menu

Rules of Expository Writing


Expository essays are the foundation for formal research papers and general academic writing, and knowing how to construct a proper essay prepares you for those challenges. An expository essay begins as a five-paragraph essay which includes specific components, each with their own function in the paper. While expository essays are an important learning tool, they also teach students to construct independent arguments and support them with solid ideas and evidence.

Purpose of Expository Writing

The purpose of an expository essay is for a student to present an argument, generally in the form of three main points, and to support each point with either evidence or logical support. College-level expository essays generally ask for evidence to support each point in the form of cited resources. High school expository essays often allow logical support for expository essays, allowing students to defend their points with their own ideas. The goal is to teach students to take a stance on a topic and learn how to defend the point with support.

Basic Essay Format

The basic format of an expository essay is based on five paragraphs, including an introductory paragraph, three paragraphs in the body and a conclusion paragraph. Longer essays allow for multiple paragraphs within the body, especially when a student’s point is complex and requires the additional space to substantiate her point.

Introductory Paragraph

In expository essays, the introduction is the first paragraph of an essay. The general format for an introduction is a strong lead-in sentences, which draws the reader to the essay and gives him an idea about the essay’s point of view, a thesis statement, which defines the essay’s main argument, and an approach outline, which explains how the writer intends to address the argument. The approach outline should outline each of the essay’s three main points. For instance, your approach may detail the benefits of recycling, the danger of waste buildup and the link between recycling and waste buildup reduction.

Body Paragraph Content

The body of an expository essay should be at least three paragraphs long, each detailing a different point to support your thesis statement. The main points can support your thesis directly, such as arguing that recycling reduces the environmental buildup of waste, counterpoints to opposing ideas, such as arguing that recycling is a simple process, or a connecting point, such as demonstrating exactly how recycling affects the buildup of global waste. Begin each body paragraph with a general statement summarizing the main point of each paragraph, and make sure every sentence supports this statement.

Conclusion Paragraph

Conclusions include a reevaluation of your thesis and a statement detailing a prediction or goal for the essay. Avoid a direct restatement of your thesis. Instead, reword your thesis based on the arguments you made or the information you learned from the essay. As an example, your reevaluation may state, “Recycling remains one of the easiest steps a person can take to help reduce the accumulation of waste overflow,” combining all three points into a single statement. Write the prediction based on the information obtained through research and the arguments presented. For instance, you may say, “Without a general willingness to recycle, the buildup of waste will someday reach a point when recycling is no longer a choice, but a means of survival.”

About the Author

Kristyn Hammond has been teaching freshman college composition at the university level since 2010. She has experience teaching developmental writing, freshman composition, and freshman composition and research. She currently resides in Central Texas where she works for a small university in the Texas A&M system of schools.

Photo Credits
  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images