A pedagogical term for any form of writing that conveys information and explains ideas: exposition.
As one of the four traditional modes of discourse, expository writing may include elements of narration, description, and argumentation, but unlike creative writing or persuasive writing, its primary goal is to deliver information about an issue, subject, method, or idea.
Expository Writing Strategies:
Examples of Expository Writing:
- A Definition of Pantomime, by Julian Barnes
- Hot Hands, by Stephen Jay Gould
- Process Analysis in Barry Lopez's "Migration"
- Jessica Mitford on the Embalmer's Art
- Contrast in Rybczynski's "Home"
- Process Analysis in Richard Selzer's "The Knife"
- Examples in Frank Trippett's "Loaded Words"
- Barbara Tuchman's Historical Narrative: The Black Death
- Academic Writing
- Advanced Composition
- Business Writing
- Critical Essay
- Technical Writing
- "Expository writing is designed to explain a topic. It often gives facts, explains ideas, or defines conditions. Whether it's giving directions or explaining how to accomplish something, an expository piece is helpful because it provides the reader with deeper insights into a subject. With this type of informative writing, ideas are presented in a certain order so that the reader can follow the explanation easily."
(Frances K. Hubbard and Lauren Spencer, Writing to Inform. Rosen Publishing, 2012)
- "Writing done for everyday purposes often falls into the category of expository writing, which includes newspaper articles, college essays, and business memos and letters. Expository writing explains and often summarizes a topic or issue."
(Brandon Royal, The Little Red Writing Book. Writer's Digest Books, 2004)
Expository Writing in College and on the Job
"Expository writing analyzes and explains information to inform or educate your reader. As we move to expository writing, your knowledge of description and narration will help you provide the vividness and interest essential to effective expository writing. With its emphasis on logic and organization, expository writing is most likely the type of writing you will be doing in college and throughout your career. When you enter the workforce, you will find that expository writing is necessary in almost any profession and that your ability to write exposition requires the same skills necessary to succeed in many careers: thinking critically, analyzing complex situations, and presenting information clearly to coworkers."
(Luis Nazario, Deborah Borchers, and William Lewis, Bridges to Better Writing. Wadsworth, 2010)
Integrating Literary Studies and Expository Writing
"The worst catastrophe that could befall the study of English literature would be to allow the programs in expository writing to become separate empires in the universities and colleges, wholly cut off from the departments of English and American literature. . . .
"I do not minimize the difficulties involved in keeping expository writing and the study of literature together. Nor do I minimize the changes that will be necessary in the present structure of programs in literature, from basic courses for freshman and sophomores on through the most advanced graduate seminars. I view the development of integrated programs in reading well and in writing well as the major challenge to our profession at the present time.
"'Rhetorical study' is the key to this integration."
(Joseph Hillis Miller, Theory Now and Then. Duke University Press, 1991)
Dissatisfaction With the Concept of Expository Discourse
"[E]xpository writing has been the dominant form of text throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In the last several decades, however, dissatisfactions with traditional conceptions of expository discourse have grown.
"There are at least three concerns. First, some scholars find the definitional ambiguity of the phrase expository writing problematic. Critics argue that the same phrase has been ambiguously used, referring in some contexts to a particular aim or aims and at other times to patterns of organization or modes.
"A second dissatisfaction concerns the realist epistemologies in which the notion of expository writing is rooted. . . . [C]ontemporary scholars are increasingly thinking about writing in terms of writers' and readers' purposes rather than the organizational forms necessary for clear exposition. . . .
"A third concern about traditional conceptions of expository writing arises from doubts about the utility of having students identify and practice expository forms as principal means by which they learn to write effective academic and professional prose. . . . Currently, while appreciation of these forms of organization is seen as important, scholars increasingly maintain that instruction should focus on helping writers to identify their goals and those of their readers and on selecting text forms that best achieve relevant goals in particular contexts."
(Katherin E. Rowan, "Exposition." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, ed. by Theresa Enos. Taylor & Francis, 1996)
Also Known As: informational or informative writing