information. Examples of expository texts include research papers, news articles, instruction manuals, textbooks, recipes, language guides and self-help books.

Emotional Language

One of the primary aims of a narrative text is to pull readers into the emotional elements of the story. Writers often use the first-person point of view -- sometimes opting for the third-person point of view if they want to talk about events from a variety of viewpoints -- to help readers relate to the main character's feelings and sentiments. Narrative texts also include sensory details, a clearly defined mood and a strong underlying tone to help readers connect to emotional elements in the story. For example, Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, uses the first-person point of view, vivid descriptions of the Southern, racially divided town, a somber mood mixed with light humor and an increasingly dark and foreboding tone to reveal truths about the dysfunctional community. Expository texts are fact-based and educational, and don't typically engage the reader's emotions.

Overall Purpose

The purpose behind a narrative text differs from that of an expository text. Narrative essays are "anecdotal, experiential and personal," according to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Authors use their creativity and experiences to create moving passages that discuss important themes or morals and deal with life lessons. Expository texts strive to advise or notify readers of factual information. Readers rely on expository texts when they need concrete, well-founded information to make decisions or conduct real-world assessments. Expository texts don't involve the imagination and have a less personal, more purposeful appeal.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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