Generally, expositions or expository essays are non-fiction pieces of writing with the purpose of informing the audience about a certain topic or issue. Thus, it is built on facts and a logical presentation of perspectives, rather than imagination and storylines.
The question is, how exactly do you write a good expository essay? How can you make your essay score?
As expository writing is a crucial part of O Level English and the A Level General Paper, we think the advice below will definitely be helpful to those in secondary school and JC!
1. Analyse the question
Before you proceed to begin your essay, think about what the question is really asking. Going out of point is one of the most costly mistakes of expository writing – and it happens more commonly than you think!
Mark out the keywords so that you know what topics and concepts you must touch upon in your essay. It will also be useful to think about how you will define these in your writing, as this determines the scope of your points.
Failure is not the opposite of success. Do you agree?
Main keywords: failure, success, opposite
As ‘failure’ and ‘success’ are quite abstract terms, it is important to define them in the introductory paragraph of your essay. For example, you can consider ‘success’ in terms of material wealth, happiness and satisfaction, or – in more specific circumstances – academic achievement, or achieving proficiency in a skill. It will be messy if you try to cover all these senses of the word ‘success’ in one essay. So, it is best to define your scope and your key terms early on.
Another important word to notice is ‘opposite’. What do we really mean when we say X is the opposite of Y? Your entire essay will be centred around this statement, so you have to make sure you are doubly sure about what you mean.
Finally, have a look at the phrasing of the question. Here, ‘Do you agree?’ means that your essay must have a stance on whether you agree or not. To be safe, it is good practice to directly answer the question in your thesis statement, e.g. ‘I agree that…’
Other common question types:
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of X? (Ensure you describe both advantages and disadvantages. The purpose is to describe, not evaluate.)
- What are the benefits of X? (Focus on describing the benefits.)
- What are your views on X? (You should describe various perspectives to show that your views are balanced.)
2. Plan your essay
“No one plans to fail, but many fail to plan.” Cliché, but true. Many teachers and secondary school English tutors have to constantly nag at their students before they remember to do this.
Take at least 5 minutes to plan your essay before you begin writing. During this time, you should structure your essay, listing out the points and examples you want to mention in each paragraph. Of course, all your points should be tied together by your thesis statement, which sets the direction of your entire essay.
Typically, the structure of an expository essay starts with the introduction, followed by the body paragraphs, and finally the conclusion.
3. Have a compelling introduction
A good start is half the battle won! The introduction sets the tone for the essay, including the topic, scope, and thesis statement. It makes a good impression when you manage to write a compelling introduction that really draws in your reader (in most cases, your teacher or the examiner).
What, then, are some good ways to begin your essay?
Here are some ideas you can try when you are writing your next few expositions:
- Use a famous quote: Make sure it is relevant to the topic, and preferably, by someone truly influential!
- Mention a key statistic: Present important facts to draw attention to the scale of the issue. Remember to cite your information accurately, including the year and source of the statistic.
- Personal anecdote: This may be suitable for certain topics or mixed genre topics which ask you to draw from your personal experience.
This few ideas are by no means exhaustive. Take the effort to explore and experiment with different techniques to see which is more effective for you and for different topics.
Unlike a narrative essay, where the flow of events can drive the essay quite naturally, expository essays can feel disjointed and static when not written well. That’s why it is especially crucial to remind yourself to incorporate signposting into your expository essay.
Signposting are words and phrases that direct the flow of your essay. This helps readers better understand the line of reasoning you are presenting to them. Only when your reader can understand can they begin to be convinced of what you are saying!
Below are some useful examples to use in each part of your essay:
5. Convince your reader
Not all expository essays are argumentative in nature, meaning that not all require you to have a stance (e.g. agree VS disagree, true VS false). However, you still want to be able to convince your reader that the information you are presenting to them is valid and factual.
The best ways to do so is by presenting strong pieces of evidence. This can come in the form of anecdotes, research findings, and news reports. Always think that your reader will ask you ‘Why should I believe you? How would I know this is true?’ and seek to answer these with authoritative sources of information.
As you would expect, this requires you to be well-read and well-informed about a vast scope of topics, from current affairs to history, politics and society, and even arts and philosophy. Unfortunately, this is not something you can acquire overnight, so get started reading now!
Even after committing the structure and these tips to memory, mastering expository writing still requires practice! Another huge challenge is building up your common knowledge to have enough examples and evidence to present in your essay.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and you don’t know how to start improving, it’s best to have a trusted tutor you can look to for guidance. The best secondary school or even JC GP tuition teacher will help you identify areas for improvement and provide specific advice and practice suggestions to help you get better at exposition writing.
Right here at Future Academy, our experienced English tutors will do all that for you and more! From regular progress tracking to exclusive worksheets and practice questions, we are right here to guide you along towards mastery of essay-writing and other aspects of the English or GP syllabus. IP students, don’t feel left out – we also have English tuition for IP students, including language arts and literature subjects!